Is Mitch McConnell shafting the base? (updated)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is one of the smartest conservatives in the Senate. But on the dangerous immigration bill, he has been silent as the grave. His website is conspicuously silent on immigration. 

This is your Republic Leadership at work. Meanwhile, Kate O'Beirne at NRO The Corner is predicting that the immigration bill will pass by 60 votes (!)  That means de facto legalization of at least 12 million illegals, plus their relatives, along with another decade or two of uncontrolled immigration until we get the next amnesty bill. (Unless, of course, another Mohammed Atta terrorist cell manages to slip into the country to wreak havock.)  

If US demographics shift leftward only a few percentage points, the Republicans will lose their chance to control Congress and the Presidency. So what's going on? Why is Senator McConnell so silent in the face of imminent disaster?

One possibility is party loyalty to President Bush, who is well-meaning but terribly ill-advised on this bill. But another possibility is named: Fred Thompson. Former Senator Thompson hails from next door in Tennessee. Thompson is a Reaganesque figure who has been making all the right noises to enter the GOP presidential race next month.

A wave of conservative outrage against a catastrophic immigration bill might put Fred Thompson at the head of the pack, and carry him into the nomination. It may even boost him into the Presidency in 2008. Senator Mitch McConnell may be allied with former Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, who has been pushing the Thompson candidacy. Call it the Three Border State Senators, quietly singing the same song.

Thompson has been making a simple point about immigration: First, build a fence and control the border. Then we can discuss how to address both legal and illegal immigration. It's common sense, and it appeals to voters across the political spectrum.

If the Kennedy-McCain bill is passed, McConnell may jump aboard the Thompson bandwagon. If it is defeated, he may finally come out against it. But what we are seeing today is a disastrous lack of leadership coming from the Senate Republican leaders.

The voters have a right to ask Senator Mitch McConnell where he stands. Is he risking our national security to promote Fred Thompson's candidacy? That's a Machiavellian gambit, not a conservative one.

James Lewis blogs at

Update: Andy Bryant writes:

I think there's a more simple answer to why the Minority Leader is silent on the immigration issue. His wife is Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Although I know of no public stance taken by the Secretary on immigration, it only makes sense as a cabinet member of the Bush administration, she'd be on board. By extension, our up standing Senator McConnell, is being cajoled into silence on legislation he otherwise would oppose. Put simply; He wants to stay out of "dog house"?