For years, Lou Dobbs was illegal immigration's fiercest basic cable critic. Now it seems the former CNN anchor may not have practiced what he (loudly) preached. That's the takeaway from a blistering new article in The Nation claiming Dobbs employed at least five undocumented workers on his 300-acre New Jersey horse farm. What kind of impact will the revelations have on the closed-borders crusader's brand? Around the web, opinions were mixed:
Limited Impact New York magazine's Nitasha Tiku doubts the story will have any impact on Dobbs' career trajectory. While the claims in the article are "depressing, appalling, [and] maddening," they also come across as vaguely stale. When it comes to employing illegal immigrants, the shock factor is no longer there. "The breathless tone of the article, which touts the fact that it was a yearlong investigation that used the resources of the Investigative Fund at The Nation," says Tiku, "is a little puzzling when it seems like allegations that candidates hire illegal immigrants are a perennial part of election season."
Disingenuous The Guardian's Michael Tomasky argues outrage should be directed not at Dobbs, but at the high-decibel cable culture that propelled him into the mainstream. Tomasky blames recently fired CNN president Jon Klein for perpetuating "flabby [nonsense] about Dobbs' 'fearless' qualities." In retrospect, Dobbs was more performer than commentator. "Anyone who watched that show," observes Tomasky, "even if you agreed with Dobbs' positions and were being honest with yourself, could see that he was a demagogue and a not terribly intelligent life force."
What Took So Long? While certainly not a Dobbs fan, Salon's Andrew Leonard points out foreign workers are an integral part of thoroughbred culture. That excuse might not fly with his fans, but it is important--and certainly informative--to understand the circumstances surrounding the claims. Writes Leonard:
The world of thoroughbred horses has long relied on immigrant labor (legal and illegal), and one imagines it would be a trifle difficult to find a multi-million dollar estate in the United States in which there were not any undocumented workers busy pruning bushes. Long hours, lousy working conditions, backbreaking labor, low pay? Put those conditions together and you will find illegal immigrants.
Bad Timing Slate's Dave Weigel notes that while noting the revelations are not new ("I believe MSNBC reported some of this in 2008"), the timing is bound the complicate Dobbs' bid to curry favor with the Tea Party. "Read it all," urges Weigel, "as it drops, conveniently, 48 hours before Dobbs, who's one of the talking heads in the Citizens United doc Battle for America, gives a fairly high-profile speech at a Tea Party Convention in Richmond."
Looks Like a Trend Whether or not California voters reject Meg Whitman next month will be an indication of how likely anti-immigration activists are to forgive Dobbs, writes Media Bistro's Matthew Fleischer. "If Whitman--under fire for her own hiring of an undocumented worker--is elected governor, "it will show Dobbs that it doesn’t matter if you’re a complete hypocrite. All you have to do is talk a good game and lower taxes for rich people and the dullards of this country will eat up your schtick."