John McCain - Caricature

John McCain - Caricature by DonkeyHotey

It is more than a little sad to see what has become of the so-called “reasonable” Republicans in the days of the Teahadists. Way back in the 2008 campaign Sen. John McCain (cloud-yeller, AZ) was on of the folks who was telling his party and the Right wing talkers that they should not be bashing immigrants.

He was a key supporter of the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill along with Sen. John Kerry. But now that he has had to pander his way through re-election to the Senate it seems that Sen. McCain is finding informal immigrant bashing to be a fine field to plow.

This weekend, after touring the Wallow fire (which has burned more than ½ million acres in Arizona) Sen. McCain held a press conference where he claimed:

There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally,”


They have set fires because they signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them,” McCain said. “The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border.”

McCain did not provide any evidence to support his claim, however.

The last part is, of course, the most important. While the Forrest Service says that this fire stared from human sources there is nothing other than supposition connecting the Wallow fire in any fashion with informal immigrants. Now if one wants to be charitable you could accept that the fact that there are illegal boarder crossings in AZ and these folks might set a fire to keep warm or what ever and then it might get out of control.

The problem is that this is a line of reasoning with at least two if’s in it and that makes it suspect from the start. Why wouldn’t it be other kinds of smugglers or even Arizona citizens who are setting these campfires? What exactly is the substation evidence that Sen. McCain claims points the finger at informal immigrants?

There is none. This is not about who started the fire but how does Sen. McCain stay relevant in a party that has moved from the right to the somewhere in cloud cuckoo land. There was a time when we could talk about problems of a shadow culture like the informal immigrants in the United States without being totally hemmed in by stereo-typing and bigotry. That time is gone now that the Republican party has decided it is more important to scare blue collar white voters than solve a real issue facing the nation.

Still the McCain operation has some sense of shame or at least of not wanting to sound like the xenophobic woman that the Senator had to correct who claimed that then Senator Obama was a Muslim. When called on to provide the “substantial evidence” that the Wallow fire was caused by immigrants, Sen. McCain’s spokes person provided a pretty lame dodge. Even though the Senator had just toured the Wallow fire and was giving a press conference there, he was not really talking about that fire; he was talking about much smaller fires at the Coronado National Forrest.

While it is true that the Forest Service supervisor has suggested closing the Coronado National Forest to visitors because most of the fires there have been caused by humans it still is not the same as saying that it is due to informal immigrants. Here is what Supervisor Upchurch said:

the great majority, if not all the fires, on the Coronado National Forest (this year) have been human-caused. Causes of fires include ricocheting bullets, campfires, welding equipment and possibly ignition by smugglers or illegal immigrants

Notice that the idea of immigrants or smugglers causing these fires is last and is the only one that is not stated as a known fact. This is what the Senior (so very, very senior) Senator from Arizona is claiming is substantial evidence, a statement detailing known causes ending with a supposition for completeness.

However it does not really matter where Sen. McCain got this from. It is all to clear that he is in full pander mode about undocumented immigration. He does not need real facts to slam informal immigrants. He has seen what he has to do to be relevant in a party that movers further and further into bigotry and fantasy. Even though he does not have to run for Senate again for six more years, he has decided that he will stay with the cranky old man bit, since it is what got him this turn in office.

I have never bought into the “McCain as Moderate because he is a Maverick” meme. John McCain only ever looked credible in comparison to the rest of the Republicans. Since he has burned his credibility on foreign policy and domestic policy it has been revealed that he was just playing a part that got him the attention of the bipartisan loving folks in the press corps.

In a way it is too bad. We need at least a few Republicans to really address the problem of our 12 million or so informal immigrants. The problem of having people in a shadow economy is that all those great laws and regulation we have are not enforceable there. Being as they are 4% of the total population of the United States, that is a problem that needs to be address directly and soon. However with Senators like John McCain pandering to the racist Right, that is just not going to happen.

The floor is yours.

Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for