During a discussion about an Alabama gubernatorial candidate’s proposal for an “English-only” driver’s license exam, the hosts of Fox & Friends declared Pat Buchanan’s anti-immigrant run for president in 2000 to be “visionary.”
Republican Tim James is running for governor on a platform that includes requiring driver’s license exams to be given only in English, a proposal which his staff touts as a “common sense solution” to the problem of illegal immigration — and the hosts of Fox & Friends are in complete agreement.
“This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it,” James asserts in a campaign ad featured by Fox on Wednesday. “Maybe it’s the businessman in me, but we’ll save money. And it makes sense.” He then drops his head for a moment, seemingly trying to get control of his emotions, before looking into the camera again to conclude, “Does it to you?”
The Fox hosts were wild about the ad’s Glenn Beck-like appeal. “That pause is so powerful!” Steve Doocy exclaimed.
“It’s poignant,” Gretchen Carlson added. “Tim James says this will ensure that drivers are safe in his state because they’ll be able to read the traffic signs.”
Brian Kilmeade then went on to reminisce about Pat Buchanan’s third-party presidential campaign in 2000, which was widely regarded as xenophobic because he argued, as Kilmeade put it, that “we’re losing this country. Immigrants are coming in and not respecting our culture.”
“And everyone thought, ‘Pat Buchanan is off the rails,’ Kilmeade commented. “Now it does seem as though he’s somewhat of a …”
“Visionary?” Doocy suggested.
“Yeah, perhaps,” Kilmeade agreed. “Tell me if this flies today.” He then ran an old Buchanan ad which mocked the federal government for making services available in multiple languages.
Buchanan’s xenophobia has generally been considered extreme, even by some who support him on other issues, so it is remarkable that Fox would be touting him as a “visionary.” He aroused controversy last summer with his claim that “white people” built America and argued last fall that World War II could have been avoided by simply giving Hitler what he wanted.
Most recently, Buchanan created a firestorm with his statement that “both sides were right” in the Civil War and the Virginia seceded from the Union not over slavery but because President Lincoln wanted the Virginia militia to join in fighting their “kinsmen” in the Deep South.
Although Fox News has repeatedly been accused of cheerleading for the Tea Parties — with conservatives retorting that MSNBC does the same thing on the other side — this latest segment appears to go well beyond that, into an attempt to ride what Fox may see as a coming wave of anti-immigrant hysteria.
If so, the hysteria would appear to be ill-timed. As one recent analysis of Arizona’s tough new anti-immigrant law points out, “The recession has sharply curtailed illegal immigration to the United States. According to Princeton political scientist Douglas Massey, the number of undocumented residents in the United States peaked at 12.6 million in 2008 and fell to 10.8 million in 2009. Nowhere did it fall more sharply than in Arizona, where the number of illegal immigrants dropped by 100,000 over the last year.”
In addition, the claims made for English-only driver’s exams — that they would save money, promote safety, or even provide a “common sense” solution to illegal immigration — appear to be unfounded.
States offer driver’s license exams in many different languages so that legal immigrants can obtain licenses without needing to be completely proficient in English, a concession that is seen as essential for promoting their assimilation into American society.
In Utah, for example, a test intended to determine a driver’s “ability to read and understand simple English used in highway traffic and directional signs” was recently made far more complicated than before, and Somali refugees are finding themselves unemployable and living on public assistance as a result.
Business interests, including the Chamber of Commerce, also worry about the impact of English-only requirements. When a bill to require English-only testing was passed by the Georgia state senate earlier this month, opponents of the law described it as “an economic development killer,” as well as being racist and anti-immigrant. One Georgia state senator who opposed the legislation “expressed concern that peach and cotton farms would be negatively affected because their workforce would not be able to get driverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s licenses to drive farm trucks.”
This video is from YouTube, broadcast April 28, 2010.