White House “reaches out to the base”…

…and thwacks it over the head with a two-by-four. Just got the following in my Inbox from the White House Communications folks:
Setting The Record Straight: Heritage Foundation Report Overestimates Legal Immigration Increase Under Senate Immigration Bill
A Heritage Foundation Report Claims The Hagel-Martinez Senate Immigration Bill (S. 2611) Would Lead To An Additional 84 Million New Legal Immigrants Over 20 Years. (Robert Rector, “Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants Over the Next Twenty Years,” Heritage Foundation, 5/15/06)
But A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Analysis Of The Hagel-Martinez Bill Found It Would Increase The U.S. Population By 8 Million People Over The First 10 Years – A Fraction Of The Heritage Report’s Claim.

The email, about a page long, goes right into a series of bullet points that address and reject many of Heritage’s claims. (Full text is included at the bottom of this post in the extended entry).
Now, I don’t have a dog in this fight — I frankly have no clue whether Heritage or the White House has the better set of facts here. But it strikes me that there is some feedback to be given to the White House on their communication style, and it is a particularly relevant moment to deliver it with with Tony Snow coming into play and making some rather encouraging noises about engaging with the blogosphere.
Recognizing that the White House is not a blog, I think it can be informative to read their email as if it were a blog post, and judge it by the same standards we would apply to a blogger’s work. And by those standards, it falls rather short.
First, a key rule I try to apply in blogging is “don’t be a jerk.” In the way it presented this email, the White House was, frankly, being a jerk: the email seems to give Heritage no credit at all for their efforts; there’s nothing along the lines of “we appreciate Heritage’s focus on this critical issue but differ with their conclusions”; not even a nod of acknowledgement that Heritage does some mighty fine work in general and oh, by the way, represents a core constituency that the administration is trying not to piss off too mightily at the moment. Now, my rule does have a qualifier, which is, “unless it serves my purposes to be a jerk.” But I just don’t see much purpose or upside for the White House in being jerk-y towards a conservative group like Heritage.
Second, if you’re going to write a blog post White House email which advances a set of arguments contradicting the facts and conclusions of a report like Heritage’s, you darned well better include some links to your sources in it. The White House email included a total of four hyperlinks: all of which simply point at the Heritage report. The email mentions a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis — with no link. It mentions a National Research Council analysis — with no link. Why not? Show your sources, and the credibility of your argument is immediately enhanced — not to mention giving the reader the opportunity to actually check them and form their own judgment.
Lastly, a point of style, which perhaps might be a bit unfair (and might also fall under the jerkyness critique in point one above). The White House email presents itself as fact, unassailable and unquestionable: “Heritage Foundation Report Overestimates Legal Immigration”. Is the truth in this matter really that black and white? Heritage is simply 100%, utterly wrong, with no possibility of any honest debate or differing interpretations? What would be lost by presenting these same points of argument in a less commanding, confrontational style?
On some issues, the White House’s “Setting the Record Straight” emails should rightfully declare genuinely incorrect statements of fact as exactly that. But on a subject like this — prediciting the future impact of a Senate bill that has yet to even be passed — it seems to me that nobody can possibly know with certainty where “straight” is, or whether the record is indeed properly aligned to it or not. In these cases, a tone of engagement; of constructive disagreement, and of conversation with Heritage — and the bloggers to which this email was sent — would seem to be a far more appropriate, and productive approach.
All of this is even more important given Heritage’s positioning squarely within the conservative base. But the lessons apply regardless of the source which the White House seeks to correct. Advance the argument; but do so with respect for those you are disagreeing with, and for your reader (links!).
And try not to be a jerk…


Setting The Record Straight:
Heritage Foundation Report Overestimates Legal Immigration Increase Under Senate Immigration Bill
A Heritage Foundation Report Claims The Hagel-Martinez Senate Immigration Bill (S. 2611) Would Lead To An Additional 84 Million New Legal Immigrants Over 20 Years. (Robert Rector, “Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants Over the Next Twenty Years,” Heritage Foundation, 5/15/06, Available At: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Immigration/wm1076.cfm)
But A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Analysis Of The Hagel-Martinez Bill Found It Would Increase The U.S. Population By 8 Million People Over The First 10 Years – A Fraction Of The Heritage Report’s Claim. CBO’s estimate is more consistent with most research on immigration issues. The Heritage Report also takes a static approach to the immigration issue, failing to adjust for any changes in immigration patterns over the next 20 years.
The Heritage Foundation Report Overestimates The Number Of Immigrants For Three Reasons:
1. The Report Overestimates The Number Of Illegal Immigrants Who Become Legal Immigrants And Remain In The United States Permanently.
2. The Report Does Not Account For The Many Immigrants Who Will Later Choose To Emigrate From The United States.
3. The Report Counts Some New Immigrants Twice – First As Guest Workers And Then Again As Green Card Holders.

1. The Heritage Foundation Report Overestimates The Number Of Illegal Immigrants Who Would Be Legalized
The Heritage Foundation Report Assumes That 10 Million Illegal Immigrants Would Be Legalized. (Robert Rector, “Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants Over the Next Twenty Years,” Heritage Foundation, 5/15/06, Available At: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Immigration/wm1076.cfm)
But The Report Overestimates The Senate Bill’s Increase In The Number Of Illegal Immigrants Who Would Be Able To Stay Permanently In The United States.
¢ CBO Estimates That About 1 Million Illegal Immigrants Would Become Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) Under Current Law – Not Because Of Hagel-Martinez.
¢ CBO Estimates That About One Third Of Illegal Immigrants Eligible For Legalization Under Hagel-Martinez Are Unlikely To Become Legal Permanent Residents.
¢ The Heritage Report Overestimates The Number Of Spouses And Children Brought Into The United States By Legalized Immigrants. The Heritage report assumes that 10 million illegal immigrants who become legalized would then bring an additional 6 million spouses and children into the United States. Since the number of legalized illegal immigrants is likely to be much smaller, however, there are likely to be fewer spouses and children.
2. The Heritage Foundation Report Wrongly Assumes That Immigrants Will Not Leave
The Heritage Foundation Report Does Not Account For Emigration Out Of The United States. (Robert Rector, “Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants Over the Next Twenty Years,” Heritage Foundation, 5/15/06, Available At: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Immigration/wm1076.cfm)
Many Immigrants Later Emigrate From The United States – Emigration Rates May Be About 25 To 30 Percent. For instance, in estimating the fiscal impact of immigration, the National Research Council used an emigration rate of 30 percent.
3. The Heritage Foundation Report Double Counts Some Immigrants First As Guest Workers And Then As New Legal Permanent Residents
In Its Estimate Of New Legal Immigrants, The Heritage Foundation Adds Its Prediction Of New Guest Workers To Its Prediction Of New Green Card Holders. The Heritage Foundation report claims that the guest worker program established under Hagel-Martinez would lead to about 44.6 million new guest workers and family members. It adds together this number and its estimate of an additional 18.6 million green cards as part of its overall estimate of the number of new immigrants. (Robert Rector, “Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants Over the Next Twenty Years,” Heritage Foundation, 5/15/06, Available At: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Immigration/wm1076.cfm)
But By Including Both Guest Workers And New Green Card Holders In Its Overall Estimate, The Heritage Report Counts Some New Immigrants Twice. The Heritage Foundation Report double-counts guest workers and family members who get green cards, first when they become guest workers and then a second time when they get a green card.

10 thoughts on “White House “reaches out to the base”…”

  1. Great post – and I agree – links would substantiate the WH numbers, but that was not the intent of the email. The intent was to slam the lid on the discussion. “You’re wrong ’cause I say so.” Sort of a third grader’s playground response to being called a dork – making the initial accusation in fact self-evident. If there are numbers to support the statement, they would have been included.

  2. Don’t be a jerk

    NZ has an insightful response to an email sent by the White House to the Heritage Foundation:
    Recognizing that the White House is not a blog, I think it can be informative to read their email as if it were a blog post, and judge it by the same standard…

  3. “The intent was to slam the lid on the discussion.”
    Agreed. This reminds me of WH’s clumsy efforts to smear anyone who disagreed with the nomination of Harriet Miers. I still support Bush, but his Comm team is arrogant and out of touch. The email only highlights their incompetence.

  4. True debate requires the White House to respond with facts, not just rhetoric. That’s what liberals do. I hope it’s not contagious.

  5. The missed opportunity that jumps out at me is that this e-mail reads more like a press-briefing, talking points memo or sound-bite than a meaningful analysis and counter argument. There is a complete lack of analytical numbers. I kept looking for the meat (and it seems like there very well may be some), but had to settle for a puny hors d’oerve. If this was really sent to convince they need to realize that analytical people want to look at the numbers and verify for themselves that they add up.

  6. Yes, the response should be slammed. Even though the numbers Heritage cite are hypothetical worst-cases, the Heritage numbers *DO* point out that Hagel-Martinez was/is a prescription for basically unlimited immigration and huge potential population increases and demographic shifts.
    In the WH spin-doctor talking-points, nowhere is it stated the *core* fact – how many people does the White House or CBO think will get legalized
    Heritage says 10 million would be legalized by this amnesty. That sounds about right. Of the 12 million illegal immigrants, 67% are here since before 2000, about 8 million, and you pick up 2 million more from other
    This is the largest amnesty in American history. Huge. Four timesthe size of the amnesty of 1986, which was structured almost exactly like the 2006 bill, with a 4 year residency requirement in that case. The whole program had rampant fraud and ended up giving amnesty to twice as many people as originally estimated, over 2.5 million people.
    “But A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Analysis Of The Hagel-Martinez Bill Found It Would Increase The U.S. Population By 8 Million People Over The First 10 Years – A Fraction Of The Heritage Report’s Claim.”
    Is this the same CBO that promised Medicare drug bill would cost $400 billion, kept under wraps the estimate that was actually $500 billion, and is now admitting its more like $750 billion or more?
    Hmmmm.
    The Dog that doesn’t bark here is: How many people will get amnesty. Why wont they release it. Because once they do, the sham that this is for only a portion of illegal immigrants will be exposed.
    This is “No Illegal Left Behind” bill, any illegal who wants legalization will get it, and the numbers getting it will be 10 million more or less.
    From 10 million legalized and the chain migration and additional immigration quotas in the bill, addtional numbers of 30 million or more in 20 years is quite possible.

  7. Amnesty for illegals is not fair to Legal applicants, especially those waiting in Europe and other countries. Rule of Law is still best.
    Do away with birthright babies…Austria, Australia, Belgium, Finland and so on require parents to already be citizens. Also not fair to further deplete Social Security by giving them benefits as they age…fund is going broke without that. Why the favored treatment for Mexicans?

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  10. Let’s just say that 5 million are eligible to become citizens and do. Once they become citizens, if they have a wife, kids and parents they all would eventually be able to come to America.
    5 million x 7 = 35 million. 7 = wife, 2 kids, his parents (2) and her parents (2). If we add brothers and sisters the numbers could go up.
    If we are talking 10 million, double it to 70 million.
    If we are talking upwards of 20 million people (some people have said that there could be up to 20 million illegals in country) we would be looking at 140 million.
    As Patrick noted about the CBO, when has Washington ever been right on their projections.
    If the President and the senate get their way, kiss the United States goodbye. We will be living in a third world nation.

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