Friday, May 14, 2010

McCollum Fences with Immigration

Bill McCollum, the Florida attorney general running for governor, did a 180 on the Arizona immigration bill.

By coming out in favor of the law, McCollum joined U.S. Senate contender Marco Rubio in abandoning his previous opposition to the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the nation. Both have said they changed positions in light of amendments that aimed to outlaw ethnic and racial profiling by the police.

”I support Arizona’s law as amended, and if the federal government fails to secure our borders and solve the problem of illegal immigration, I would support a similar law for Florida,” McCollum said in a statement Thursday.

Gee, I wonder why he did that?

McCollum’s flip-flop comes days after a recent poll showed him losing ground to an unexpected and well-financed Republican rival, Rick Scott, who backs the Arizona law. After spending at least $4.7 million on a statewide television blitz, the little-known former healthcare executive is capturing 24 percent of the Republican vote, according to a Mason-Dixon poll. McCollum, who has been in politics for two decades, received 38 percent in the survey.

The leading Democratic candidate for governor, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, opposes the law. So does Rubio’s major Senate rivals, the newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami.

The Florida governor’s race has parallels in Arizona, where Sen. John McCain — a former proponent of sweeping immigration reform — calls in a new campaign ad for the government to ”complete the danged fence” along the Mexican border. In an election year that looks dangerous for incumbents, McCain is fending off a conservative Republican challenger who backs the new Arizona law.

So not only is Mr. McCollum sucking up to the xenophobes in his party, he’s using John McCain as his role model. What’s next, choosing an unqualified but crowd-provoking airhead as his running mate? Is Katherine Harris available?

This is pandering of the highest order. The Florida Legislature won’t even meet again until next March, long after the election is over, and probably well into the middle of the legal battle in Arizona over the law there, which, unless the Courts have gone completely over the wall, will rule is unconstitutional on several levels. Meanwhile, Mr. McCollum can campaign on cracking down on illegal immigration knowing full well that it appeals to the white knuckle-draggers upstate and barely causes a ripple in the majority of the immigrant community in South Florida because of the Cuban exceptions; they get in for free. The only people this really targets are the desperate people from Haiti and other poverty-stricken nations, and the attitude among the state GOP is that they don’t count because they don’t have enough clout to effect legislation or enough money to make pursuing them for fund-raising worth it.

In his long and perpetually-running-for-something career, Mr. McCollum has never passed up an opportunity to exploit an issue for the purpose of campaigning on it. I’m actually surprised it took him this long, but the entrance of Rick Scott helped. Now that’s leadership.