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Hullabaloo


Thursday, November 29, 2007

 
Debatable Tactics

by digby


I watched the debate last night with my usual mixture of shock and awe at the bloodthirsty, inane and irrelevant spew that emits from this cycle's Republican presidential candidates and it did not disappoint. As Gail Collins wrote in her column today: "It was suspenseful, waiting for the next shoe to drop, for the next candidate to go whacky."

Giuliani and Romney are both running as fast as they can from their liberal records on immigration so they sound like a couple of Grand Kleagles circa 1924. Tom Tancredo couldn't be more pleased:

TANCREDO: Well, I tell you, this has been wonderful. Senator McCain may not be happy with the spirit of this debate. For a guy who usually stands on the bookend here, aside, and just listens all the time, that's kind of frustrating, you know, in other debates. I have to tell you, so far, it's been wonderful.

(LAUGHTER)

Because all I've heard is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo. It is great. I am so happy to hear it. It is a wonderful thing. It's a good message, yes. We want to secure the borders.


So I was a little bit surprised that both Huckabee and McCain got applause with their relatively human responses on the interminable immigration questions. The debate was in Florida, which probably explains it, but I think it shows once again that even the Republicans are not monolithic on this question.

Here's Huckabee:

HUCKABEE: Thank you very much.

Ashley, first of all, let me just express that you're a little misinformed. We never passed a bill that gave special privileges to the children of illegals to go to college.

Now, let me tell you what I did do. I supported the bill that would've allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms.

They couldn't just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn't about out of state tuition. It was an academic, meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.

Now, let me tell you a couple of provisions of it. And, by the way, it didn't pass. It passed the House but got in the Senate and got caught up in the same kind of controversy that this country is caught up in.

And here's what happened. This bill would've said that if you came here, not because you made the choice but because your parents did, that we're not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime.

That's not what we typically do in this country.

It said that if you'd sat in our schools from the time you're five or six-years old and you had become an A-plus student, you'd completed the core curriculum, you were an exceptional student, and you also had to be drug and alcohol-free -- and the other provision, you had to be applying for citizenship.

It accomplished two things that we knew we wanted to do, and that is, number one, bring people from illegal status to legal status.

And the second thing, we wanted people to be taxpayers, not tax- takers. And that's what that provision did.

And finally, would we give that provision to the children of veterans, personally? What we've done with not just the children of veterans, but most importantly, veterans is disgraceful in this country.

And that's why I proposed a veterans bill of rights that, if anything, would give our veterans the most exceptional privileges of all, because they are the ones who have earned all of our freedom -- every single one of them.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Governor, you called Governor Huckabee a liberal on immigration.

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I like Mike. And I heard what he just said. But he basically said that he fought for giving scholarships to illegal aliens. And he had -- he had a great reason for doing so.

It reminds me of what it's like talking to liberals in Massachusetts, all right? They have great reasons for taking taxpayer money and using it for things they think are the right thing to do.

Mike, that's not your money. That's the taxpayers' money.

(APPLAUSE)

And the right thing here is to say to people that are here legally as citizens or legal aliens, we're going to help you. But if you're here illegally, then you ought to be able to return home or get in line with everybody else. But illegals are not going to get taxpayer-funded breaks that are better than our own citizens, those that come from other states or those that come from your state.

COOPER: You have 30 seconds to respond.

HUCKABEE: Well, but they didn't get something better. They had to earn it.

And, you know something, I worked my way through college. I started work when I was 14 and I had to pay my own way through.

HUCKABEE: I know how hard it was to get that degree. I am standing here tonight on this stage because I got an education. If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage. I might be picking lettuce. I might be a person who needed government support, rather than who was giving so much money in taxes I want to get rid of the tax code that we've got and make it really different.

ROMNEY: Well...

HUCKABEE: Mitt, let me finish. Let me finish, Mitt.

In all due respect, we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that.

(APPLAUSE)



Huckabee sounded like a pretty reasonable, decent human being on this issue and a fair number of Republicans in that hall responded to it.

Here's McCain:

MCCAIN: I came to the Senate not to do the easy things, but to do the hard things. Mel Martinez and I knew this was going to be a tough issue, but we thought the status quo was unacceptable: broken borders; 12 million people here illegally; a need for a temporary worker program, certainly in my state in the agricultural section, certainly in this state of Florida.

And we tried to get something done. We said we'd enforce the borders. The American people didn't believe us. They don't believe us because of our failure in Katrina, our failure in Iraq, our failures in reining in corruption and out of control spending. So we tried and we failed. And I appreciate the president's efforts. He comes from a border state too. And what we've learned is that the American people want the borders enforced. We must enforce the -- secure the borders first.

But then you've still got two other aspects of this issue that have to be resolved as well. And we need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God's children as well.

(APPLAUSE)

And they need some protection under the law. And they need some of our love and compassion.


It seems to me that if you can get applause (and no boos) for a comment like that on immigration at a GOP debate then Democratic consultants should relax just a tiny bit about the breathless responses they are getting in their focus groups and tell their candidates to sound reasonable too. They aren't going to be able to out-hate the Tancredo wing of the party so there's no margin in helping the Republicans set the political agenda by pushing bad legislation and even worse rhetoric.

It certainly looks like the cranky old Republican creeps are once again on the rise in the GOP. But Huckabee and McCain are judged to have done well in the debates last night and those answers don't seem to have hurt them.

Pat Buchanan ran for president partly on immigrant bashing in 1992 and he had quite a following. His speech at the Republican convention that year is infamous. The angry divisive tone of that speech was also considered to be the kiss of death for Poppy's candidacy. Republicans should probably consider whether making Tom Tancredo happy is really in their best interest. The Democratic leadership certainly should.


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