Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lindsay Graham

RE: Lindsay Graham Shows His True Colors

Michael Gerson perfectly sums up what’s wrong with Lindsay Graham’s head-spinning reversal on immigration. First is the hypocrisy:

After years of being a lonely voice of Republican sanity on immigration, Graham has decided to embrace the supreme symbol of nativism — changing the Fourteenth Amendment to restrict American citizenship. He has either taken leave of his senses or of his principles. … It’s called self-serving cynicism.

Yup.

Gerson then explains what is wrong with Graham’s idea. Of course, Americans can amend their Constitution, provided they meet the steep requirements for doing so (designed to fend off just this type of ill-advised proposal). But, as Gerson notes, this is a horrid idea when it comes to birthright citizenship:

The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States” for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the Dred Scott decision, which said that citizenship could be granted or denied by political caprice. They purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship — birth — that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don’t have to please a majority, you just have to be born here.

It is not simply a bad Constitutional move; it is quite frankly offensive. Forget the Constitution for a moment. Is this the sort of society we want? As Gerson notes, Graham’s lunacy “would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. … It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.”

Graham’s naked opportunism (with Arlen Specter exiting him, Graham can become top dog in that department) and general unpopularity (the two are related) will no doubt prevent his suggestion from going anywhere. But Gerson reminds us that we should not focus merely on what we might legally do to control immigration; we need to start talking more about what we should and shouldn’t do if we are to keep our souls and our reputation as the most generous, welcoming, and decent people on the planet.

Michael Gerson perfectly sums up what’s wrong with Lindsay Graham’s head-spinning reversal on immigration. First is the hypocrisy:

After years of being a lonely voice of Republican sanity on immigration, Graham has decided to embrace the supreme symbol of nativism — changing the Fourteenth Amendment to restrict American citizenship. He has either taken leave of his senses or of his principles. … It’s called self-serving cynicism.

Yup.

Gerson then explains what is wrong with Graham’s idea. Of course, Americans can amend their Constitution, provided they meet the steep requirements for doing so (designed to fend off just this type of ill-advised proposal). But, as Gerson notes, this is a horrid idea when it comes to birthright citizenship:

The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States” for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the Dred Scott decision, which said that citizenship could be granted or denied by political caprice. They purposely chose an objective standard of citizenship — birth — that was not subject to politics. Reconstruction leaders established a firm, sound principle: To be an American citizen, you don’t have to please a majority, you just have to be born here.

It is not simply a bad Constitutional move; it is quite frankly offensive. Forget the Constitution for a moment. Is this the sort of society we want? As Gerson notes, Graham’s lunacy “would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into ‘criminals’ — arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital. A whole class of people would grow up knowing they are hunted aliens, through no fault of their own. … It would be viciousness and prejudice on a grand scale.”

Graham’s naked opportunism (with Arlen Specter exiting him, Graham can become top dog in that department) and general unpopularity (the two are related) will no doubt prevent his suggestion from going anywhere. But Gerson reminds us that we should not focus merely on what we might legally do to control immigration; we need to start talking more about what we should and shouldn’t do if we are to keep our souls and our reputation as the most generous, welcoming, and decent people on the planet.

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McChrystal’s Future Looks Bleak

This statement has been issued by Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman:

“We have the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation.  General McChrystal’s comments, as reported in Rolling Stone, are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military.  The decision concerning General McChrystal’s future is a decision to be made by the President of the United States.”

If McCain, Graham, and Lieberman — three of the most stalwart pro-military voices in the Congress — aren’t willing to back General McChrystal, he is in deep trouble.

This statement has been issued by Sens. John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman:

“We have the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation.  General McChrystal’s comments, as reported in Rolling Stone, are inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military.  The decision concerning General McChrystal’s future is a decision to be made by the President of the United States.”

If McCain, Graham, and Lieberman — three of the most stalwart pro-military voices in the Congress — aren’t willing to back General McChrystal, he is in deep trouble.

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An About-Face?

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

The New York Times, among other outlets, is reporting that the KSM trial may be heading out of New York:

As a growing chorus of New York politicians joined the opposition to a Manhattan trial for the accused Sept. 11 conspirators, a White House spokesman said on Thursday that President still believed a civilian criminal trial could be held “successfully and securely in the United States.” But Mr. Obama left any decision on moving the trial to the Justice Department, and administration officials said they had begun to discuss contingency plans for possible new locations.

It is absurd, of course, that a decision of this magnitude — as we were told, was the original decision to try KSM in New York — should be delegated to the Justice Department. Certainly Obama has become expert at evading responsibility, but at some point one would think the commander in chief would step forward and shoulder the responsibility for making the call.

The election of Scott Brown seems to have shaken some skeptics and chased them from their hiding spots. Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand, and other Democratic lawmakers are piping up:

Republicans in the Senate and House said they would try to block financing for civilian criminal trials for the alleged terrorists, seeking to force the administration to place them on trial before a military commission in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, or on a military base elsewhere. Opponents of civilian trials said they hoped new doubts about a New York trial and increased fears of terrorism since the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day would win more Democratic support for such measures.

Even Sen Chuck Schumer is asking the White House to look for alternatives. But where? After New York chases what is sure to be a three-ring circus out of town, what other jurisdiction would want it? Better, say the Republicans, to return this issue to a military tribunal on a secure military base. (Hey, there is one in Guantanamo. How about that?) The Times reports:

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.

This would be a monumental admission of error by Obama and, more importantly, by his attorney general, who assured us all that this would be a slam dunk, a safe and pain free proceeding. Now that Obama has lost his mystical powers to silence his own party, the truth is seeping out: this is an expensive, dangerous, and entirely unnecessary deviation from historical practice. Obama is colliding with reality.

On Guantanamo, the KSM trial, and the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, the public and a congressional bipartisan consensus are taking the lead. The Obami’s leftward lark on national security, I suspect, is about to end. The Bush-era policies have been vindicated by none other than Obama, who proved the alternatives to be unworkable, foolish, and politically untenable. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney must be smiling broadly.

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Reversing Obama’s Worst Decision Yet?

Michael Isikoff reports:

Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world — and to accelerate President Obama’s stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now “potentially in jeopardy,” a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells Newsweek. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It seems that Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf will try to force votes in Congress to cut off funding for the trial. And one additional issue: the more than $200 million price tag for each year of the trial. The kicker: “If Holder’s plans are thwarted, though, one top administration official, who also didn’t want to be named talking about delicate issues, notes there is a Plan B — reviving the case against the alleged 9/11 conspirators before a military tribunal, just as the Bush administration tried to do.”

This would be a stunning turnaround, an admission of Holder’s irresponsibility and of the Justice Department’s loony leftism. But this, of course, was part and parcel of Obama’s personal vision and his “not-Bush” approach to the war against Islamic fascists. Obama spent his campaign and the first year of his presidency eschewing the Bush anti-terror policies — employing enhanced interrogation techniques, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists — and pronouncing that they represented a betrayal of “our values.” He told us we’d rack up credit with … with whom was never quite clear, but we’d rack up credit. Those who sought to incinerate innocents or who were attracted to the words of Major Hassan’s favorite imam (or was it the European elites who give out prizes for such foolishness?) would, presumably, be impressed. And we’d lure the butchers of children and women out of their mindset by impressing them with the wonders of the federal criminal procedure.

But alas, that proved to be politically untenable and logistically difficult. We had three domestic terror attacks. The president was hammered for his clueless reserve and the Keystone Kops response to the Christmas Day bombing. So now being “not Bush” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It was born of arrogance and from a distorted view of the nature of our enemy. If Obama retreats on both this and Guantanamo, it will be a bitter pill for the Left and sweet vindication for those who kept us safe for seven and a half years after 9/11. But more important, it will be a step toward sanity in the administration’s national security policies. And should Obama and Holder feel the sting of humiliation if forced to abandon their plans to shutter Guantanamo and give KSM a propagandistic platform, the White House may find that a small price to pay to sync up its anti-terror policies with both reality and public opinion.

Michael Isikoff reports:

Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world — and to accelerate President Obama’s stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now “potentially in jeopardy,” a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells Newsweek. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It seems that Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf will try to force votes in Congress to cut off funding for the trial. And one additional issue: the more than $200 million price tag for each year of the trial. The kicker: “If Holder’s plans are thwarted, though, one top administration official, who also didn’t want to be named talking about delicate issues, notes there is a Plan B — reviving the case against the alleged 9/11 conspirators before a military tribunal, just as the Bush administration tried to do.”

This would be a stunning turnaround, an admission of Holder’s irresponsibility and of the Justice Department’s loony leftism. But this, of course, was part and parcel of Obama’s personal vision and his “not-Bush” approach to the war against Islamic fascists. Obama spent his campaign and the first year of his presidency eschewing the Bush anti-terror policies — employing enhanced interrogation techniques, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists — and pronouncing that they represented a betrayal of “our values.” He told us we’d rack up credit with … with whom was never quite clear, but we’d rack up credit. Those who sought to incinerate innocents or who were attracted to the words of Major Hassan’s favorite imam (or was it the European elites who give out prizes for such foolishness?) would, presumably, be impressed. And we’d lure the butchers of children and women out of their mindset by impressing them with the wonders of the federal criminal procedure.

But alas, that proved to be politically untenable and logistically difficult. We had three domestic terror attacks. The president was hammered for his clueless reserve and the Keystone Kops response to the Christmas Day bombing. So now being “not Bush” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It was born of arrogance and from a distorted view of the nature of our enemy. If Obama retreats on both this and Guantanamo, it will be a bitter pill for the Left and sweet vindication for those who kept us safe for seven and a half years after 9/11. But more important, it will be a step toward sanity in the administration’s national security policies. And should Obama and Holder feel the sting of humiliation if forced to abandon their plans to shutter Guantanamo and give KSM a propagandistic platform, the White House may find that a small price to pay to sync up its anti-terror policies with both reality and public opinion.

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Detainee Abuse Photo Case

In some legal news today, the Supreme Court in a per curium opinion tossed out a second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had ordered the disclosure of  detainee-abuse photographs in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The Court told the lower court to consider a federal law under which Secretary of Defense Gates in mid-November exercised his authority to prevent the photos’ release. If you recall, with advice from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, Obama at first didn’t oppose the release of the photos. When critical public opinion and outrage in the military surfaced over the potential to incite violence against our troops, the administration reversed course.

This is noteworthy on a few grounds. First, it demonstrates just how faulty and biased is the “legal” advice coming from the DOJ. Holder’s lefty lawyers first advised that, in effect, the president had no choice but to turn over the photos. Maybe that was the answer the White House wanted, but it was wrong and in fact an easy solution was arrived at. (An executive order would have been an even easier solution.)

Second, decisions are reversible if they prove foolhardy. Just as the photos need not be released, Guantanamo may remain in operation, and the president can put the kabosh on KSM’s civilian trial. The president really is in charge and if he can be persuaded that earlier advice was bad, there is usually a means of correcting any error. And finally, this episode should remind the administration that there is little to be gained and much to be lost by currying favor with the netroot crowd. Unless the administration wants to imperil national security and risk the wrath of the military and the majority of voters, it really won’t be able to keep the ACLU and its ilk happy. So it should stop trying.

UPDATE: Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham who co-sponsored the provision allowing Gates to block the photos issued a statement praising the ruling.

In some legal news today, the Supreme Court in a per curium opinion tossed out a second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had ordered the disclosure of  detainee-abuse photographs in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The Court told the lower court to consider a federal law under which Secretary of Defense Gates in mid-November exercised his authority to prevent the photos’ release. If you recall, with advice from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, Obama at first didn’t oppose the release of the photos. When critical public opinion and outrage in the military surfaced over the potential to incite violence against our troops, the administration reversed course.

This is noteworthy on a few grounds. First, it demonstrates just how faulty and biased is the “legal” advice coming from the DOJ. Holder’s lefty lawyers first advised that, in effect, the president had no choice but to turn over the photos. Maybe that was the answer the White House wanted, but it was wrong and in fact an easy solution was arrived at. (An executive order would have been an even easier solution.)

Second, decisions are reversible if they prove foolhardy. Just as the photos need not be released, Guantanamo may remain in operation, and the president can put the kabosh on KSM’s civilian trial. The president really is in charge and if he can be persuaded that earlier advice was bad, there is usually a means of correcting any error. And finally, this episode should remind the administration that there is little to be gained and much to be lost by currying favor with the netroot crowd. Unless the administration wants to imperil national security and risk the wrath of the military and the majority of voters, it really won’t be able to keep the ACLU and its ilk happy. So it should stop trying.

UPDATE: Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham who co-sponsored the provision allowing Gates to block the photos issued a statement praising the ruling.

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Re: Graham Crumbles for Nothing

When Lindsay Graham decided to support cap-and-trade — a position not even some moderate Democrats can stomach — I observed that this was not only bad policy but also bad politics. And sure enough, moves like that and his support for now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have spelled trouble for him. This report explains:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina — driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent — including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

“A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

This contradicts the favorite narrative of Democrats and their media handmaidens, namely that in order to stay relevant, Republicans must compromise with Obama, move leftward, and adopt policies at odds with conservative principles. It turns out that doing so alienates not only Republican voters but also independents, who themselves are not enamored of Obama’s leftist agenda. Graham won’t face the voters until 2014, so he has time to recover. But his example may serve as a warning to other Republicans: mimicking Obamaism is a losing proposition.

When Lindsay Graham decided to support cap-and-trade — a position not even some moderate Democrats can stomach — I observed that this was not only bad policy but also bad politics. And sure enough, moves like that and his support for now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have spelled trouble for him. This report explains:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina — driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent — including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

“A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

This contradicts the favorite narrative of Democrats and their media handmaidens, namely that in order to stay relevant, Republicans must compromise with Obama, move leftward, and adopt policies at odds with conservative principles. It turns out that doing so alienates not only Republican voters but also independents, who themselves are not enamored of Obama’s leftist agenda. Graham won’t face the voters until 2014, so he has time to recover. But his example may serve as a warning to other Republicans: mimicking Obamaism is a losing proposition.

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The GOP’s Immigration Meltdown

The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

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The debate over immigration reform has once more shown its capacity to fracture the Republican coalition. John McCain, a co-author of last week’s reform bill, recently engaged in a nasty exchange on the Senate floor with fellow Republican John Cornyn of Texas, who opposed the bill. And bill supporters Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina were roundly booed at their respective state conventions.

So far, the response by the Republican faithful to the Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration reform proposal is redolent of both the 1976 uproar surrounding the Panama Canal treaty (which would help make Reagan president in 1980) and the current administration’s Dubai ports fiasco. As with the Panama Canal treaty, which roused patriotic sentiment, immigration in general touches on American’s sense of national identity. But the phenomenon of illegal immigration, which this bill was designed to address, strikes closer to the heart of citizens: working and middle-class voters feel that they have been made foreigners in their own localities by the influx of cheap labor. As with the Dubai ports deal, the Bush administration seems to be undermining its own core principles by failing to put security first.

The Washington Post noted in a front-page story that there is little reason to believe that the (deservedly maligned) Department of Homeland Security will be up to the enormous administrative task of implementing the legislation. Similarly, many voters will remember the 1986 immigration reform bill, which provided amnesty for illegal immigrants in exchange for enforcement provisions that never took hold.

McCain will no doubt be hurt by the fallout from the deal and his show of temper in defending it; Mitt Romney, in yet another flip-flop, now claims to oppose the bill. Rudy Giuliani has done little other than question the bill’s security implications. Though immigration is unlikely to boost a second-tier candidate into the top rank, it might provide the opportunity for an outsider like Tom Tancredo (who has already murmured about running) to put together a breakaway campaign based on his opposition to both abortion and illegal immigration. Whatever happens, it is obvious that for the Republican party, the political costs of this deal are going to be high.

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