David Frum, himself an immigrant from Canada, made a recent appearance on the Laura Ingraham show in which he faults Jeb Bush for talking about the advantages of immigration to America. Said Mr. Frum:
Jeb and Obama have something very important in common. They are both people who had to build an identity for themselves. They rejected the identity they inherited and built their own mixed identity. It's an almost kind of post-American identity. Immigration is a test and proof of their identity. Jeb Bush talks about his a lot—he talks about his family being bicultural. That's the reason he moved to Miami. He didn't want to live in a society that was monoculturally American. He wanted to live in a bicultural society so his children could be bilingual. But, one of the things that emerges is that he is very like Obama. He is not satisfied with America as he inherited it, and he talks a lot about how we can't achieve prosperity merely with our existing demographics. That's his phrase, "with our existing demographics." He sort of suggests that it's not just that Americans are too old, or that immigrants will lower the age of the population. That's not true by the way. But he also seems to think that native-born Americans aren't enterprising enough, aren't energetic enough, don't love their families enough. The solution, the way to repair the troubles of America is to change America through immigration by importing people who are somehow better than native-born.
I don't think building an identity for yourself beyond what you inherited is something unique to Jeb Bush and Barack Obama. It's something that pretty much all thinking, independent modern grownups do.
Nor do I think that being "not satisfied with America as he inherited it" is something unique to Obama and Jeb Bush. Lincoln wasn't satisfied with slavery. Reagan wasn't satisfied with Carter's weak military and high tax rates. Wanting to improve America isn't the same as somehow hating America; one of the things about America that is wonderful is the way it gets better — not inexorably, but often enough that it sustains one's faith in the enterprise.
Nor do I think, nor do I read Jeb Bush as saying, that immigrants are somehow un-American, or that being pro-immigrant is somehow to cast aspersions on those who are already here.
More Frum: "one of the questions with Hillary Clinton is how did you your family make that hundred million dollars? They didn't create a business, they didn't deliver goods and services—people just gave them that money. Why? That's an important question to discuss. I think Jeb Bush is the one candidate we know who wouldn't discuss it." I'm not usually in the business of defending the Clintons, but they made most of their money through speaking fees and book sales. Mr. Frum, of all people, might want to think twice before being so dismissive of those services, since he wrote his own memoir of his time in the George W. Bush administration and he is listed as a speaker with agencies both in his native Canada, where the listing says, "The Toronto-born Frum, a graduate of Harvard Law School, lives in Washington, D.C....But obviously his Canadian roots stay with him," and here in the U.S., with a quoted fee, $15,000 to $20,000, that isn't quite at Clinton levels, but isn't chopped liver, either.
As someone in the pro-immigration camp, I actually find it encouraging that anti-immigrant voices are pushing back against Jeb Bush, because I think it's a debate that, if Mr. Bush engages in substantively, he can win, and if he does win, it will be good for the country and for the world. But as Mr. Frum's comments describing Jeb Bush as some kind of "post-American" suggest, it's a debate that has the potential to get nasty and ad hominem.