Mexico's Talleyrand
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President George W. Bush's decision to make his first Presidential trip abroad a visit to Mexico highlights the deference the Bush Administration has been paying to Vicente Fox and his Boris Yeltsin-like glamour. Bush's desire to build a special relationship with the new Mexican government means that Fox's formidable Foreign Secretary Jorge G. Castañeda deserves closer inspection than he has so far received. “Castañeda is widely credited with advising the conservative Fox to push the United States harder for immigration preferences and monetary aid for Mexico,” wrote Lisa J. Adams of the Associated Press.

Insight into Castañeda can be found in his 1995 book The Mexican Shock: Its Meaning For the U.S. In it, Castañeda called on America not only to legalize Mexican illegal immigrants, but also to give these aliens the right to vote in California elections. (Click here to read his chapter containing this proposal.)

Castañeda professed concern that Mexican immigration is “directly linked to the 'de-democratization' of California society.” That a large fraction of California's Mexican residents cannot vote because they are not American citizens leads, he wrote, to “electoral apartheid.” He complained, “This could be named the Richard Riordan syndrome: How did the most cosmopolitan, tension-ridden, socially and racially diverse city in the United States elect a white male Republican millionaire over the age of fifty as its mayor in 1993?”

That's a very interesting question. Personally, though, we would also want to ask these other interesting questions:

  • How did Los Angeles, a city that has never been more than 15% black, elect my old boss Tom Bradley, an African-American, to five terms as mayor?
  • Putting aside the question of how Richard Riordan, the grandson of an Irish Republican Army soldier, ends up constantly being called the “Anglo” mayor of Los Angeles, how did Mexico, a nation of mostly short brown people, elect as President Vicente Fox, a 6'-6″ grandson of an Irish-American from Cincinnati?
  • And while we're at it … How has Jorge G. Castañeda consistently gotten away with the most whiplash-inducing changes of partisan allegiance since the French diplomat Talleyrand served under the Ancien Régime, the Revolution, Napoleon, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy?

Here's a brief history of Castañeda's partisan loyalties:

  • The younger Castañeda made a career for himself as a Marxist college professor. He belonged to the Mexican Communist Party for a time during the Seventies. (Click here for an interview with him promoting his 1997 book on Che Guevara). He backed the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in 1988 and 1994.
  • In 2000, however, Castañeda turned his back on the PRD and its long-suffering but hopelessly dour candidate Cuauthémoc Cárdenas, and dramatically threw his support to Fox of the rightwing National Action Party (PAN). He is now “loathed” by his former allies on the left, according to reporter Susan Ferriss.

Despite Talleyrand's blatant opportunism, he was often an effective advocate of France's national interests. In Castañeda's first big splash on the world stage, a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on January 30th, the flexible Mexican showed he might indeed be a worthy successor to Talleyrand's mantle. Castañeda asserted Mexico's demands that America weaken its anti-illegal immigration and anti-drug-smuggling policies with such confidence that he made it appear as if Mexico was the world's only superpower. In turn, General Powell behaved as if the United States of America was a Third World supplicant fearful of offending its mighty neighbor. (Click here for a transcript of the remarks.)

Yet the new Foreign Secretary has a potential Achilles' heel. Ambrose Bierce defined diplomacy as “The patriotic art of lying for one's country.” During his long previous career as a pundit, however, Castañeda had a habit of occasionally telling harsh truths about his country. He has left a paper and Internet trail of frank observations that offer ammunition to sophisticated American critics of the Bush policy of appeasing Mexico.

Consider these admissions by Castañeda:

Here are excerpts from Castañeda's essay:

  • “First, the undocumented or illegal nature of much of the flow [of immigrants from Mexico] runs counter to the legalistic nature of a society [America] that has little else to hold it together beyond the belief in and devotion to the rule of law. … [T]he very idea of countenancing an ongoing, widespread, and flagrant violation of legality contradicts the myths and needs of American ideology.”
  • “Second, … broad-scale undocumented immigration in California functions as a progressive income tax. … Because migrant workers' incomes are lower than those of virtually the entire rest of society, Mexicans in California pay less tax in relation to their income than others.”
  • “Mexicans in California also use many of the services financed by taxes – such as public schools, and public transportation and housing (when it exists) – more than most other segments of society.”
  • “In California today, the upward mobility achieved by previous migrants may no longer be possible. … Mexican immigrants are disproportionately represented in the bottom tier of society; and because their numbers are constantly replenished from abroad, even upward mobility does not reduce the size of the poor, Mexican-born share of California's population.”
  • “It is true that Mexicans have been far more reluctant to seek naturalization than previous immigrants to the United States. … Moreover, Mexicans who acquire U.S. citizenship continue to be informed by their own political traditions: elections and other political endeavors are viewed with a complete sense of futility.”
  • “The people who vote and bear the tax burden [in California] are also those who least use or consume the goods and services funded by taxes: public education, public health care, public transportation, government-funded job training and so on.”
  • “Inevitably, these taxpayers want to pay less in taxes for things of little direct use to them, while those who do use them, pay little tax and don't vote in sufficient numbers to force the others to pay more tax.”


Judging from these (admittedly sharply edited) excerpts, if this Mexican Foreign Secretary gig doesn't work out for him, there will always be a job open for Castañeda as a columnist for VDARE!

Seriously, though … Secretary Castañeda is a Mexican patriot. That's why the obvious solution implied by his analysis – that America should crack down hard on illegal immigration – was not the one he ultimately offered. No, as an honestly partisan advocate of Mexico's interests, he recommended:

  • “The only realistic way to alter the negative effect of Mexican influence on California, then, is to change the nature of its origin by legalizing immigration and giving foreigners the right to vote in state and local elections.”

George W. Bush, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, and other GOP enthusiasts of mass immigration should note carefully what Castañeda expects Mexican immigrants would do with their votes:

  • “… Latinos should vote for higher taxes, levied progressively on everyone, to finance public services.

If fate had made Castañeda an American patriot, however, there can be little doubt, based on his hard-headed evaluation of Mexico, that he would be working diligently to defeat the Fox administration's immigration policy offensive against America's national interests.

But what excuse do Bush and Powell have?

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic for

The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

February 15, 2001

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