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Did Newt set a trap for Romney on immigration?

Did Newt set a trap for Romney on immigration?

Newt Gingrich’s statement on immigration at the national security debate is being called an unforced error by some in the conservative media.  Immigration was not the topic of the night, so why make it the highlight of the night?

I don’t know whether Newt’s position, that there should be some humanitarian exceptions to our deportation policy focused on those here for decades with strong family and community ties, will cost him votes.  I don’t think so.  Many of the critics didn’t support Newt to begin with.

Newt’s position, as I pointed out before, is neither amnesty (he was talking about deportation policy, not citizenship) nor out of touch with where most realistic Republican voters expect we would end up.

The concept of local boards has been mocked, but the mockery is not deserved.  While I don’t support the concept of local boards, such boards would not operate without guidelines any more than the old draft boards were free to do whatever they wanted.  This is a version of pushing some aspects of immigration enforcement down to the states using federal guidelines.   Those who have accused Newt of being shallow and not thinking things through have been shallow in their critiques.

But more important, Newt’s statement caused the Romney campaign to engage in hyperbole, accusing Newt of wanting amnesty for 10 million people.  This exposed key weaknesses in Romney’s claim to the presidency.

First, Romney has been in favor of a pathway to citizenship for illegals, which is more than Newt proposed at the debate which was limited to deportation policy.  Romney ran to the right, but it was not credible.  This reminded everyone of Romney’s “core” weakness.

Second, and equally important, Romney has no answer on deportation policy.  This resulted in the “Abbott and Costello” routine I highlighted yesterday, in which Romney’s spokesperson could not or would not say that Romney would deport everyone here illegally, even those brought here as young children.  While attacking the humanitarian standards on deportation policy proposed by Newt, Romney had no alternative.  Not a good showing.

In the end, Newt was shown to be someone willing to make hard choices even if it cost him votes and to do so with realism.  Romney was shown to be just the opposite.

It dont’ know if Newt set a trap.  But the Romney campaign found itself stuck, either way.  Newt comes across looking presidential, Romney comes across looking like a politician.


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I have spent the last 36 hours studying Newt’s proposal. Many aspects are not firm. HOWEVER, It has some great features and myraid of problems for Newt. 2 parts – It is better & worse than you thought: Newt’s 25 Year Moratorium on Illegal Morality ~ PolitiJim\`s Rants |

Very well done, professor. I think Romney’s position will hurt him in the general election if he’s the nominee.

    William A. Jacobson in reply to JayDick. | November 24, 2011 at 9:39 am

    The biggest damage is the damage to credibility. Romney the immigration hawk who wants to deport them all without exception not only is bad policy, it is not believable.

I listened to Newt, and his approach seemed very resonable. I’m just one independent voter, I want borders to be sealed so more illegals don’t come over, however I also recognize you can’t round up those that have been here decades, albeit illegally, but have committed no crimes other than that initial one of coming here illegally.

Romney doesn’t seem to remember all the position he’s taken over the years. I’d rather have a honest discussion about issues. I don’t want illegals here, but they cannot all be deported, especially those who have been here for decades. My concern is if these people are given amnesty, then how do you stop the next wave from coming?!!?

Newt said he wants legality for them, but not citizenship, how does that even work!?!

In my humble opinion, most people FIRST want that border completely secured, once it is secured and we can control who can come in, then deal with those already here. If you commit a crime while here illegally, deportation, NO EXCEPTIONS, however the others who have been here a while, well, we can figure out what to do with them. Back of the line? a permament green card, but no citizenship? I don’t know the answers. But controlling more from coming if the first concern.

I want an honest discussion. Romney didn’t seem to realise he actually wanted amnesty for all of them, went a step further than Newt just a few years ago, and its on tape. I don’t trust Newt either — sitting on a coach with Pelosi — I don’t trust Romney either, but I want a real honest debate, of practical solutions, not just soundbites.

I know the conservatives with a capital “C” don’t want to hear this, but there IS a fix to this problem, and it WILL work, an be to our nation’s advantage. We need to export Americans.

For me, the argument does not begin and end with the word “illegal,” because I recognize an obligation on the part of our Congress to pass laws that make sense. A Congress that passes screwy laws invites disrespect of the law. That is what the United States Congress did several decades ago, with the last major Immigration law.

Congress, in Ted Kennedy’s infinite and pro-union wisdom, decided to ignore an entire class of people who come to this country, because Ted Kennedy did not have the creativity to recognized that some people want to come here only to work, and that this is a good thing.

He insisted on leaving out a guest worker program. Our country has long been a safety valve for the countries to our south, particularly those who want to experiment with socialism as an excuse for thievery.

Currently, our laws let people in easily, but makes it difficult for them to leave. This is a perverse result.

And, we do want them to leave, in their own good time, with a few resources, an American attitude, and good will toward us.

It’s not amnesty to recognize the utility in this, and to start a guest worker program, which has worked spectacularly well in the past. This is not a path to citizenship. It is setting aside a truly stupid incident of hubris on the part of Congress. Citizenship is a different issue.

The immediate advantages to us are that 1) we get the most vigorous, hard-working, adventurous people from our neighbors to work for us, 2) We get well-targeted foreign aid that actually gets where it’s needed and has the effect we want, instead of enriching the gatekeepers in these messy countries, 3) We are able to quickly separate people who are here to work from people who are here to make trouble.

A longer-term advantage to us is that these people keep the ties to their family at home, and more of them will return home in due time. I’ve worked with PHd researchers who have visas, and who have worked here for an extended period of time. Over time, these people have learned how we do things. They learn how to get things done. They develop a taste for efficiency along with a strong distaste for corruption. When they go home, their local friends and family call them “The Americans.” That notion, of a local kid turning into an American and coming home, is very significant, because these people can become leaders.

This will work with craftsmen and manual workers as well as it does with PHds. Imagine 20,000 Venezuelan men in their 40s and 50s, who have made a little money and want to retire, going home.

It would be a slow process, but it would transform the governments of our friends to the south.

Think it over. This will work.

My take, Professor, is that Newt figures his stature as a factotem of the conservative movement and the sad sack quality of all the other notRomneys means that he can hold onto most of the more conservative voters who have now surged to him.

But Newt is smart — about politics as well as policy — and he realizes (unlike many of his supporters) that that is not enough to stop Romney and win the nomination. He needs to take some of Romney’s support away from him. It is precisely his checkered background as an establishment figure who has right-wing creds that makes it possible for him to do this, when Bachmann and the rest cannot.

What Newt needed — early enough to be credible — was a high-profile stand on an issue regarded as a litmus test by most of the right and one that would come as a surprise. Newt last checked in as a deport-them-all guy in 2007, so there is the surprise.

Newt is out to get some of Romney’s 25 percent in Iowa and 40 percent in NH. He reasons that he cannot win the nomination without collapsing Romney.

So welcome to the Moderate Newt campaign!

It appears that Newt may have set a trap or himself and inadvertently Mitt Romney circa 2007.

The present day anti-Romney lead dog was obviously playing to the host and its more liberal viewership. The policy Newt advocated as associated with an off-shoot of Heritage and the typically illegal alien hugging CNN viewership was all part of his calculus.

Basic motivation psychology tells us you get more of what you incentivize. Ronald Reagan found this out when his policy absolved 2 million illegals resulting in now over 20 million illegals.

Two likely outcomes of such a policy:

(1) The slippery slope. Setting the bar at 25 years of illegal citizenry is a boon to ACLU and La Raza. Why not the family with 24 years, 11 months? Why not the family with 15 years of being illegal? You get the idea, and

(2) The magnet. Along with sanctuary cities, the DREAM Act, and the present administration’s blind-eye to the deportation of illegals (unless they are felons), Newt’s policy would further diminish immigration law.

It is disturbing to think that the first act these migrants make in the US is illegal. That in itself sends a horrible message. Why not encourage more people to come in the front door instead of entering through a broken window?

FWIW … I don’t have time to read it just now but thought people here might want to take a look.

“Michael Reagan: My Dad Would Support Newt’s Position on Illegal Immigration.”

    LukeHandCool in reply to LukeHandCool. | November 24, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Whoops! I see this is a video, not a column … and it’s already part of the post. Sorry !!! Big giant brain fart!

      William A. Jacobson in reply to LukeHandCool. | November 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      It’s not like we will remember this and use it against you in the future. We’re better than that. 🙂

        I’ll bet! Trying to do too many things at once … and the kids have a habit of distracting me.

        Like the time I was reading LI on one screen and daytrading on another and my son comes up behind me and asks (when he sees Professor Jacobson’s picture on LI), “Who is that guy? He looks like a secret agent.”

Midwest Rhino (not RINO) | November 24, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Mitt won’t go “In the Middle” on Fox, which in itself should give people pause. All the other candidates did, and have faced hard and direct questions. Now Mitt can’t answer what he would do differently than Newt on the practical side of removing illegal aliens. I guess Romney will be polling for the most pliable flip for Iowa, that he could later hedge on in the general. He’s probably practicing in the mirror now.

I really don’t know how much to trust Newt, but I support his rhetoric so far, mostly. But Mitt seems to feel it is his turn, if he can just flip flop the right way, and avoid being confronted too directly by conservatives that aren’t necessarily his supporters.

TheCubanGringo | November 24, 2011 at 6:32 pm

As a legal immigrant (at age 10) and US citizen for over four decades and supporter of AZ SB70 law, I agree with Newt’s proposal on the conditions that the borders must first be sealed and that “legalization” does not lead to citizenship. A special “green card” will suffice.

Like Prof. Jacobson, I now support Newt for the nomination and suggest he pick Marco Rubio or Susana Martinez for VP. This is not a tribal preference. We must counter 0bama’s white guilt advantage with qualified minorities of our own. See Shelby Steele’s WSJ piece on the one issue no one is addressing.

[…] II: (h/t BostonBruin) Mary Beth wondered if Newt had set a trap for Romney (see above).  William Jacobsen, at Legal Insurrection, had the same thought: …Newt’s statement caused the Romney campaign to […]

I have a problem with mass deportation even if it could be done. There should be a way to stop people from coming but obama wants them to come. Potential voters, don’t you know. Until we find a way to curtail this mass invasion anything else we do is useless. But the problem I have with mass deportation is with the kids who have grown up in the US and don’t know anything else. I would hesitate to send them to an environment that is strange and primitive to them. Where they might not even speak the language or know the laws or customs. I don’tknow what the answer is but its really dumb to shoot down every solution put on the table. If we rigidly enforced the laws that are on the books now, most of them would self deport. We could figure out how to deal with the rest then. I would want any agreement to to state any illegal who voted in our elections are not eligible to stay in this country period. And all criminals would be deported immediately. Voting in our elections is a crime over and above being in this country illegally. That might stop false voting by these people. Immigration has been an important issue for a number of years but our government has been lax about enforcement tha last 25 year. This is why there are so many illegalsin this country. They have been allowed to get away with it for political reasons..

I respect Michael Reagan and believe he may be one of the few from the immediate Reagan family who is sane.

But I always cringe when an off-spring channels their long deceased parent, much like Caroline Kennedy is known to do.

The reality is no one knows what President Reagan would support today given the outcome from his 1987 immigration law. The granting of amnesty has in fact resulted in a trickle turning into a flood of illegals.

StephenMonteith | November 25, 2011 at 12:15 am

Romney’s position hasn’t changed on immigration; not even going back to when he was running against Ted Kennedy in ’94. He favors a Legal path to citizenship for anyone who wants one, including illegal aliens; but if you’ve come here illegally, then you have a longer road, one that includes paying a price for breaking the law.

I posted this on your “Abbott and Costello” page, but I’ll relink here, since you brought the issue up again. This is Romney’s full response on “Meet the Press”, which shows he hasn’t changed his mind or his position:

    StephenMonteith in reply to StephenMonteith. | November 25, 2011 at 12:22 am

    As for whether Gingrich “set a trap” for Romney, I don’t think he’s that much of a “chessmaster”. It’s possible he knew his position on immigration would be a sticking point somewhere along the way, and that a clip that made it Appear as if Romney had flip-flopped on the issue existed and would get blown all the hell out of proportion online if Romney ever tried to attack Gingrich on the issue; but since that clip didn’t surface when Romney attacked Perry on immigration, Gingrich would have been a fool to think such a clip would magically surface once Romney had attacked Him on the issue. A far smarter tactic would have been to just give a different answer at the debate.

TeaPartyPatriot4ever | November 25, 2011 at 3:28 am

I agree with Mr Jacobson.. Newt was very shrewd in his statement and approach, to a very tough issue.. As I have said before, Newt is speaking in reality, of the issue of deporting all illegal aliens in the US, in which he stated his position, which is not even close to outright amnesty..

Romney has neither a plan, nor will he even give one, as he is a blatant political coward, who would say and do anything, to get the Nomination.. thus making him appear all the more inept and incompetent, as well as put light and emphasis on his cronyism, which is how he Governs..

Romney is not a constitutional conservative, let alone a conservative, at all.. He is a crony republican party establishment elitist.. And is why the liberal MSM will not vet him, as they love him for his cronyism and his liberal State Socialized Medicine, aka, Romneycare..

Romney has already admitted he deleted all of his e-mails as Gov. Of Mass.. which means he has much to hide.. and he already has admitted to denying access to his documents and files, as Gov. via, the FOI Act.. etc, and so on. He is a congenital liar, and is hiding is cronyism, to he can prevent the exposure of his false conservatism, coming out in the open. And who knows what he is hiding, beyond that.

[…] William Jacobson wonders whether Gingrich laid a clever trap for Romney: First, Romney has been in favor of a […]