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John McCain makes one too many runs for the border

Mccain Are Mexican firebugs swarming over the border, torches in hand, setting fire to Arizona forests and wreaking smokey havoc across the West? In Sen. John McCain's world, it seems they are. But the former GOP presidential candidate's theories about the wildfires sweeping through his home state of Arizona don't make a lot of sense.

McCain lit a fire of his own on Saturday when, asked by a TV reporter to explain how two Arizona wildfires could get so big and how such fires could be prevented, he said that some fires (though not necessarily the massive Monument  blaze or the record-setting Wallow fire) are started by illegal border-crossers. "They have set fires because they want to signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them," he said. Because no one seemed quite sure where he was getting his information, McCain went on Don Imus' radio show Monday to explain that he'd heard these things from a Forest Service briefing, as well as news articles.

Well, it sounds plausible enough; wildfires in L.A. are occasionally sparked by homeless people camping where they shouldn't, so it's reasonable to suspect that cooking fires from border-crossers might sometimes get out of control. But is this really a significant source of the wildfire problem in border states? It's very unlikely, not least because it has been a long time since illegal immigrants have relied on signal fires to warn others of the approach of immigration agents (if they ever did). These days they use spotters, cellphones and text messages, according to a recent look at human smuggling operations by the New York Times. Moreover, people looking to elude the Border Patrol seldom light campfires, and the idea that they light them as a diversionary tactic is kind of bizarre.

The reporter who asked the question was clearly trying to get McCain to address an issue he dropped like a burning coal during his 2008 presidential campaign: climate change. That's the real explanation for the increasing frequency and destructiveness of today's wildfires, an outcome that climate models have predicted. McCain, the sponsor of a 2005 bill to reduce carbon emissions, knows quite well that talking about such things doesn't play well with his state's GOP voters. So now he prefers to talk about border enforcement, which usually fires up his base. This time, though, it just got him burned.


Immigration: Lock 'em up

Immigration: What the U.S. does right

Alabama's harsh immigration reform law

-- Dan Turner

Photo: Sen. John McCain greets firefighters Saturday while touring the Wallow fire. Credit: Tom Tingle / Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (16)

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brutally honest

how sad it is to see McCain turn into this desperate attention craving puppet of the extreme right wing nut jobs,I really liked the guy in the past when he was willing to listen and try to come up with reasonable solutions in the senate for different issues ,he could've died an honorable senator who was not even born in America ,very sad to see him turn as dumb as palin.


It makes absolutely no sense for border crossers to light fires- they are trying to hide from enforcement, not trying to bring attention to themselves- a fire would be a virtual spotlight at night in the dark Coronado National Forest.

Collis Huntington

Blaming the size of the Arizona wildfires on climate change is as fanciful as blaming people sneaking across the border. Although it sounds plausible there is little real evidence. The urge to over simplify to support a point of view can be overwhelming.

Zadoc Paet

POLL: Do you believe Sen. John McCain's claim that Arizona wildfires were caused by illegal immigrants?
Vote: http://www.wepolls.com/r/901706
Honestly, I can hardly believe he said that. lol

BlueCat 49

John I think it is time for you to retire. You are either a lair or a moron. Probably both.


Not since Nero blamed the Christians for setting fire to Rome have we seen this kind of scapegoating.

Mitchell Young

I don't know how these fires started, but here are some pretty specific allegations about fire and illegal immigrants from 2007.


And here is a blast from the past (1985) -- illegal aliens lighting campfires the brush in north San Diego -- although granted they were not crossing the border, but camped out (a situation btw, that exists today).


So it's hardly beyond the realm of possibility that illegal aliens had something to do with these fires.

john k

Why what a perfectly conceivable theory you senile, sorry man.

I am not black nor brown yet I feel that gentleman is a racist!

I hope this wrinkled raisin gets what's coming to him. Watch him apologize very shortly. ^^


Why can't the LA Times believe that illegals have no respect for anyone but their selves? They start fires, rob, steal, lie, exploit our welfare system, public school, and US Constitution which should be limited to US citizens excluding the anchor babies. I believe McCain belief that the Illegals started the fires.


Not since Nero blamed the Christians for setting fire to Rome have we seen this kind of scapegoating.

Posted by: Jane
For all the fuss about his comments,you'd never know that illegal aliens are already breaking our laws and disrespecting this country by entering illegally. They then lave thousands of tons of trash along their routes and once they get into the interior, commit fraud and identity theft to get jobs, drive drunk, and commit sundry other crimes that make setting fires look trivial. Face it--illegal aliens have no reputation to slander. They are lying, cheating, line jumping serial law breakers. To paint them as injured by the claim that they also set fires is sort of like saying it's slandering John Wayne Gacy (a notorious serial killer) to claim he was also a firebug.

Mitchell Young

If the LA Times editorial board really was concerned about global warming, they'd be worried about US population growth -- virtually all of which is driven by immigration (legal and illegal). After all, one of the few areas Mexico (the source of the majority of illegals and 15% of legal immigrants) has us beat is that it produces far less carbon emissions per capita than the US, according to wiki about 1/4, in fact. Coming north to a colder climate, where you generally need to drive (license or not) to get to work means that a Mexican will be using a lot more fossil fuel than back home. And anyone who watches KMEX on saturday mornings knows that many of them favor huge, gas guzzling pickups.

Octavio Sanchez

Mitchell young, yes! Mexicans are the reason for global warming. Wait no actualy your reasoning and how you organized what you said is no diffrent than why Mcain is getting grilled in this article you manipulate reasonable stereotypes to scapegoat this group of people yet you fail to point out that the person your most likley to see on a public bus isn't going to be a legal adult male, or the amount of these people who bike or walk or carpool because they cant afford any kind of car. You can use your reteric style to put people in good or bad light, stop instigating hate slob your as much a problem to my country as any illegal. The torres werent caused by illegals and global warming isnt caused by any specific race and you know that.


It is possible that illegals are causing the fires, not intentionally I think, but in accident. It happens all the time. And since there is NO protection in our borders against illegals getting into the country, drug smugglers etc......

Mitchell Young

Actually, Octavio, I'm quite willing to believe that Mexican immigrants -- illegal or legal -- use less carbon-based fuels on average than Americans. However, it is a sure thing they use more than Mexicans in Mexico.

The numbers are what they are -- population growth is driven by immigration, a disproportionate amount of it from Mexico. Those people adding to our population here means more overall carbon emissions. In fact our population growth would wipe out a twenty percent per capita reduction in carbon emissions.

It's strange that any adverse effect of immigration is labeled as 'scapegoating'.

Mitchell Young

BTW McCain just got reelected (2010) to another six year term, and is 74 years old (75 in August). Does he really need to pay attention to what his constituents think about 'global warming' or 'climate change' or whatever it is called this week?


McCain is right on this one.
And the Environmental impact of non secured borders is immense. That issue alone shows me what Hypocrites the Environuts are.



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