The Note: Home, to a New and a Shiny Place

WASHINGTON, May 15

President Bush's primetime Oval Office address on immigration competes for shelf space today with the Medicare deadline, a key Cheney speech, and a key Rove speech.

But make no mistake about what the main event will be.

So: The Note's 10 ½ clean big non-secrets about immigration as a political issue:

1. The White House 72-hour striptease of the National Guard on the border has been brilliantly executed, with all of the pre-speech focus and headlines emphasizing a get-tough border enforcement element of what the President supports. (Score one for the Bolten-Rove-Bartlett-Wallace-Snow Gang of 5.)

2. Here is the money paragraph in all of today's print coverage, buried at the very end of Peter Baker's Washington Post opus: "Tonight's speech is aimed at assuaging House Republicans who have insisted on tougher enforcement measures against workers illegally in the country. If the House contingent feels action is being taken, White House officials hope they may yet sign off on some version of Bush's guest-worker proposal, which would provide a way for undocumented immigrants to stay here legally if they pay back taxes and penalties."

3. The House Republicans' "majority of the majority" rule requiring at least half of the GOP members of the House to support a bill before it comes to the floor for a vote is the biggest impediment in America today to there being a new immigration law.

4. House Republicans believe three things about immigration: (1) they won't vote for anything that talk radio hosts could in any way label "amnesty"; (2) their constituents will punish them if they don't pass an enforcement law before the election; (3) the President will see the light before too long and drop any pre-election attempt at a guest worker program.

5. The wild card in all this is the business lobby -- which failed to mobilize when the House passed its original enforcement bill, and is now the White House's not-so-secret weapon.

6. Most of the politicians (including former Texas Governor George Walker Bush) working the issue actually care about solving the problem. They are aware of the political dimensions, but winning Hispanic voters, or pacifying Big Business, or some other electoral calculation is not what is motivating them.

7. Almost all Old Media reporters are hopelessly out of touch with the feelings and motives of those concerned about getting back control of the border. The press favors amnesty, or, at least, a "liberal," McCain-Kennedy-style guest worker program.

8. These days, few political issues can stir the emotions of the iPod Nation -- but immigration clearly does, on all sides, as manifested by the massive rallies and what members of Congress have been hearing at town meetings for months and months.

9. Few issues these days unite the populist right with the populist left (like trade used to, that is, still does). But, again, immigration clearly does.

10. The level at which the White House and Dr./Sen./Leader Frist use the words "the border, the border, the border" would be comical, if this topic lent itself to comedy.

10.5. Democrats who care above all about taking control of the Congress do not want the President to get an accomplishment, and, thus, hope The Speech does not lead to an eventual bipartisan deal.

When the President addresses the nation about immigration at 8:00 pm ET, it can be seen on the ABC television network.

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