August 2, 2010
The Pottery Barn Rule
A few years ago, regarding Iraq policy, Colin Powell warned George W. Bush of the Pottery Barn Rule: "You break it, you own it." It's time conservatives started emphasizing this when it comes to key issues like the border.
By shutting out local authorities and insisting that the enforcement of borders and immigration is solely a federal job, the Obama administration has taken complete ownership of the issue and all of the problems that result from it. Call this the "Barack Obama Insurance Policy." President Obama is putting his name on the immigration problem and telling residents of Arizona and the rest of the country that he's up to the job of tackling it: "Relax. I'll take care of things."
Okay, Mr. President, you're in charge. From here on out, if anything breaks, you get the bill. That includes shootings, kidnappings, and headless bodies found in the desert.
Moving the official command and control center from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. -- about as far away from Arizona as is possible to get -- seems like a dumb idea. Arizona residents will not sleep better knowing that help is only 2,300 miles away. Continued dawdling on sending National Guard troops does not reassure.
The president does not seem to understand that because of his own Justice Department's case and Judge Bolton's ruling, he now owns the problem. All of the crime and violence, the shootings and kidnappings are his problem now. While he can count on a continued news blackout on the part of the MSM, it is a safe bet that Fox News will continue to report (you decide) and air hidden-camera footage of drug smugglers and human traffickers crossing the border at will.
It is not a pretty picture. Inevitably, the Obama administration will get tangled up in some unpleasant border incident. When that happens, the president will attempt to shift the blame, and the people of Arizona will bear the cost. Our job will be to make sure that Obama is not able to shirk the responsibility he has taken with his District Court victory.
We were looking for a bright side to the story. That's about as bright as it gets.
Simultaneously, there is a dark cloud that seems to have escaped notice. The Republican Party had a hand in Judge Bolton's decision. All you Tea Party people take note.
In 2000, Judge Susan Bolton was nominated to the District Court by none other than President Bill Clinton. No surprises there. Problem is, U.S. Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, is the one who suggested her. Further, at that time, the U.S. Senate was in Republican control, and Trent Lott was Majority Leader.
Fade Out -- Fade In: Ten years later...
When Democrats needed a judge to do them a favor, they had one in the right place, and the Republicans put her there. This is what America gets as a result of Republican "collegiality" and going-along-to-get-along.
The purpose here is not to bang on John Kyl. He's a pretty good senator. But the Pottery Barn-rule applies to him, too, and to all of our elected officials. They have to know that they are accountable to us, not "Them." We do not hold elections and send people to Washington to represent someone else's interests. They are to represent our interests.
Keep the Arizona decision in mind when Elena Kagan's name comes up for a vote.
To those reading this in Maine, Massachusetts, or South Carolina, now would be a good time to contact your Republican senator. Remind them that if they break something, they bought it.
Jed Skillman photographed hundreds of political television commercials, first for one party and then for the other, over a twenty-year span. He blogs his essays at plumwoodroad.blogspot.com.