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Tancredo and the Republican Debate

Did anyone watch the Republican debate last night? I got to see a little bit, including some of the answers by Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. He took his fellow contenders to task for being johnny-come-lately’s on the immigration issue and suggested they were only getting tough on the issue now because the American people had made their dissatisfaction known. On the war in Iraq, he said the war is not about Iraq, Iraq is just a battlefield. The war is with radical Islam. Another candidate agreed with him. Tancredo implicitly endorsed torture. He started out slow, saying waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques were okay. Then, when pressed again, he gave the “ticking time bomb scenario” so often used on the TV show “24” and said,

I would do what is necessary to protect this country. That is the ultimate responsibility of the president of the United States. All of the other things that we do, all of the other things, all of the other powers vested in him are — pale in comparison to its — his responsibility to keep these — the people of this country safe. And that is ultimate. And yes, I would go to great lengths to keep this country safe. (Applause.)

John McCain was up next and strongly disagreed, quoting his friend, General Jack Vessey, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan.

General Vessey said any information that we may gain through the use of torture can never, ever be counterbalanced by the damage it does to America’s reputation and the risk — (cheers, applause) — and the risk that when an American is in the hands of an enemy, that they will use the fact that we tortured people as an excuse to torture our brave men and women in the military. I’m not prepared to expose them to that.

On Iran, Tancredo said, again to applause:

Political correctness is going to get us all killed. It is absolutely the thing we have to fear.

I wish the moderators had asked Tancredo more questions. Here’s the transcript of the debate.

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Tancredo and the Republican Debate

Did you watch the Republican debate in New Hampshire last night? Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo was one of the participants. I thought his demeanor was very good. He seemed more at home with himself than many of the participants, some of whom seemed jumpy to me.

But, on to the content of Mr. Tancredo’s remarks. (The full transcript is here.) He reiterated his dire prediction that the United States will not survive if the immigration reform bill is passed and the undocumented among us are allowed to stay.

REP. TANCREDO: They are incredible and they are disastrous. And that is xactly why I have said what I’ve said, and that is why I have consistently tried to impress upon the American public the seriousness of this issue. We’re not just talking about the number of jobs that we may be losing, or the number of kids that are in our schools and impacting our school system, or the number of people that are abusing our hospital system and taking advantage of the welfare system in this country — we’re not just talking about that. We’re talking about something that goes to the very heart of this nation — whether or not we will actually survive as a nation. And here’s what I mean by that.

What we’re doing here in this immigration battle is testing our willingness to actually hold together as a nation or split apart into a lot of Balkanized pieces. We are testing our willingness to actually hold on to something called the English language, something that is the glue that is supposed to hold us together as a nation. We are becoming a bilingual nation, and that is not good.

Rep. Tancredo also wants to limit legal immigration:

If you come here as an immigrant, great. Welcome. If you come here legally, welcome. It means you cut your ties with the past, familial — especially political ties with the country from which you came.

But let’s be serious about this, you guys. We talk about all the immigration reform we want, and what it’s got to get down to is this: Are we ready for a timeout? Are we actually ready to say, “Enough is enough”? We have to stop all legal immigration except for the — for people coming into this country as family members, immediate family members, and/or refugees. Are we willing to actually say that and say enough — is it — we have got to actually begin the process of assimilating people who have come in this great wave of immigration. The process of assimilation is not going on.

There was scattering applause for his comments. But much more applause for John McCain’s response to him.

BLITZER: When you hear what Congressman Tancredo says, what goes through your mind?

SEN. MCCAIN: It’s beyond my realm of thinking. Look, America is the land of opportunity. The question was just asked, “What is it to be an American?” It’s to share a common goal that all of us — a principle — are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

That means we go as far as our ambition will take us. That means we have a better life for ourselves and our children. And the lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door is still the ideal and the dream. Of course it has to be legal. Of course it has to be regulated. And 18 months, by the way, will go by while we fix the border before we do anything else on this issue. But America is still the land of opportunity and it is a beacon of hope and liberty, and as Ronald Reagan said, a shining city on a hill. And we’re not going to erect barriers and fences.