McCain: We don't need 20,000 new Border Patrol agents but I voted for it anyway

In case there was any lingering shred of doubt, yes, the big Corker/Hoeven border amendment that helped the Gang of Eight win 68 votes in the Senate is, by and large, security theater. Take it from Maverick:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) helped write the Senate’s immigration bill and voted for an amendment that would spend $46 billion on new border security measures, while doubling the size of the Border Patrol. But now, McCain admits the plan was simply meant to secure Republican votes and that he is open to other ways to secure the border.

“I’ll give you a little straight talk, we don’t need 20,000 additional border patrol agents,” the Arizona senator said at an event sponsored by the AFL-CIO.

“I voted for it so friends of mine would have comfort that we are securing the border,” McCain added. “But the real securing of the border is with technology as opposed to individuals, although we do certainly need individuals.”

What he means there, of course, is political “comfort,” something GOP senators could point to next month when conservatives back home demand an explanation for why they voted for such a terrible bill. That’s the problem with the Gang’s work product in a nutshell: The point was to Do Something, not to do something that’s carefully designed to reduce illegal immigration. I’ve written about this before (more than once) but I can’t get over the fact that on a subject whose effects on American life are as far-reaching as immigration, with millions of illegals potentially placed on a citizenship track and billions of dollars appropriated to securing the border, there was barely even a pretense among supporters that they were crafting a bill that was smartly targeted at the problems with the system. It was pure horse-trading to arrive at a “solution” that would grant amnesty — the key plank for both Democrats and Republicans — with enough border security theater tossed in to placate the right. Democrats treated it as some sort of major concession when Pat Leahy agreed to hold one hearing on immigration in the course of passing the bill. Other Democrats didn’t bother to find out if the bill would create incentives for employers to hire illegals over American citizens until after they’d voted for cloture. No doubt many Republicans were guilty too.

The entire process reeks with contempt for their actual job description, crafting effective policy. Re-read the excerpt above. You’ve got a U.S. senator from the GOP, who’s ostensibly ventilating conservative concerns about more effective border control, flatly admitting that he voted for an ineffective, wasteful policy for political reasons. (And it is largely ineffective. One of the main problems with illegal immigration post-reform will be with visa overstays, something thousands of extra Border Patrol will do little to prevent.) You could defend McCain by arguing that he knew when he voted for it that the Gang bill was DOA in the House and therefore the 20,000 BP were irrelevant, but ask yourself how upset he’d be if Boehner decided to say “to hell with the Hastert Rule” and brought the Gang bill to the floor for a vote. Would McCain object on grounds that they never really meant for those 20,000 to join the federal payroll? Of course not. In fact, arguably the most amazing thing about what he said here — at an AFL-CIO event, do note — is his de facto admission that the Border Patrol fig leaf that GOP senators will be touting next month is, indeed, a fig leaf. Why would any conservative accept it as a defense to selling out on immigration after this? Your leaders obviously don’t take their jobs seriously anymore. Why anyone would turn out to vote in November next year after this, whatever ends up emerging from Congress on immigration, is completely beyond me.

As a video bonus, here’s McCain once again helping to push a key Democratic talking point. The video was uploaded, naturally, by the DNC.