It is difficult to exaggerate the pessimism about the immediate political future voiced by Republicans in Congress when not on the record. With an unpopular president waging an unpopular war, they foresee electoral catastrophe in 2008, with Democratic gains in both the House and Senate and Hillary Clinton in the White House. That's the atmosphere in which these lachrymose lawmakers have for several months faced an increasingly hysterical onslaught from constituents demanding the death of the "amnesty" for immigrants they heard vilified on talk radio.The first bit of cynicism from Novak shows up here. He realizes I think that the xenophobic monster the Republicans created to win elections has turned on them and threatens the party. And what about those Republican lawmakers? Few profiles in courage here.
These callers swamped phone lines to Republican congressional offices (as well as to the White House) with threats that they would never vote again for anybody supporting "amnesty." While that intimidated some previous supporters of the immigration bill, its opponents saw in the xenophobia of their backers a ray of light in the bleak political landscape.
McConnell was among six switchers who voted no after the 40 senators needed to kill the bill were recorded. Another late switcher was Sen. Sam Brownback, seeking the Republican presidential nomination as the candidate of the right. He voted for the first cloture motion on Tuesday to keep the immigration bill alive and put out a news release on his presidential Web site explaining his vote. On Thursday he voted again for the bill. But when it became clear the measure had failed, he changed his vote from aye to nay and scrubbed his earlier statement from the Internet.