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Interview: WH Spokesman Tony Snow

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: With much glee and excitement, Tony Snow from the White House.

SNOW: (Chuckling.)

RUSH: Tony, it's great to have you back, and how are you feeling, first? I bet you're tired of getting the question, but I haven't asked and I want to know.

SNOW: I am never tired of getting the question because I've got an answer I like to share with people, which is I'm doing great. You know, I had surgery a couple months ago. I'm now doing chemo, finished round number one a couple of days ago. I'll go in for round number two next week. But, obviously, it's not slowing me down. I'm back working, having a blast.

RUSH: Really, that much chemo? It's not slowing you down at all?

SNOW: No, I... Maybe a little tiny but, but I can't tell. It's really not that big a deal.

RUSH: That's great news.

SNOW: Yeah, it is great news.

RUSH: What did the doctors say about that? Attitudinally, when you're told of the diagnosis that you were told of, and then you began treatment and therapy for it, did the doctors tell you anything about your attitude going into it? "Hey, look, you can overcome some of the fatigue if you just don't think it's going to be that bad. It is what it is." Is that something they tell you, because this is a unique story. Most people don't tell this story when they're on chemo.

SNOW: I think there are a couple things. First, attitude is a huge deal. First time I did chemo I actually did 12 sessions, and the chemicals were tougher. This time around, two of the three really don't have any side effects, and the other one, which can make you a little bit tired, I take in pill form and spread over a week, so it just doesn't kind of pack the kind of wallop it used to. But, like, attitude is a big deal. You know, if you go in and you think, "Okay, I'm going to whip this thing," and you have a combination of attitude and your faith and love and prayers, you know, you watch your diet, you get exercise, all those things contribute, and what I'm trying to do is to put everything in the plus column that I can.

RUSH: Yeah, that's great. Everybody was shocked when they got the news the second time around, and this is just really great, because you have so many people that love and appreciate what you've done and what you are doing. And let's get to that, because I know one of the things happening in the Senate right now that's of extreme interest to people in the White House and out is this immigration bill, and I've heard a couple of things about it and I want you to tell me if what I'm hearing is right or wrong. One thing is that the Senate's trying to push this thing through without senators having a chance to read the whole thing. It's 600 pages. They're trying to move a procedural vote forward to get a vote going without debate on this much, because there's so much in it that is confusing and, I mean, 600 pages is a lot of things, and a lot of people are upset that anybody would sign a bill that they haven't read, even though that's more common than people know.

SNOW: (Laughs.) Well, a couple things first. We're still in negotiations on this. But the fact is, folks are going to have time to read this, and they're going to have time to look at the fine print. The other thing is, you gotta keep in mind one of the guys who's leading the charge on the Senate side is Jon Kyl, who himself has been skeptical of immigration reform in some senses. So I think for conservatives, they ought to feel a certain level of comfort that a guy who has been with them -- and let's face it, Jon Kyl is not the kind of guy who ever backs away from principle. So this is the kind of thing that ought to be inspiring confidence. For people who are worried about border security or figuring out how to be tough on people who break laws, we're coming up with a system that allows us to identify illegals who are already in our midst and come up with a sensible way of dealing with them. All of those things and a lot more are addressed in the legislation. But, as I said, it's a little premature for anybody to start talking about bills because none have really been drafted up yet, but on the other hand there are real negotiations taking place, and the guy who is kind of leading up the effort on the Republican side in the Senate is Jon Kyl.

RUSH: Well, look, politics is perception. You care about what public opinion is on this, and I don't have anything other than anecdotal evidence, but there's a significant amount of it, and it goes like this. Well, not evidence, but a significant amount of anecdotal discussion about it. A lot of people say, "Jon Kyl is a great guy," but they're not being convinced by this because the Republicans have a history of caving to Democrats, even when the Republicans run the show. Well, they're not running the Senate now. The Democrats are, by a slim majority. So people think that this is still just an end run to get an amnesty program passed.

SNOW: Look, I'll push back in two ways. Number one, Democrats -- like there's plenty of Democratic opposition to this, including by unions. Number two, one of the frustrations we have is that no matter what we do, we've got our own guys shooting arrows at us, not giving the president credit for having spent more money on border security than anybody before, having acknowledged that the 1986 bill, Simpson-Mazzoli signed by President Reagan, did have amnesty. What's amnesty? Amnesty is a way of saying, "We don't care if you broke the law. We scrub your record clean. All is forgotten," as opposed to what we're talking about, which is you gotta admit you broke the law; you've gotta pay a fine. It is not a wrist slap. It's a felony level punishment. You do not get an automatic path to citizenship. Instead, what you have to do is, after you've acknowledged you've broken the law, after you've paid a debt to society, then you go to the back of the line. If you break the law, you're out of the line.

RUSH: That's the Z visa, right?

SNOW: Huh?

RUSH: The Z visa, as it's being called in the news stories about this?

SNOW: Right. A Z visa is one of these things where essentially what we're saying is, number one, you gotta admit that you broke the law and you're gonna pay a punishment. Number two, you've gotta prove that you want to be the kind of American you and I would want to see, Rush. You've got to stay continuously employed; you can't come here just to get welfare benefits. You've gotta obey the law. You have to pay your taxes. At the same time also, you've gotta learn the English language; you've gotta understand American citizenship. In other words, you have to pass all the benchmarks that you and I would want somebody to pass: working hard, playing by the rules, obeying the law. If you break the law, you're out. If you cross the border illegally, you're not allowed back in again. In other words, there are more provisions here to get tough on lawbreakers and also to set up a series of tests that say, "At the end of this process, if somebody becomes eligible for citizenship, have they really demonstrated that they're going to be a model citizen in a way that you or I or the listeners to this program would consider an effective representation, effective way of demonstrating goodwill and the right kind of character and behavior?" If you don't, you don't become a citizen.

RUSH: Well, now, this sounds great, but there's this word that keeps bugging me in this and that's enforcement. First, what if they can't afford the fine? Second, what if they don't bother to show up because the word's going to spread in their community it's just a deportation gimmick, and so they're not going to show up and report. What enforcement measures, since we have lax enforcement now --

SNOW: Yeah.

RUSH: What's new in this that's going to help...?

SNOW: Sure.

RUSH: We've been told we can't deport 12 million, and I'm not talking about that, because we can't find them. Now we're going to pass legislation that requires them to tell us who they are, then come in and pay a fine, then admit they broke the law, then go to the back of the line, and if that doesn't happen --

SNOW: Actually, no. We're a lot more clever than that. Because if it were simply self-reporting, "Come on out! Tell us you broke the law," of course that wouldn't work. But instead, what we have here is a requirement for a tamper proof ID. There are two things. First, you've gotta get the borders straight. One of the things that you've gotta understand is a lot of things hinge upon whether you've got the border secure and you can start monitoring it. What do we see? We see that, in fact, our border efforts are starting to bear fruit, and that you're actually getting less illegal flow, and that's getting choked off. That's a good thing. But for those who are here. They don't have to report. You know who has to report? The people who are hiring them. We're talking about a tamper proof ID with biometric information on it so that they can't fake it.

RUSH: Yeah, I've heard about that.

SNOW: Now, here's the deal. If you're an employer, you got somebody illegal and they don't have their papers, you get socked with a fine and you may have to forfeit assets. As a matter of fact, we've done something no administration has done before, which is to have real criminal punishments against guys that are knowingly hiring or harboring illegals. They gotta have that. If the employer doesn't have that verified ID, they're the ones who get caught holding the bag. They're the ones who become liable for this. So there are a series of powerful incentives for them to make sure that the people who are working for them are there legally. Furthermore, if you're somebody who's trying to collect benefits, sorry about this, but you gotta have it. So I think what you find is that if anybody wants access to the benefits of citizenship or residency in the United States, they're going to need to come clean, otherwise they're not going to get anything.

RUSH: All right, so we're going to handle this with a new law, essentially. Now, here's --

SNOW: Yeah.

RUSH: Here are the things that, when the existing law that people admit isn't working because that's why we need the new law.

SNOW: Right.

RUSH: So we're gonna have a new law to fix all this. Here's the thing that based on my knowledge and experience, and guided by my intelligence with Democrats, let's just say theoretically that this passes -- or hypothetically that this passes.

SNOW: Yeah?

RUSH: I can hear Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy the next day saying, "How can we be so unkind to charge these people who are working for two bucks an hour, $5,000 they don't have? That is cruel," and try to blame this on the Republicans politically, going into the election, because if fits the mold of mean-spirited, cold-hearted and cruel. The Democrats obviously want these people to become voters. They're looking at this in a political sense.

SNOW: Yup.

RUSH: Well, go ahead and respond to that.

SNOW: Well, there are two things. Number one, keep in mind what I was telling you before in terms of the kind of profile you want: people are working hard, paying taxes. Guess what? What we're really talking about is people who in the end ought to be Republican voters who came here because they wanted to work, not because they wanted to sponge, who came here because they believed in the American dream. They came here, and now understand -- have demonstrated -- that they want to be citizens by putting their money where their mouth is, by staying employed, by staying legal and lawful, by mastering the culture. These are people who ought to be Republican voters because they do in fact share the conservative values, and they look at this as a land of opportunity. When it comes to this other, though, the fact is Democrats are going to have be part of this, and we're working with it, and see, my sense is I think it's going to be less likely the Democrats are going to turn around and trash their own handiwork because it has been tough for them. Again, the unions are all over them, saying, "Why don't you just kill this? Don't do anything at all."

RUSH: I thought --

SNOW: So there has been a certain amount of political courage on the part of Democrats who are standing up to those interests as well. Finally when it comes to the issue of saying, "Well, you're being cruel to these people." Number one, you're not talking about two dollars an hour. You're talking about people who are going to be making enough and saving enough over time. Number two, you understand how it works. You can always garnish enough wages to get that punishment and that penalty paid. So the fact is, you're going to ask yourself: "What's crueler, having somebody that's working and paying taxes and having those fines -- what are they going to rather have, that situation, or one where they get sent back?" You know, if they really want to become American citizens they're going to have an opportunity to prove it the hard way, and all the incentives for them is going to be to stay.

RUSH: Time is dwindling here, and really, I wanted to ask you this earlier, but what about the families of these people? They're going to want their families here. It seems like this is going to have a possibility of really swelling the number of people into this country illegally.

SNOW: Well, there's a lot of talk about chain migration. That has been the concern, and that is something, again, that is a matter of ongoing conversation and negotiation in this. Let's just wait to see what they come up with on this. But the fact is that we are certainly aware of the concern and the consideration, and I go back to what I was saying before, which is: you can't have people here who are not working and that are not paying taxes. One other note here, by the way, and it's also worth considering. You put together this program. You got your IDs and all this sort of stuff. The people then decided that they're going to try to sort of migrant back and forth across the border, suddenly they lose the right to stay on American soil and they've got to go back and apply for things like the temporary worker program and so on. It's our calculation that as many as two-thirds of the people who are here illegally actually don't want to become citizens, and at some point they're going to filter back to where they came from and stay there. So we may not be talking about ten to 12 million over the long haul. You may be talking about three or four million or five million who eventually want to become US citizens -- and again, our aspiration is, make them good US citizens, responsible US citizens, and ones who share our values by demonstrating it each and every day by the way they live.

RUSH: All right. I've gotta go. I have to make a closing comment. I want to respond to the whole political aspect of this, because I raised it about the Democrats wanting this legislation for future voters. Tony, I've always thought it was a miscalculation, a mistake for Republicans of any stripe, to think that these people are going to become Republicans because we do nice things like this legislation. Simpson-Mazzoli did grant amnesty, as you say, in 1986.

SNOW: Yup.

RUSH: Those people didn't become Republican voters.

SNOW: Well, what I'm saying is somebody who comes here to work and work hard and share in the American dream, they can become Republican voters. We oughta be out there, frankly, doing what you do every day, Rush, which is tell the people exactly how great this country is and the values that make it great, because a lot of folks do come here chasing the same kind of dream that our ancestors did, which is they want to set down roots in the country that does have a rule of law, where in fact if you work hard you can achieve your dreams -- and, frankly, there is an opportunity to reach out and make those folks Republican voters, and we shouldn't shrink from not only the challenge but the opportunity.

RUSH: Tony, I gotta let you run. I know you're over your time limit here. We appreciate that, and I'm a little bit over my break time.

SNOW: (Chuckles.)

RUSH: But, look, all the best to you. We're all thrilled that you're doing well, and we hope that continues to be the case.

SNOW: Rush, my friend, it's great being on. Thank you.

RUSH: Tony Snow from the White House, and we'll be back right after this.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: The time we had with Tony Snow ran two minutes longer than what we scheduled. We ran 14 minutes and we were going to go 12. This segment is going to be shorter than usual because of that. It really wasn't enough time to debate. What he talked about how the unions are for this legislation. They're not. It's tough. We had the story here, I don't know, it seems like a month or six weeks ago. John Sweeney has totally changed his mind on this. He was opposed to this legislation, but for some reason, Sweeney's changed his mind. The public sector unions are for this. They have come around on this, for political reasons. They're for the legislation winding its way through the Senate. There's something about this immigration argument, that the proponents for all this legislation articulate that has always gnawed at me, and I haven't been able to wrap my arms around it. But after listening to Tony, it crystallized for me. These people -- these illegals, aliens, whatever -- they're coming here on their own.

We're not forcing them to come here! We are not burdening them at all, and yet we respond to their illegal entry by acting like we've done something wrong to them and we need to do something to make it right for them, and it's what's always bugged me. Instead of doing what we can to "make it right" for American citizens and protect the jobs and the work, we seem to be going out of our way. Both parties seem to be bending over backwards and forwards, totally the opposite of the way the Dubai Ports deal was. You didn't want the Dubai Ports deal, then by gosh we weren't going to get the Dubai Ports deal! Your thoughts on immigration don't seem to matter a hill of beans to these people, up in the Senate. So here we have to provide them with opportunities for citizenship, just because they're here? It's a very odd way of thinking. We've lost control of the border. We can talk about now how we're going to make it more secure, get tougher and all that. Fine and dandy, but we were going to do that after Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986 and it didn't happen. Now we've got a new law to replace the old law, and the new law is supposedly going to have magical components to it, or magical powers. This new law is going to have its own enforcement mechanism. The power of the law will make these people admit that they're illegal, pay the fine, move to the back of the line, spend eight, 13 years, whatever it is, to get here. The idea that we, as a country, have to go out of our way to accommodate these people, has been the one thing I've never understood, other than both parties are looking for votes. But the process by which they're going through this -- ignoring existing voters, and contributors? -- is still mind-boggling to me.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Now, look, a lot of you people have been sending me e-mail, I've been checking, you're really raking Tony Snow over the coals, and some of you are even having the audacity to rake me over the coals for what you think was a softball interview. I told you: I didn't have enough time to debate Tony. I'm not... Folks, honestly, debating Tony on this is not the way to kill this. The way to kill this is to mobilize power, power which I first time admitted having today, in 19 years. When this thing comes out of the Senate, because it is going to come out of the Senate. They're going to get this done, this illegal immigration business, and as I said, it's mind-boggling in many ways. But, look, we're all sick and tired of being lectured to on this. I know a lot of you are personally sick and tired of it. You don't need to be lectured about it because you're living the problems created by illegal immigration every day, and we're all being told to believe something that's not credible: that an incompetent government is going to all of a sudden become competent, that a massive number of new bureaucracies are going to perform efficiently, as existing bureaucracies are not. Don't give me this, "It could happen."

Yeah, everything is a wing and a prayer here. But it still boggles my mind that we're not inviting these people here! They're coming on their own, and we're acting like we owe them something! I'm talking about the illegals, and we're going out of our way to not hurt their feelings and make sure they become citizens and so forth. The whole focus on this has always been gnawing at me as something that's just unreal. (sigh) We respond by acting like we've done something wrong to them and that we've gotta apologize. We gotta not make amends. "Oh, sorry! You came here illegally, and because we have a law that says you're illegal, you've been stigmatized. We're sorry. We're sorry that our stupid laws make you illegal, so we're gonna have new laws, and you'll find a way to legal now." All this is predicated on the assumption we can't deport them, because we couldn't round 'em up. Well, now they're going to be asked to turn themselves in? (Laughing.) What? (interruption) Nah, but tougher sanctions?

I don't recall the tougher sanctions are ever going to be enforced. I just don't see it. When I told Tony I firmly believe it won't be long -- if this thing ever does become law, this business about they've gotta pay the fine? What is it, $5,000 or some such thing, a sliding scale? Do you know how long it's going to be -- we can make book on this -- before Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and any number of other Democrats start crying and moaning about, "Wow, that's such a high price! These are just people doing jobs American people won't do. How could we think of being so cruel to charge them so much." These will be the authors of the legislation that will institute these, quote, unquote, "fines" and so we're going to pass the fine collection off on their future employers. Look, everybody understands here that if this passes, 20 years from now, we're going to be wringing our hands again, "Gee, what a bad law. We've gotta do something else," just like Simpson-Mazzoli '86, we gave amnesty to, what, three and a half million of them, now we're 12 to 15. Uh, gotta do something! Simpson-Mazzoli, going to fix it all, and this won't. The public understands that. We didn't take enforcement seriously.

Look, I hate to be brutality frank sometimes because it hurts people's feelings here, but we're being asked to believe that the same government that allowed three of the Fort Dix Six to remain here, despite their expired visas, will now somehow make sure that doesn't happen. Three of the Fort Dix Six, and these were people plotting a terrorist attack against our soldiers at Fort Dix. Look, when bureaucracies start making promises... We're all sensitized to this, and we've all been through it, and there's a natural and intelligent skepticism that arises when all of this happens. Now, I just wanted to say all this to you now because debating Tony on this was not going to accomplish anything, other than to make you think I'm a tough guy. "Now, I'm not going to take any of that gruff! I don't care! I'm not going to bow down to the White House." That's what you would have ended up thinking. Now you're probably thinking, "Eh, Limbaugh is a White House lackey again." This is not the place to do this. The place to aim at this is the people who are doing the legislation, and that's in the Senate. Now, I will not forget Jeff Sessions, a good friend, senator from Alabama. We had a bite last week. Jeff Sessions was out there saying, "They're trying to ramrod this legislation through so fast that Rush Limbaugh won't be able to read it and tell the American people what's wrong with it," and they were trying to do on a procedural motion to limit debate on this. It's 600 pages long, and I think that whole policy or plan has since been confirmed.

END TRANSCRIPT

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