Save for fashion, cuisine and dating guidelines (no partner younger than half one’s age, plus seven years), it’s not often that America is in the business of mimicking the French.
But as our republic approaches its 242nd birthday, perhaps it’s time we borrowed one more trait from the European power that enabled our liberty.
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The French like to take a break during July and August – and that wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to American politics.
Or perhaps you’d like another two months of arguing the moral equivalence of a White House press secretary denied restaurant service versus a gay couple denied a wedding cake. Or more debate over the genuineness of Roseanne Barr and Rachel Maddow’s tears, the hidden messages behind First Lady Melania Trump’s wardrobe selections and California Rep. Maxine Waters’ belief that harassing Trump officials is nothing less than divine providence.
This doesn’t mean that government itself should go on a break. With wildfire season in full effect, Californians are more dependent than usual upon emergency services.
Rather, all bloviators – left, right and center – need to take a collective timeout from the Fourth of July through Labor Day. Think of it as a “spare the air” day – times 61, or a cease-fire and cool-down before the final two months of an election that’s bound to test our patience.
What to do with that hiatus? For California’s political class, I’d suggest a little summertime reading: a March 1994 “briefing on California immigration issues” by the state Senate’s Office of Research.
An uplifting tale it’s not, as it recounts a series of would-be solutions to the nation’s immigration conundrum: Then-President Bill Clinton proposed more stringent asylum procedures, Sen. Dianne Feinstein suggested a $1 fee on border crossings to help pay for Border Patrol operations and then-Gov. Pete Wilson beseeched Washington for $1.5 billion to cover California’s costs for illegal immigration (he ended up getting about 20 percent). Kathleen Brown, the state treasurer and Wilson’s opponent for governor in 1994, came out in support of employer sanctions and a tamper-proof Social Security Card.
In all, the Legislature toyed with some 70 immigration-related measures. One that survived the gauntlet – denying driver’s licenses for undocumented applicants – was undone by Gov. Jerry Brown five years ago.
You don’t need to finish reading the report to know how this story turns out. America remains paralyzed over fundamental issues on control of the border with Mexico, asylum seekers and public services available to the undocumented.
You can blame partisanship for this gridlock – venturing to the middle on immigration reform is no-man’s land, with the strong likelihood of drawing fire from both trenches.
But you can also blame civility. As this summer has shown, politicians seem more interested in cheap stunts – snarky tweets, playing recordings on the House floor – than engaging in a dignified debate on immigration reform.
That’s another benefit of a timeout from political grandstanding: it gives us a chance to reflect on priorities.
A congressional candidate in South Carolina is hospitalized after a near-fatal automobile crash not long after she claimed the political life of a Republican incumbent – with the help of a Trump tweet zinging the incumbent’s past marital infidelity.
Trump could have taken the high road and visited the injured. Instead, he held a campaign rally where he savaged the defeated congressman.
This White House doesn’t believe in climate change. Sadly, that includes civil discourse.