Category Archives: Tom Tancredo

Each Republican faces a different challenge in S.C.

TO ALL THE candidates seeking the presidency of the United States of America: Welcome to South Carolina. Iowa is behind you; so is New Hampshire, and we understand that we are to have your undivided attention for the next couple of weeks, which is gratifying.
    So let’s take advantage of the opportunity. The South Carolina primaries have little purpose unless we learn more about you than we have thus far, so we have a few matters we’d like you to address while you’re here.
    Let’s do Republicans first, since y’all face S.C. voters first (on the 19th) and come back to the Democrats (after the cliffhanger night Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton just went through, they could probably do with a rest today).
    We’d like some specifics beyond the vehement claims that pretty much each and every one of you is “the real conservative” in the race.
    We’ll start with John McCain, the big winner in New Hampshire Tuesday.
You’re a war hero, and you’ve got the most experience in national defense and foreign affairs. You take a back seat to no one in fighting government waste. You were for a “surge” in Iraq long before the White House even considered the idea, and you weren’t afraid to say so. It’s no surprise that you lead among retired military officers, and others who have been there and done that.
    But folks who are not retired would like some reassurance that the oldest man in the race, with a spotty medical history, is up to the world’s most demanding job.
    Most of all, though, South Carolinians need to better understand your position on immigration. You’re the one who decided to try to lead on this radioactive issue in the middle of a campaign, and plenty of folks around here don’t like the direction you chose. Start explaining.
    Next, Mike Huckabee. You have qualities that Sen. McCain lacks: You’re (relatively) young, fresh, new and exciting. As a Baptist preacher, you’re definitely in sync with S.C. Republicans on cultural issues. More than that, you are on the cutting edge of a new kind of Republicanism, one that is more attuned to the concerns of ordinary working people, from health care to education.
    But let’s look at some headlines from this week: The U.S. Navy almost had to blow some Iranian gunboats out of the water. Hundreds are dead in Kenya, one of the few African countries we’d thought immune to such political violence. Pakistan, nuclear power and current address of Osama bin Laden, continues to teeter on the edge of chaos after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. I could go on.
    Every day, something that threatens the security of this country happens in yet another hot spot, calling for a depth of knowledge and experience for which on-the-job training is no substitute. Those blank looks you’ve given when asked about current events are disturbing. Reassure us. We know you don’t get daily intelligence briefings yet, but you could at least read the paper.
    Mitt Romney, you come across as Central Casting’s idea of a Republican: Perfect coif, square jaw, a private-sector portfolio that confirms your can-do credentials. Moreover, as governor of Massachusetts you presided over health care reform that many other states are looking to as a model.
    But increasingly, 21st century Republicans are less impressed by a business suit, and I think you’ll find South Carolinians a lot like Iowans in that regard. You’ve got to have more to offer.
    Also, voters here would like to hear more positive reasons to vote for you, and less about what’s wrong with everybody else. In all the years since I’ve been getting e-mails, I have never seen anything like the blizzard of releases from your folks trashing this or that rival.
    After the nasty whispering campaign that sank Sen. McCain in 2000, South Carolinians have had a bellyful of the whole “going negative” thing. Just forget the other guys, and tell us what’s good about you.
    As for Rudy Giuliani, we know you’re a tough guy, and a tough guy can be a good thing to have in the White House. You inspired the nation through some of Gotham’s darkest days, and you took on all Five Families at once as a mob-busting federal prosecutor, which is why John Gotti and some others on the Commission wanted to have you whacked. You’re definitely a man of respect.
    But if you do bother to campaign down here, South Carolina Republicans might be forgiven for wondering whether you’re one of them. You were doing OK in polls a couple of months ago, but let’s face it — that was just the early national media buzz, and we’ve gotten past that.
    You need to do some fast talking — we hear New Yorkers are good at that — about some of those “cultural issues” that, to put it mildly, distinguish you from candidates who happen to be Baptist preachers.
    Finally, Fred Thompson — you certainly have no need for a translator. As your wife, Jeri, reminded me when she dropped by our office Tuesday, you speak fluent Southern.
    But there’s a reason y’all were campaigning down here rather than up in New Hampshire: After the biggest “will he or won’t he” buildup in modern political history, your campaign failed to catch fire nationally after it finally got rolling.
    That could be because, while you can play a “conservative” well on TV, you have yet to communicate exactly what you bring to the campaign that other candidates don’t bring more of. Are you better on national security than McCain, or more in tune on abortion than Huckabee? And if what the party was crying out for was a guy who was tough enough on immigration (as your supporters keep telling me), why didn’t it go for Tom Tancredo?
    Once again, welcome one and all to the Palmetto State. Whether you go on from here may depend in large part on how you answer the above questions.
For my blog, go to

Which candidate do YOU hate the most?

Ahillary             "NEVER? Whaddaya mean, ‘never?’"

Seems like I’ll stoop to anything to get you to click on a blog post, doesn’t it? Sorry about the headline. Tacky. I would never encourage you to hate anyone.

But my point was to share with you the results of this Zogby poll, which found that half the electorate says it would never vote for Hillary Clinton. She has the highest negatives, and Mike Huckabee and Bill Richardson have the lowest, going by that standard. (You may have already read about this, as it came out Saturday, but I’m just now getting around to checking the e-mail account the release came to). An excerpt from the report:

    While she is winning wide support in nationwide samples among Democrats in the race for their party’s presidential nomination, half of likely voters nationwide said they would never vote for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.
    The online survey of 9,718 likely voters nationwide showed that 50% said Clinton would never get their presidential vote. This is up from 46% who said they could never vote for Clinton in a Zogby International telephone survey conducted in early March. Older voters are most resistant to Clinton – 59% of those age 65 and older said they would never vote for the New York senator, but she is much more acceptable to younger voters: 42% of those age 18–29 said they would never vote for Clinton for President.
    At the other end of the scale, Republican Mike Huckabee and Democrats Bill Richardson and Barack Obama faired best, as they were least objectionable to likely voters. Richardson was forever objectionable as President to 34%, while 35% said they could never vote for Huckabee and 37% said they would never cast a presidential ballot for Obama, the survey showed….

Here’s the full list:

Whom would you NEVER vote for for President of the U.S.?


Clinton (D)


Kucinich (D)


Gravel (D)


Paul (R)


Brownback (R)


Tancredo (R)


McCain (R)


Hunter (R)


Giuliani (R)


Romney (R)


Edwards (D)


Thompson (R)


Dodd (D)


Biden (D)


Obama (D)


Huckabee (R)


Richardson (D)


Not sure


I got to thinking about it just now, and wondered for the first time which, of all the candidates, would I be least likely to choose at this point? Here’s how I would rank them personally:

Mind you, that’s just off the top of my head, based on what I know now, without any of my editorial board colleagues setting me straight on any of the calls. And I’ll admit I cheated on one — I can’t even picture "Hunter," much left summon up any relevant impressions, so I just sort of buried him in the pack toward the "less likely" end, hoping no one would notice.

How about you?

My big mistake

Here’s a confessional memo I just sent to my associate editors here at the paper. While I await their responses (which could take a while, since one of them is out of the office), I seek your advice as well:

Folks, I need
your advice as to whether I need to do a correction and, if so, what in the
world it would say. Here’s what John McCain said last week during the debate, in
the context of general remarks on immigration, following an accusation from Tom
Tancredo that he (McCain) had favored "amnesty." (Note that he was not
responding to anyone else having said anything about the Fort Dix plot; he just
brought it up.):

My friend, the people that
came, that almost attacked us at Fort Dix — thank God they did not — these
people didn’t come here across our borders; they came with visas that were
expired. So, we’ve got to enforce our border, that’s our first and foremost
priority, but we also have to have a comprehensive solution and it has to be
bipartisan, and I believe we’re close to reaching that, and that’s what the
American people expect us to do. The status quo is unacceptable.

THIS is what I wrote in
my column Sunday:

    Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign
put out a statement purporting to address the proposal that was, to say the
least, oblique: “The recent Fort Dix plot is a stark reminder that the threat of
terrorism has made immigration an important matter of national security. We need
to know who is coming in and who is going out of this country if we are going to
deal with those who are here illegally.”
    As Sen. McCain had said during the debate, the
Fort Dix plotters didn’t sneak into the country illegally. The issues are
completely unrelated.
Essentially, I was
expressing my objection to Giuliani linking Fort Dix and immigration, and I just
dragged in a paraphrase from McCain in which I had thought that he was agreeing
with me. Of course, I still think what I think regardless of what McCain said.
But I was wrong that none of the plotters had entered illegally, and I later
changed the blog version of the column to say, "the
Fort Dix plotters didn’t all sneak into
the country illegally."
That’s one thing that
would warrant a correction, if y’all think it’s worth it this late. But then, at
the start of the interview this morning, McCain said:

First of all and foremost it
is a national security issue. Since 9/11 the issue has gone from one of either
social or economic or humanitarian to one of national security. The six people
that were apprehended that were planning on attacking Fort Dix were in this
country illegally; three of them had crossed our border illegally, and the other
three had overstayed valid visas, which also describes the dimension of the
problem as well. Now we can’t have 12 million people in the United States of
America who we don’t know who they are or where they are and what they’re doing.
So it has become first and foremost a national security issue, ,and of course,
border security and enforcing our border should be and is in this legislation a
first priority.

Thinking uh-oh, I
screwed up, I said this when I had a chance to ask a
a little embarrassed because I think I misheard you last week in the debate; I
had thought that you were making the point that what happened at Fort Dix was a
separate issue from this particular immigration issue, but what you’re saying is
the opposite, is that you believe that they’re very closely
And he
responded thusly:

As I mentioned, three of the people who wanted to
attack Fort Dix came across our Southern border. Every nation has the
requirement to secure its borders; if it doesn’t, it’s not carrying out its
obligations to its citizens.

… I don’t know what impression I gave you, but if we
have people who are able to cross our borders and come into our country without
us taking every step to prevent them from doing that and they do it in an
illegal fashion, then we’re not fulfilling our

After all
this, I still think it’s a stretch to conclude that the Fort Dix plot teaches us
that the 12 million people in our country illegally, mostly Mexicans, are a
threat. And that’s what I meant. But I think McCain is right when he points out
(as he did a moment later in the interview, but I’ll spare you THAT quote) that
while most of the illegals are no threat, how will we separate out any who ARE a
threat — and it only takes a few — and protect our country from them, if all
these folks are invisible and underground?
So — what do
you think I should do, aside from posting all this on my blog, which I already
plan to do? And if I do a correction, how do I explain what I did wrong in less
than column length?
Folks, I
can’t remember when I’ve screwed one short paragraph in a column this
thoroughly. I’m sorry, and embarrassed.


Brad Warthen
VP/Editorial Page Editor
The State

Actually, I can’t remember when I’ve screwed anything up that thoroughly — particularly, I don’t remember ever having mischaracterized the thrust of what someone was saying to that extent. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get that right, whatever my flaws. So yeah, ditch that one little paragraph and the column is fine; I stand behind what I said. But that doesn’t make me feel better about it.


Something I like about Fred Thompson…

Back in 2000, Sen. Thompson came to see me and my gang to tell us why we should be supporting his friend John McCain.

This was after I had already lost the battle with my then-publisher and some weak-kneed colleagues, and we had endorsed Bush. I told Thompson that, but he wanted to come see us anyway.

I felt like a scrub through the whole interview, because he was right about all the reasons we should be endorsing McCain, and there I was presiding over the editorial board that he knew had done the opposite. It was like having one’s favorite uncle explain, in the kindest terms, why he’s disappointed in you.

I say again — he was completely right. And all the things he said then are true now, possibly even more so. So it seems odd to see him playing with the idea of opposing McCain for the nomination.

But consider this: Thompson entering the race could be the best way to help McCain. If he entered as the white knight for the right wing, he could split the very vote that Romney, Brownback, Tancredo, et al. are already splintering all over the place. And Newt Gingrich too; I almost forgot. In fact, Thompson could probably stop Gingrich more easily than any other stratagem.

McCain would still have the support that he already has, for the most part. And in South Carolina, at least, that’s more support than anyone else has. Romney is already weak here despite all his efforts; Fred Thompson would destroy him. That would just leave Giuliani as a threat, and is the right really going to go for the Rockefeller wing?

Of course, Thompson could come on strong enough to eat away at McCain support, too, but I’m doubting it.

Interesting thing to contemplate.

Immigration gap column

The GOP split between
rhetoric and reality

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
TUESDAY’S debate revealed a significant split in the Republican Party between Reality and Rhetoric, Ideas and Ideology.
    Sen. John McCain was asked a question that sounded like it had been dreamed up by Tom Clancy: Would he, in a totally “what-if” scenario, torture prisoners to prevent a theoretical terrorist attack?
    Sen. McCain, who has actually been tortured, for years on end, by a ruthless enemy, gave a thoughtful answer based on bitter experience: Knowing the United States would not do what the North Vietnamese were doing to him kept him going, kept him believing in his country and what it stood for. Besides, he didn’t want to give enemies an excuse to torture our troops.
    Rep. Tom Tancredo said he would call the fictional Jack Bauer. Others were no more realistic. Their answers had nothing to do with winning a war and everything to do with stirring the blood.
    Then there’s immigration.
    During the debate, Sen. McCain — again — spoke of his work on the issue that most candidates, and most members of Congress, would rather rant than do anything about.
    Two days later, he stood up with a bipartisan group of senators to announce a deal, months in the making, that represented the first attempt to address immigration comprehensively after a year of stalemate.
    Immediately, the Big GOP Split reasserted itself with a thunderous crack. South Carolina’s U.S. senators illustrated the split. Lindsey Graham — who had been late for the debate Tuesday because the White House had asked him to stay and help hammer out the agreement — hailed the proposal as “the last, best chance we have, probably for decades, to fix immigration.”
    Jim DeMint, sounding peeved at not having been in the room, was dismissive: “I don’t care how you try to spin it, this is amnesty.”
    He didn’t know yet what was in the bill, but he knew the magic word for condemning it.
    Sen. Graham had this to say about that: “Amnesty is a pardon and means all is forgiven. This legislation is not amnesty…. I hope all Senators, particularly those who were not part of the negotiations, will become more informed about the details of the bill before making incorrect statements. Here are the facts… . Illegal aliens will not be allowed to jump in line for citizenship ahead of those currently waiting. If they want to become citizens they must pay fines, learn English, pass a civics exam, undergo background checks and leave the United States and return to their country of origin. The punishment is fair and just. The public expects Members of Congress to speak their minds, but be informed in their opinions.”
    That’s too much trouble for some. I asked Rep. Tancredo Friday morning, when he called into a radio show I was on, whether this compromise wasn’t better than doing nothing. He was unequivocal: “Doing nothing is better.”
    I mentioned that to Sen. Graham Friday afternoon. “The Tancredo model never leads to a solution,” he said.
    “I have decided, as a United States senator, to stand on principle, and try to solve problems. And they’re not inconsistent. One of the principles that made America great is that the problem-solvers have always been greater in number and will than the demagogues.”
    He said, when a reporter asked, that he was not referring to Jim DeMint. “Jim is a very serious guy,” he said. But, he added, “one thing I would suggest is that before you enflame the public by using buzzwords, let’s look and see what we did.”
    Shortly after Sen. Graham said that, Sen. DeMint put out another release, complaining that the negotiators were trying to rush the bill through without letting him and others see whether they could go for it (which may very well be what they’re doing). He raised the “A-word” again, but in a somewhat more conciliatory way: “As we understand it, this plan will grant amnesty… This can be fixed, but it will take time and there is no way the Senate can responsibly complete this debate in one week.”
    On the presidential campaign trail, however, there was little appetite for closing gaps and getting things done. Mitt Romney wasn’t waiting around for details: “I strongly oppose today’s bill going through the Senate. It is the wrong approach.”
    Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign put out a statement purporting to address the proposal that was, to say the least, oblique: “The recent Fort Dix plot is a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism has made immigration an important matter of national security. We need to know who is coming in and who is going out of this country if we are going to deal with those who are here illegally.”
    As Sen. McCain had said during the debate, the Fort Dix plotters didn’t all sneak into the country illegally. The issues are completely unrelated.
    I don’t know what to do about illegal immigration. I want to see the laws enforced. I also want the laws to recognize reality.
    In a different context, I asked former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee about the difference between being a governor and existing inside the Beltway: “You actually are going to have to do something” if you’re a governor, he said. “You don’t have the luxury of being an ideologue.”
    Some inside the Beltway want to do something, too. They’ve made a dramatic effort in that direction with this immigration bill. I don’t know whether it’s the way to go or not. But I suspect that the biggest barrier facing it will be Republicans who prefer to luxuriate in ideology.

Thoughts on the GOP debate?


What did you get out of it?

My immediate thought on that — not much.

Maybe it’s an expectations game. I had expected little from the Democratic "debate" — events like that get pretty pointless with more than two or three candidates, and there were eight. But I was pleasantly surprised that I was actually able to gain some information. Not a lot, but the expectation had been so low.

But this was more like what I expected with the other one. Maybe it was that 10 is that much worse than 8. Maybe it was that Fox allowed cheering and jeering from the audience, which NBC did not (and I thought that helped a great deal).

But here’s what I think it was: I knew who most of the Democratic candidates were, so I didn’t have to struggle to follow it. The only unknown to me was Gravel, and he was so crazy he was at least entertaining.

With this one, I did not know who was speaking half the time. I am not exaggerating, and I’m not the only one. Rick Quinn said he watched the first half of it at his office, and everybody kept saying "Who’s that … who’s that?" And that was with an audience, as he pointed out, of people who make their living in politics — and Republican politics at that. So I felt better.

Sure, I knew a little bit about Huckabee and Brownback. But their faces are not recognizable to me. Not yet, and I doubt they will be, because I doubt either will be in it for all that long. Same with Tommy Thompson, and he actually is somebody. As for Tancredo, Hunter, Gilmore — who are they kidding? Ron Paul, who showed up at the wrong party’s debate, was the designated nutball, but unfortunately not nearly as amusing as the Democrats’ nutball.

That leaves three men who had any business being there, and I have my doubts about one or two of  them.

As for the other seven — why in the world did Fox not keep their names up on the screen all of the time? It would have helped a great deal.

What’s all this then about immigration?

AntiillegalIt’s not what you think; this was shot in New Jersey.

Greatest threat to U.S.
is immigration? Since when?

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor

WITH CONGRESS on break, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett has been meeting with his 3rd District constituents. So what’s on their minds?
Immigration” comes in first.
Second, he says, is “immigration.” Third is immigration. It’s also fourth.
And he supposed that “the war” maybe came in fifth. I’m sure our troops over there will appreciate making the Top Ten.
He admitted that he was being “a little facetious.” The war is “a cloud” casting its shadow over everything political. But there are no clouds on the stark immigration landscape. There, you’ll find nothing but a blinding, hot interrogation lamp surrounded by shadows. If you give the wrong answer, there are a lot of GOP voters out there ready to cast you into the everlasting darkness.
“Wrong,” of course, can vary, depending on whether you’re a lobbyist for the big business types who have been the GOP’s bread and butter for generations, or one of the salt-of-the-earth folk who crowded into the Big Tent in recent decades and created the vaunted GOP majority.
The main question I have on the subject is one that neither Rep. Barrett nor anyone else has answered to my satisfaction:
How did this issue become such a big deal all of a sudden? What changed? We’ve had Mexican tiendas in our neighborhoods, even in South Carolina, for much of the past decade. For even longer, it’s been hard to communicate on a construction site without a working knowledge of Spanish. Our last two presidents could hardly put together a Cabinet for all the illegals their nominees had employed as nannies.
Over the last 10 or 20 years, there’s been a huge influx. But what changed in the past 12 or 15 Sombreromonths? As near as I can tell, looking at the real world out there, nothing. But in the unreal world of politics, it’s as though, sometime during the summer of 2005 or so, a huge portion of the electorate suddenly woke up from a Rip Van Winkle catnap and said: “Whoa! Why are all these people speaking Spanish?”
There were always a few who considered illegal immigration Issue One. On the left, you had union types concerned about cheap labor depressing wages and working conditions. On the right, you had culture warriors furious at hearing anything other than English spoken in the U.S. of A.
On both sides, drifting amid the high-sounding words about fairness and the rule of law, there was a disturbing whiff of 19th century Know-Nothingism.
I had one or two people who e-mailed me about it regularly, always furious at us for taking the “wrong” position on the issue — even though, until it moved to the front burner back in the spring, we didn’t have a position on it.
Nor did Mr. Barrett consider it a priority, until late 2004. At least, none of the thousands of news outlets whose archives are available on Lexis-Nexis report his having a burning concern.
During the past year, his name and the word “immigration” showed up 53 times. In the previous year, only 20 times. In all previous years, 40 times. Back when he was first running for Congress in 2002, he was talking about keeping out terrorists, mainly from such places as Iran and Iraq. In fact, opponent Jim Klauber blasted him for paying too much attention to countries “where terrorists come from,” while ignoring “the greatest problem in the 3rd Congressional District” — which, to him, was illegal immigration from Mexico.
But now, and for the last couple of years, Mr. Barrett has stood foursquare behind the House’s “enforcement first” approach. He demonstrated his deep concern most recently by visiting the border personally, just before coming home to see constituents. So when he got an earful, he was prepared.
But I wasn’t, probably because I don’t watch TV and therefore haven’t had it explained to me by Bill O’Reilly. I still find myself wondering: Where did all these angry people come from? The ones who weren’t even talking about this issue a year ago, but now promise to toss Lindsey Graham out of the Senate for actually recognizing that this issue is really complicated.
How can anyone see this issue in black-and-white terms? Hey, I want to see the laws enforced, too. But I know that a nation that can’t find one guy in the mountains of Afghanistan isn’t going to round up 10 to 20 million people walking the streets of the freest, least-controlled nation in the world.
Yes, it’s theoretically possible to round up most of them. The Nazis probably could have achieved a success rate of 80 or 90 percent. And it’s probably possible to build a 2,000-mile fence that would be more-or-less impassable. China did it.
But at what cost? I’m not even talking moral or spiritual cost, in the sense of “what kind of nation would that make us?” I’ll let somebody else preach that sermon. I’m talking hard cash.
Look at the national debt. Look at our inadequate presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Check out the rising power of nations such as Iran, Russia and Venezuela, whom we are making impervious to international pressure with our insatiable thirst for petrol. Note that we don’t have the military assets to make Iran take us seriously when we suggest it should stop working on nukes for terrorists, or else. Or else what?
Let’s talk priorities, folks, not fantasies. The “invasion” that endangers this country isn’t a bunch of people looking to (gasp) sweep our Wal-Marts to feed their families. It’s Londoners getting on a flight at Heathrow with bogus tubes of Prell in their carry-ons.
Illegal immigration is a serious problem, when it gets to where you have 12 million aliens you can’t account for. Having our labor market, wages and working conditions distorted by a huge supply of cheap, illegal labor is also a serious problem. So is the fact that our neighbors suffer such crushing poverty that they will risk their lives coming here just to have their labor exploited.
But not one of these things is the most urgent problem facing this country. Not a year ago, and not now.