Gov. Bob Ehrlich: Just 'OK' Isn't Good Enough Anymore on Border Security


The letter from former high ranking government officials in opposition to President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the southern border made for big news this week. No surprise there. The story fits one of the media’s favorite Trump narratives (over his head on substance, too quick to lash out at his opponents) to a tee.

In this case, overplaying his hand requires that the bipartisan foreign policy establishment must again put him in his place (similar to the way they did in response to Trump’s earlier executive orders on immigration). Herein reflects the varsity intelligentsia’s intent to correct the still green and unsophisticated newbie to the ways and means of official Washington.

My initial reaction was to search for signatories from recent Republican and Democratic administrations. After all, these were the folks in charge of immigration policy during a time our country lost control of our southern border. And there they were — all joined together in one big NeverTrump family — reminding the president that he was wrong, yet again.

In this regard, the signatories remind me of my favorite recent television ad: the AT&T/5G commercial wherein a nervous nurse tells a more nervous wife that her husband’s heart surgeon is simply “OK” — as if the lukewarm endorsement is plenty good enough for the occasion. The humor is subtle but the implication is impossible to miss: nobody wants an “OK” surgeon — or an “OK” brake mechanic as seen on a second similar AT&T commercial. In other words, turn exclusively and cost-be-damned to the professional who will do the best job when the stakes are life and death.

The dissenters in the border debate beg to differ. Here, the citizens are told “OK” is good enough when it comes to enforcing our laws and protecting our country. In context, this means that 20 million illegal aliens are “OK”; that thousands of crimes committed by violent felons is equally “OK”; ditto for millions of tons of illegal drugs pouring into the country and the by now expected caravan(s) of illegal migrants making their way to our southern border. I should add a reminder about how so many unskilled laborers serve to displace marginal American workers out of the labor market, but this too, appears to be “A-OK” with the governing class.

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Much has been made of “Trump the Disruptor,” the leader willing to make good on long-promised embassy moves, renegotiate stale trade agreements, criticize feckless U.N. aid agencies, even call out deadbeat NATO allies heretofore unwilling to ante up their fair share on behalf of their own defense budgets.

In many such cases, the moniker is appropriate. Like him or not, agree with him or not, this president has demonstrated a willingness to act — even when the politically safe option is the status quo — even when acting out serves to antagonize both party establishments in Washington, D.C. (See, e.g. the aforementioned letter).

Alas, I do not count this Trump move as simply another item on the disruptor list. Despite the protestations of recently energized progressive border advocates, this one for me at least, is pretty easy. To paraphrase my onetime friend and House colleague, the late Sonny Bono, “Why are we spending so much time debating about something that is illegal … enforce the law.” Of course, this was way back in Sonny’s primary campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from California in 1992. Just think what he might say today as entire cities refuse to cooperate with federal law enforcement in the campaign to intercept and deport violent felons!

Most Americans have appropriate sympathy for the so-called “dreamers.” These kids have done nothing wrong. They have been raised and assimilated into American culture, but are now relegated to political pawns in a high stakes game of (immigration) chess. They should be given relief by the adult politicians in D.C.

Still, this good point is but a distraction from the compelling need to act against illegal immigration now! I will leave it to the people’s representatives to figure out a regime that does not repeat the mistakes made in President Ronald Reagan’s grand immigration compromise with congressional Democrats. Recall that agreement legalized millions of illegals in exchange for border security “once and for all.” The year was 1986. Just “OK” doesn’t cut it anymore.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.