Special Report

Mr. Simcox Goes to Washington

Toasting the Minuteman Project along the Capitol Hill border.

By 9.30.05

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WASHINGTON -- Of course, only anarchists would take the time to protest Minuteman Project Director Chris Simcox's appearance at the Capitol Hill Club on Wednesday night. Their chant, "Chris Simcox, Burn in Hell!" wasn't likely to effect much change, but it was good to know the loyal opposition was being consistent. "I don't think they've really been listening to what I've been saying," Simcox noted. Indeed, criticism of the Minutemen has rarely been substantiated by evidence.

Mr. Simcox's group has been the epicenter of the immigration debate for the past few years, and remarkably effective -- areas benefiting from their patrols have been reported as no longer suffering from porous borders. Yet in March, the President described them as vigilantes. Clint Eastwood's and Charles Bronson's most memorable on-screen personas likely would take offense to be compared to this bunch.

As Glynn Custred reported earlier, the Minutemen are as grassroots as it gets, but are incredibly shrewd about their operations. "If a man comes close to crossing the line, he's out," Simcox noted. "We run background checks, we do psychological evaluations, all to make sure that people are there for the right reasons." Cameras are often brought along to ensure that their work is well documented to avoid unseemly accusations. The effort goes toward avoiding the "Billy-Joe Bob Anti-Immigrant" image, to paraphrase Simcox's locution.

Yet there was something oddly surreal about the surroundings. The Capitol Hill Club's banquet room was lavish. The buffet was decorated with Tex-Mex hors d'oeuvres on silver platters, placed beside balsa wood crates -- an homage, I suppose, to life patrolling the border. Bartenders stood on either side of the room, making delicious gin and tonics. The only hint of rugged westernism was imported by the establishment, as a leader of a Vietnam veteran biker group, Rolling Thunder, announced an endorsement of the project. John Spencer, the former Yonkers mayor running for the Republican nomination to fight Hillary Clinton in the Senate, shook his hand. House staffers milled about the room, perhaps wondering what Rolling Thunder was.

It could be argued that the only reason why this project can avoid the venom of Washington's temptations is that there is a purity here; read the Minuteman manual, particularly the section on "Ninja Turtles," a term reserved for trigger-happy Minuteman hopefuls looking for some action. It warns against the use of military regalia, slams comparisons to historical conflicts, and encourages members to talk to the press "using some common sense." The liberal attempt at candor during last weekend's protests was plainly nonsensical -- and accordingly, things got rather silly.

The entire approach reeks of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid), and in a way reflects a trust in the judgment of American citizens that liberals, fond of micro-managing, eschew. If people want to carry a legally permitted sidearm for their personal protection, Simcox notes, they are welcome to do so. If they want to talk to the press, they should go on ahead. And they should definitely talk to people in the neighborhood. Simple.

Maybe there's a good reason for liberals to be so fond of nit-picking and assuming the worst of people. The protesters outside initially resisted an interview -- what exactly is the point of the protest then, if not to bring attention to the issue? -- until one finally submitted. She found Minutemen camps to be havens for bigoted men intent on shooting water bottles, and said an ideology in which "people can be illegal is totally messed up." For her, "neo-liberalists" (capitalists in anarchist-speak) were unquestionably racist.

She wasn't really listening, after all.

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About the Author

J.P. Freire is a writer in Washington and a former editor at the Washington Examiner and The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter @jpfreire.