Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, nation of the undocumented and their offspring!
(A Gingrich post)

It's still Wednesday morning here in the Aloha State, but it's already Thanksgiving Day in Korea, so I might as well go ahead with what will pass as my Turkey Day post (though I might photoblog from my actually turkey dinner tomorrow, as I'm wont to do).

The New Yorker kicked off the holiday festivities with their yet another controversial cover this week, a reminder that even if they weren't illegal immigrants, they were undocumented.

Heck, I'm a Mayflower descendant (fourteenth and fifteenth generation from four voyagers) on one side of my family and I will proudly state that they entered North America without any papers. Never got them, either. Nor did they properly assimilate (they pretty much stuck with their own kind). Somewhere down the road I'm probably related to some other undocumented folks, but we won't get into that.

And that brings us to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has unexpectedly risen to the top of the heap in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. For months, it has been a tight race between Mitt Romney and whoever is not Mitt Romney, as conservatives who just can't stomach electing a closet moderate or a Mormon seek alternatives. And one by one they've championed losers.

Well, they weren't losers to start with. Rather they seemed to possess all the qualities prized by Tea Partiers and other conservatives (starting with, "He/She's not Mitt Romney"), but then their bright start fizzled out.

We had Sarah Palin (winning point: "She thinks like me!"; fizzling point: "She is dangerously uninformed — just like me."). Then Donald Trump (winning point: "He will prove Obama is a foreign-born Muslin!"; fizzling point: "He gave up on his search for the truth on Obama!"). Then Iowa straw poll winner Michele Bachmann (winning point: "No, she's the one who thinks like me!"; fizzling point: "Ooh, look! It's Rick Perry!"), followed by Rick Perry (winning point: "He's the quintessential Texas politician"; fizzling point: "Oh, crap, he's a Texas politician"). Rick Perry crashed and burned, allowing people to notice Herman Cain (winning point: "Nine-nine-nine"; fizzling point: women he worked with telling him, "Nein! Nein! Nein!")

And that brings us to Newt Gingrich (campaign slogan that sounds cool but actually makes little sense: "Old is Newt Again!"). This guy has actually managed to make it past Mitt Romney and hover in the low thirties. Lots of conservative voters love him for his tough talk against Obama and the Democrats, but moderate Republicans are kinda sort put off by some of his old school (medieval old) views on things. For starters, the little Dickens wants to bring back child labor. Give that fourth grader a mop, there are no free riders at this school!

There actually may be lots of Republican voters who agree with this position — for others' kids, like those in poverty, because, you know, it's a lack of work ethic instilled in nine-year-olds that's the problem in the inner city, not a lack of, you know, jobs and/or safe transportation to jobs.

I poke fun at Gingrich (I believe his campaign should run an ad essentially saying, "With a head this big, he's gotta be smart"), but I actually think were he somehow to make it to the White House, he is someone who could actually come up with the bold-stroke plans that would put the country back on the path of fiscal responsibility in a way that preserves much of what both Republicans and Democrats want — as he and then-President Clinton did in the mid-1990s, back before Bush43 trashed the budget with his tax cuts and misguided and grossly mismanaged war in Iraq.

Frontrunner Newt Gingrich shocks debate audience
when he states how big his next wife's rack should be.

But what I really want to say about Gingrich — and this is where it all ties in with the theme of immigration — is that he comes up with some principled and well considered ideas that buck the rest of his party (or at least the conservative wing). And he has done this with immigration.

Last night at Republican debate #892, which was to cover foreign policy, Newt spoke out in favor of compassionately dealing with undocumented residents, an issue that helped erode Governor Perry's popularity (the governor spoke out in favor of allowing those who came to the country illegally as children to get money for college).

From the Los Angeles Times:
And just like that, another GOP frontrunner is on the defensive after another debate. This time it's Newt Gingrich under the microscope after he seemed to advocate what critics call a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The former House speaker weighed in during an exchange on illegal immigration and border security during Tuesday night's national security-focused debate on CNN.

"I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who’ve been here for a quarter of a century ... [and] separate them from their families and expel them," Gingrich said. "I do believe we should control the border. I do believe we should have very severe penalties."

He continued, "I don't believe that the party that says it's the party of the family is going to say it’s going to destroy families that have been here for more than a quarter of a century. I'm prepared to take the heat in saying: Let's be humane in enforcing the law."
I do not support Newt's divorcing wife on her deathbed policy, but apparently I'm largely in agreement with him on immigration policy (penalties should be focused on the hiring of illegal immigrants, including imprisonment and heavy fines for the Americans who knowingly hire them). And I know that among Democrats and left-of-center moderates like myself I'm not alone.

Watching all these debates I've come to this conclusion: If you could take select pieces of each of the Republican candidates and put them all together, you'd have one damned fine Democratic nominee.

Yup, you'd have Mitt Romney and his health care plan while governor of Massachusetts, you'd have former New Mexico Gary Johnson and Representative Ron Paul's marijuana policy, you'd have Rick Perry's handling of undocumented youth and now Newt Gingrich's compassionate but tough-and-pragmatic ideas about curbing illegal immigration, former Utah governor and US Ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman's eyes-open approach to China, Representative Michele Bachmann's recognition that Pakistan is "too nuclear to fail" (I really had to scrape to find something Democrats would like about Michele "unproven HPV vaccination causes retardation" Bachmann), and Rick Santorum's something I haven't figured out yet.

The problem, of course, is that each and every one of these positions earns them boos from the primary voters, even if they make them more electable during in November. Indeed, Newt Gingrich may find his fate sealed with a hiss as conservatives declare him the latest disappointment. I hope that's not true, though, since he makes an awful lot of sense on immigration and I don't want that viewpoint to become radioactive among GOP presidential hopefuls and the GOP congressional leadership, much in the way moderately raising taxes on the very rich to balance the budget has become.

Besides, who's left? We're still a month and a half from the first primary and all we have left from the debates are Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman (I like the latter but don't care much for the former). Will they be the next shooting stars? What if they rise and fall before January? Will Ron Paul finally be given a serious look (the guy's a kook)? Will they actually start inviting Gary Johnson to the debates?

The winner in Iowa and New Hampshire might very well be whoever is on top of the "not Romney" pile when the actual voting begins. Right about now, I'm guessing, Tim Pawlenty is trying to figure out how to get back into the race (recap: the guy quit because Michele Bachmann won that Iowa straw poll).

Happy Thanksgiving!

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