I’d heard it all before. People trying to make a point in an argument and when things aren’t quite going their way, raising the “R” word. You know the one. “Racism,” followed quickly by “discrimination.”

It’s such an easy ploy, especially in today’s PC atmosphere. The goal is to make the opposition collapse. After all, if you’re called a racist or told that you are discriminating, it must be true, and of course any argument you may have supported just withers away.

Usually when this tactic is used, it comes from the left. It’s so easy because leftists believe they occupy the moral high ground when it comes to just about any issue involving race.

And so, in the Senate last week, we heard the insinuation hurled about in the debate over Mexican trucks, safety rules and NAFTA. But surprise, surprise! This time, it wasn’t the left doing it. No, the Democrats were on the receiving end. This time it was the Republicans, with Texas Sen. Phil Gramm along with Arizona Sen. John McCain doing most of the hurling.

To boil it down, NAFTA requires that we allow Mexican trucks on our highways or face enormous fines. But those trucks are safety hazards. Mexico has few, if any, safety regulations for trucks or drivers – and trucking itself is virtually unregulated. Do you really want some uninspected semi, driven by a person who doesn’t speak the language nor meet commercial driving regulations, tearing down the highway behind you? Don’t know about you, but I don’t.

Has the GOP lost its mind? Whose side are they on? I know the GOP is supposed to favor capitalism and free trade and sell, sell, sell.

But since when is it written in any GOP platform (or anywhere else) that the United States has to sacrifice our considerable standards of highway safety for any reason at all?

To hear Gramm excoriating those in favor of tough safety standards for Mexican trucks allowed to travel across the United States is to believe we have passed through the looking glass into a world of insanity.

Instead of defending what we have and ensuring, as much as possible, the safety of Americans on our own roads and highways, we hear the GOP arguing against it and saying that those who do not agree are guilty of discriminating against Mexico. What utter nonsense, and what an insult to all Americans!

Let’s see, if I want to drive a truck, especially a big one, especially one hauling heavy loads and crossing state lines, there are all kinds of rules and regulations I have to meet.

I need to meet certain age, health and eyesight requirements. I have to be able to pass a variety of written and road tests. Further, I have to qualify for and buy proper insurance for my vehicle. I have to keep certain records of my travels and cargo as well as records of my truck and its maintenance and, on top of that, I have to keep track of how long I drive and the distances covered.

All in all, it is not a simple or inexpensive matter. If I am employed by a trucking company or any firm utilizing trucks for the operation of the business, that company has a multitude of rules and regulations to meet before any of the vehicles can even hit the road.

There are millions of miles racked up annually by commercial trucking in this country, vehicles hauling every single item that all of us want, need and certainly use at some part of our lives. Whether you’re talking food or entertainment, medicine or sports, human or animal, or anything else, at some point between manufacture and end use, that product is moved by trucks.

But those trucks are on the same roads used by the rest of us as we go about our lives. Every trip – long or short, to school or work, church or golf course, family visits or business meetings – uses the same roads traversed by commercial trucks. We expect all vehicles on the road to be safe and the drivers properly qualified.

The reality is, and statistics bear it out, that Mexican trucks, drivers and insurance simply do not meet American standards. Even the most basic safety requirements are virtually non-existent. In Mexico, you get in a truck that runs and drive. Yet Republicans want to give them a green light and they tell us that if we argue, we’re discriminating against Mexico!

What’s even worse than hearing this kind of blather from Congress is being told that even if the restrictions for safety are upheld in legislation, that the Republican President will veto it.

Perhaps it’s this kind of irrationality that seems to be propelling President Bush to push for amnesty for 3 million illegal aliens from Mexico. If I were a cynic, I might surmise he’s hoping for their votes as well as the votes of liberals who would love to loosen the border further.

Perhaps he sees that as a trade-off for the votes the GOP will lose from the real American party faithful for this kind of political betrayal. Or perhaps it’s just political stupidity – perhaps political suicide. Time will tell, but it’s a dangerous game.

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