The eighth of 13 debates (and the fifth in the last six weeks) is over. On the whole, it was slightly livelier than the preceding ones but with no super surprises.
Tuesday, at the Las Vegas Republican presidential candidates’ debate, former front runner Governor Rick Perry threw a bomb but it wasn’t the one I suggested in an earlier blog. I proposed that one of the candidates link the high U.S. unemployment rate to excessive legal immigration and the federal government’s failure to secure the border. Instead, Perry went on the attack against Romney with an old charge that the former Massachusetts governor hired aliens as gardeners.
The evening opened with a spirited debate about taxes as each candidate defended his plan and marginalized his opponents. Interspersed was a lot of talk about "families" without any suggestion that Americans consider the wisdom of having smaller ones. Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum, who has seven children, and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, who has five, could have made that excellent case.
Bachmann got no mileage out of her career as a former federal tax litigator. She should have seized her opportunity to mention the little publicized fact that aliens receive about $2 billion in earned tax credits and followed up by saying the policy would immediately end if she were elected president. I can’t fathom why Bachmann doesn’t get more exposure out of aliens collecting federal subsidies. As long as the panel was focused on taxes, she had a perfect opening. Nothing enrages Americans more than unfair tax laws; in other words, they pay more than they should out of their hard earned wages while others collect on scams.
Then followed sparing over health care plans. I’m not sure how much interest this over-analyzed topic generated. The candidates’ positions are well known.
The debate’s most spirited portion came when Perry accused Romney of hiring "…illegals in your home…" and knowing about it for a year before removing them. Perry called Romney a "hypocrite" about illegal immigration. Romney, of course, denied the charge and went on to talk about how as governor he empowered police to enforce immigration law.
Then Romney added that under Perry’s watch, Texas’ alien population increased 60 percent. Romney further defended himself by saying that he hired a "lawn company" which in turn unsuspectingly employed aliens who presented false documents. In conclusion, Romney promised to enact E-Verify and reminded the audience that Perry had authored an op-ed supporting amnesty.
When the other candidates’ turns came, Herman Cain urged building a fence—not electrified— and Bachmann said that she had signed a pledge to build a double walled fence. Specious cross-talk about a proposed fence came from the other candidates.
Robert Zavala, a Las Vegas resident, asked about amnesty with boringly predictable responses. In reply to an inquiry about ending the anchor baby policy: Perry (no), Bachmann (leaned yes but gave squishy answer), Santorum, (non-responsive; talked about family values).
In summary, no one gained or lost much ground. The charges against Romney about hiring aliens are five years old, hardly breaking news. And while his defense about using contractors is unsatisfactory and smacks of Wal-Mart style evasion, it’s nowhere close to be as hurtful as Perry "heartless" charge against Americans who oppose the DREAM Act. [Illegal Immigrants Toiled for Governor, by Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe, December 1, 2006]
Whoever you liked or disliked going into the debate, nothing much changed for you.
Read the entire transcript here.