Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s lively support of a mass amnesty for tens of millions of illegal immigrants now in the United States and continued mass immigration into the country is a scalding reminder of just how far removed the Washington aristocracy has become from the American people.

Mark Cromer

Mark Cromer

Powell wasted no time during his appearance Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press in declaring that not only were the Republicans flirting with long-term electoral disaster by supporting tough enforcement of immigration laws, but that America itself could not long survive without millions of new immigrants pouring into the nation each year to fuel its economy.

Host David Gregory looked more like a befuddled Larry King as he sat there in unchallenging silence while Powell declared that illegal immigrants are “keeping this country’s lifeblood moving forward.”

Not the American worker, mind you, not the American people. Not the citizens who have toiled, struggled, sacrificed and built over generations.

No, Powell sees immigrants as the heart of the nation, the vital organ that keeps its blood pumping.

Sensing that Gregory was either hypnotized, asleep or honoring a pre-show agreement not to stand his journalistic post and challenge him with tough questions, Powell then revealed that he has in fact hired illegal immigrants — either directly or indirectly — to make repairs around his home.

He then enlisted Gregory into the slap: “I’m sure you have seen them at your house.”

Since Powell and Gregory are both Beltway players who undoubtedly know each other off camera, one has to wonder whether Powell’s rhetorical observation wouldn’t have been more accurately offered as “Come on, David, I saw that crew of amigos you had building your new deck for you.”

While NBC had hyped the Powell interview, breathlessly claiming “We go in-depth with the man who served this country under four presidents,” Gregory actually indulged a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach with Powell, refusing to ask any number of critical follow-up questions — not the least of which should have been how he had determined the workers were illegal immigrants?

Was Powell perhaps using the same methods that street cops in Arizona would apply to suspected illegal immigrants? If so, was he then racially profiling? Or did Powell know they were illegal immigrants because he was paying them dramatically reduced wages, the anemic rates of pay that are intended to keep Americans off job sites and out of entire industries like construction, hotel services and, increasingly, manufacturing?

But Powell got a free pass and was never asked how much he had paid the illegal immigrants whom he’d hired, what work they preformed at his home, the hours they toiled or what their working conditions were like.

Even more disheartening than Powell’s worn-out platitudes about bringing illegal immigrants “out of the darkness” — versus the American worker out of the unemployment line — was the four-star general’s glib dismissal of securing the border, which he reduced to a mere passing acknowledgement that citizens indeed want their frontiers “protected.”

The American people want much more than that.

For all the talk about the Tea Party reflecting a seismic upheaval in the Republican Party, that’s not where the dangerous fissure is growing.

Powell’s comments reflect a bipartisan Washington perspective that is so detached from the average American that it views citizens not just with suspicion, but an imperial contempt that drips with patronizing disdain. It’s a damnable smirk that stretches from Powell to Karl Rove to David Axelrod to Harry Reid, and on.

While Gregory clearly was not up to the task, one of these days, and perhaps quite soon, Americans are going to wipe that grin right off their faces.

And that will indeed be Must-See TV.

— Southern California journalist Mark Cromer writes frequently about immigration issues. He can be reached at mrcromer@aol.com.