Lou Dobbs: Hypocritical or Delusional?

Lou Dobbs. CBS

CBS

Updated 11:05 a.m. ET

The Nation's piece on illegal immigrants working on Lou Dobbs' estate and horse farm -- and most of the subsequent breathless and overwrought coverage of the article -- completely misses the point.

"Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite," the story's headline screams. But the piece doesn't deliver -- something you'd never know if you watched the coverage on it.

In its story, the Nation implies that Dobbs somehow hired undocumented workers, despite being one of the country's most vocal critics of immigration reform. But read the article closely. Reporter Isabel Macdonald is careful to dance around the issue -- she never says Dobbs hired the workers himself, only that illegal immigrants were doing some landscaping and caring for his daughters horses. So her piece is technically accurate, though pretty misleading and does nothing to further what should be a serious debate on immigration reform.

Here's the problem: Lou Dobbs didn't hire those workers. As Macdonald conceded on Dobbs' radio show yesterday, his contractors did. He knew nothing about it, and under the law, he did nothing wrong.

If the Nation had just fronted that in the piece, it would have focused attention on the real problem and the real issue. And just as important, it would forced Dobbs into a substantive debate, instead giving him a chance to play the victim -- to argue he was just the target of a "smear piece."

There is a real gotcha moment here. But it's not the one the Nation posits, and it's not the one you would think if you watched the coverage of the article by other news outlets last night.

The story is this: The fact that Dobbs had undocumented workers on his farm and estate shows even someone who is vehemently anti-immigration reform can't police it. It shows the holes in the system -- that even someone like Lou Dobbs would unwittingly have those workers there. The same thing happened to Mitt Romney back in 2007, when the Boston Globe reported that a contractor hired illegal workers to mow his lawn. And Colin Powell acknowledged on Meet the Press the other day that he had illegal immigrants doing work on his house, too.

This isn't a Meg Whitman situation -- where a household employee she saw on a daily basis for many years turned out to be an illegal immigrant (Whitman similarly used an agency to hire her housekeeper and unequivocally denied ever receiving information that she was undocumented). But it nonetheless is a serious problem under our current system.

So here's what people should be asking Dobbs. Listen, Mr. Dobbs, obviously something is wrong if even YOUR contractors hire illegal immigrants. So how does policing the borders fix that? How do we solve that problem if we flatly reject some of the proposals on the table about citizenship?

Of course, that might actually lead to a serious discussion on the issue. And that, it seems, is asking too much.

Correction: The post has been updated to note that Whitman used an agency to hire her former housekeeper.

  • Jan Crawford On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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