At Wednesday’s White House news briefing the President’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller attempting to explain an administration backed immigration bill was engaged in verbal battle by CNN’s senior white house correspondent Jim Acosta. More a clash of philosophical policy positions than a normal press conference Q & A, their conflict tells us a lot about how Americans actually perceive news. If you didn’t see it, just go to YouTube and search Miller V. Acosta. The whole story is there on Video. Even though we are all looking at the same episode, what people say they witnessed varied with their place in the political spectrum. CNN endlessly ran interviews with Acosta where he was treated as a hero defending America’s Historic wide open immigration policy. Acosta chastised Miller for ignoring the constitutional importance of the Statue of Liberty. How dare the proposed legislation give greater preference to English speakers. After all, his forebearers couldn’t speak English when they arrived at our shores. We took in the “Huddled Masses” from everywhere and it made us great. Emma Lasarus’ poem “the New Colossus” defined our immigration policy for all times. How dare Miller propose any limits. Chris Cuomo on the same network also held up his grandparent’s lack of English up as proof of our historic wide open policy. Stephen Colbert and a bevy left of center media writers echoed this sentiment.
Miller ridiculed Acosta’s comment about the bill limiting immigration only to those from Great Britain or Australia to the applause of the right. Guess Acosta has never dealt with an out sourced call center. Apparently giving preference to those with the immediate skills including English proficiency to contribute over the unskilled struck the right chord with many on the right. A sharp lowering of overall legal immigration gathered additional applause. To them, Acosta came across as the embodiment of the biased arrogant media. Charles Krauthammer on Fox News declared Miller the winner of the exchange on points. Most of Fox News concurred. Rush Limbaugh played a series of exchange cuts that had Miller besting the “cosmopolitan” Acosta.
There you have it. Both sides saw exactly the same briefing and came away with diametrically opposed views as to who had the better of it. This wasn’t fake news. This was actual news as it happened. Yet most saw it through the lens of their own bias. This is frightening. We thought obtaining news from a wide range of outlets would give us a better understanding of the facts, but this was the same news broadcast simultaneously on Fox, CNN & MSNBC. The only difference was how we individually experienced it. If we see same thing but disagree on what was seen, how will we ever agree on anything? This shows how split we have become.
This wasn’t the only discouraging aspect of this confrontation. Even though they were applauded by their adherents, neither Acosta or Miller presented anything coherent on immigration. Costa held up his ancestry as proof of a past non discriminatory immigration policy building the country. Maybe his ancestors didn’t have to battle discrimination coming to America, but it was because they weren’t Chinese. Apparently he never heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It wasn’t repealed until 1943. The “Huddled Masses” so valued by Acosta didn’t include the Chinese. In fact we’ve had a history of laws and agreements limiting immigration from various national origins. Some even at times limiting even those Costa’s and Cuomo’s ancestors. It’s just their timing was good. Requiring skills is nothing new either. Literacy was a requirement of the Immigration Act of 1917. Alluding to fairy tales of our past to attack Miller just isn’t what we expect from a supposedly top-notch reporter. If you’re going to grandstand at a briefing at least come intellectually armed.
Miller also failed to bring coherence to the fray. While we supported the idea of bringing in more of the qualified and reducing the proportion of unqualified in our post On the Move we never entertained cutting immigration. In fact, we favored more not less. A question Acosta or anyone else at the briefing failed to ask was is how do we support our entitlements with a falling population. With less than three workers supporting each retiree now and our birthrate falling below replacement how do we avoid the unbearable? Without major immigration we face a crisis in the not to distant future. One can argue for higher skilled immigrants, but Miller proposed a sharp overall reduction. A strange position for an administration that opposes any sort of entitlement reform. Does anyone in this administration have any reasoned overall view of our worsening predicament? One would think that is the job description of senior policy advisor.
Immigration is a major policy problem intertwined with many of our other major problems. One worthy of intelligent notice by both the press and the administration. Instead we have the left and the right lined up behind champions evidencing slight knowledge of the subject. We see the same thing in other areas such as health care where the our press and leaders display little or no knowledge of how we arrived at our present state and little thought of how to move forward. We have to ask why these”elites’ are considered elite? No wonder we fear for America.