The emerging conservative consensus is that border security must come first. But such a sound and sensible approach won't pass this Congress, because the Left will fight it. That was the key idea in President Bush's Lose-Lose compromise bill, which is now in shreds. The White House is going to try again, but it still can't possibly work as long as Ted Kennedy and the Democrats have more to gain from blocking border enforcement than from making it happen. And with La Raza writing memos to the Dems, effective border enforcement will never pass in the present Congress.
The President takes the Democrats' position as a given. In return, he hopes, the Dems will vote for things he wants in immigration. It's a formula for disastrous public policy.
But an aroused conservative base has caught on. Something much like this happened before 1994, when a GOP Congress took power in the House after a widespread voters' revolt. The Gingrich House came in with a firm and popular set of policy proposals, the Contract with America. It was only when the GOP became far too comfortable with the perks of power that it lost control in 2006.
President Bush can do us all a favor by proposing a sound Border Fence Appropriation Bill and dropping everything else. That will force the Dems to come out of the closet, because they will vote against effective border control. That bill may not pass this year, but it doesn't have to. It will set the goal for conservatives to fight for. It's a winning issue among the voters across parties.
If the Democrats keep control of Congress, we will run into this gridlock problem again. But it gives conservatives a powerful issue to take to the voters. A sensible approach to immigration could help carry a Republican into the White House next year, and with a coherent Gingrich-type GOP strategy, it could even carry one or both Houses of Congress.
Nothing President Bush can do today would be more statesmanlike than proposing a sensible border security bill, and let the Democrats hang themselves on it.