George Pyle: Mitt forgets 400 years of American history

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mitt Romney wraps up a series of meetings with state lawmakers at the Utah Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.

It was probably galling enough that the former governor of the nation’s 15th most populous state, and one-time major party nominee for president of the United States, finds himself in the role of Utah’s junior senator.

Mitt Romney may have been jealous enough of all the attention our senior senator, Mike Lee, has been receiving over the past couple of weeks that he reasonably concluded that the way to get back on the national radar was to say something really foolish.

Resurfacing Sunday morning on “Meet the Press," Romney continued his efforts to hold down the radical middle of American politics. These days, that means trying to distance himself from the indescribably awful personage in the Oval Office while not alienating the same political party that has basically committed ritual suicide in helping that disgrace achieve and hold power.

Talk about straddling the fence. Romney agreed with the president’s argument that the situation at our southern border is serious, but staked out some brave territory by calling for a “fence” instead of a “wall.”

He also wanted us to know that he perceives the danger.

It is time, Romney told Chuck Todd, for the president to sit down with Democrats and Republicans in Congress and say, “OK, what can we do legislatively to make sure that we’re not creating this extraordinary asylum magnet that’s bringing people into the country?”

Holy Plymouth Rock, Batman!

This land mass has been nothing more nor less than an “extraordinary asylum magnet” for upwards of 400 years.

We’ve done it well and poorly, evenly and with prejudice, by force and in total freedom, since long before the United States of America was even a reasonable idea.

That — Ronald Reagan’s Shining City on a Hill — has done as much as anything else to make the country the intellectual, economic, artistic, industrial, literary, military, scientific center of the universe.

If there is, or should be, any such thing as “American exceptionalism,” that is bloody it.

To the degree that there is now a “crisis” at our border it is because this country is now run by people — less the homeland security secretary who quit Sunday — who were surprised by the centuries-old fact that lots of people in dire straights light out for our territory when things are going badly back home.

America is not “full,” as anyone who has driven from Salt Lake City to Moab can attest. If our asylum system is overwhelmed, it can only be because it is mismanaged.

The wise, efficient way to handle this is not denial or imagining that we can surround the nation with a You-Can’t-Get-Though-Here Ray. It is to be ready.

Ready, not just with guards, but also with counselors, lawyers, judges, buses, decent housing, teachers, medics, liaisons to religious and other charitable organizations, labor unions, farm organizations, cities with thousands of vacant homes and open jobs.

Twice in recent weeks, the president was heard to say something to the effect of, “You have to get rid of judges.” Immigration judges, one supposes, which the president apparently feels are not keeping enough people out.

Of course, a great many minds instantly jumped to Shakespeare, to the line in “Henry VI” where a nefarious cad says, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Which is the expression of a would-be dictator who knows that lawyers exist to defend the rights of individuals.

We are America, dammit. We managed the Berlin Airlift, the Manhattan Project, the invasion of Normandy, the Panama Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Constitutional Convention and Disco.

Managing the current mess at the border would be a walk in the park for a nation this large and accomplished, if only it were at the moment being managed by people both competent and kind enough to be worthy of their station.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.