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The sad field of Republicans

POSTED: January 12, 2008 5:02 a.m.
It was not without humor that in the recent Spanish-language presidential debate, all but one of the Republican candidates pretended they did not know the ongoing verbal assault on immigrants is driving Hispanics away from the GOP.
And it was actually funny Mitt Romney, one in the pack of know-nothings, said he believes Hispanics are abandoning the GOP because the GOP has not been conservative enough lately.
Ah, yes. The main reason the gap by which Hispanic registered voters favor Democrats over Republicans has grown from 21 points two years ago to 34 points now, according to a poll last month from the Pew Hispanic Center, is that they think the Dems will do a better job of lowering the capital-gains tax, protecting the sanctity of marriage, cracking down on crime and kicking butt around the globe.
Please.
“I think some of the rhetoric many Hispanics hear about illegal immigration makes some of them believe we are not in favor of or seek the support of Hispanic citizens in this country,” said John McCain in the debate. He was the only one with the integrity and guts to say without ambiguity what anybody with half a political brain knows is the truth.
Still, if he gets the nomination, he will find it tough to improve on the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote that George W. Bush won in 2004. Blame his party for rhetoric that is driving away even conservative Hispanics who want to lower the capital-gains tax, protect the sanctity of marriage, crack down on crime and kick butt around the globe.
In the GOP Spanish-language debate, all of the candidates dialed down the rhetorical heat, so the debate about what to do regarding 12 million illegal immigrants became a civilized discussion of the options. Maybe Duncan Hunter didn’t win a lot of Hispanic support with his opposition to a path to citizenship, but at least he did not sound offensive — it all came off as a nice civics lesson.
Which is not the way other debates have gone. The worst was in late November, when Rudy Giuliani and Romney argued about who was most guilty of offering “sanctuary.” Was it the former mayor of New York, who made his city a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants? Or the former governor of Massachusetts, who turned his home into a “sanctuary mansion”? They sounded like fifth-graders in the schoolyard. Sanctuary! Amnesty! Did not! Did too! Nya-nyah.
Back in that November night of embarrassment for the GOP, at least two of the Republicans got it right.
“All I’ve heard is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo,” said Tom Tancredo, the no-shot, one-note anti-immigrant candidate who skipped the Spanish debate, claiming it would “Balkanize” American politics. (If there is somebody else who has done more to Balkanize American politics this campaign season, please send in your nomination.)
The other to get it right was John McCain: “You know, this whole debate saddens me a little a bit, because we do have a serious situation in America.”
Well, maybe he’s only half right. The “little bit” part is an understatement.

Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
 

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