“I’m the bad guy?”
That line from the 1993 film “Falling Down” kept banging around my head Thursday night as I sat on the set of the RNN TV show “Richard French Live.”
The topic at hand was President Barack Obama’s unilateral decision to infer legal status on 5 million people living in America unlawfully. Another guest on the program, an immigration attorney, was heralding Obama’s executive order as a leap forward for the nation. Heads around the table were nodding in consent.
I like to be liked. It’s a personal weakness. And every bit of me wanted to join the warm, kumbaya embrace of the moment by saying something magnanimous. It would have made me look and feel like a big-hearted person. But I also could feel my ears burning with an indignation that arises whenever they hear unchallenged nonsense.
The ears won out.
In a heartbeat I was the bad guy — just for pointing out that these 5 million souls had circumvented U.S. law to get here, and that the president was making a mockery of that law, too, by circumventing congressional authority. I could feel the attorney’s eyes burrowing into me.
Pointing out that our still porous borders should soon be overflowing with new recruits for Obama’s irresponsible policy didn’t help, either. I was the bad guy — the anti-immigrant Republican — even after adding that I had attended a naturalization ceremony in White Plains the very day before, where 121 people who followed the law raised their right hands and swore allegiance to their new country, in 100 different accents, and promised to defend her. Doesn’t that make me pro-immigrant? Even a little?
In a state like New York, with its illiberal orthodoxies, you are either with the progressive program or you are anti-progress. You are either pro-Dream Act, or you are anti-Hispanic. You are either 100 percent pro-abortion rights or you are anti-women. At least that’s how it feels sometimes. That’s how it felt Thursday night.
The William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale held its fourth annual conference in New Haven earlier this month, which I was lucky to attend. The conference was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of James Burnham’s classic “Suicide of the West,” which argued — argues — that guilt-ridden Liberalism is systematically dismantling the West.
“The liberal, and the group, nation, or civilization infected by liberal doctrine and values, are morally disarmed before those whom the liberal regards as less well off than himself,” he wrote.
In this case, our liberal president is willfully undermining U.S. law and setting dangerous precedent for abuse of executive power simply because he cannot bear to see people who broke the law to come here living “in the shadows.”
I agree with every word I have read in Burnham’s book, and yet, inexplicably, I feel guilty still for having defended on that set Thursday night the common sense he championed in those pages. Such is the power of the animal he describes.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a Republican consultant who worked on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor.