GOP Showdown in Arizona

Highlights from Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate.

| Tue Feb. 21, 2012 4:59 PM EST

Dennis Van Tine/UPPA/ZUMA PressDennis Van Tine/UPPA/ZUMA Press

Read on for the MoJo news team's instant analysis of Wednesday night's debate or jump to all the best tweets on the debate, as they unfolded in real-time, from Mother Jones editor @clarajeffery, senior editor @markfollman, reporters @adamserwer, @andrewkroll, @timothypmurphy, @garonsen, and other political junkies.


GOP Candidates Pander to Sheriff Joe

Gage Skidmore/WikimediaGage Skidmore/Flickr

Presidential debates have never been particularly fertile ground for nuanced policy debates. So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that at Wednesday's GOP presidential debate in Arizona—a state with an ever-increasing Latino population—the discussion of immigration consisted mostly of a back-and-forth on how long and how many layers the border fence should be.

Part of that blame, though, falls on the moderator, CNN's John King, who asked the candidates what they would do to satisfy Arizona's most famous sheriff, Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio, who was sitting in the audience. Mitt Romney responded by telling King, "You know, I think you see a model in Arizona." 

Rick Santorum took it a step further, singling out the sheriff by name: "I think what we need to do is to give law enforcement the opportunity to do what they're doing here in Arizona and what Sheriff Arpaio was doing before he ran into some issues with the federal government, which is to allow folks to enforce the law here in this country, to allow people who are breaking the law or suspicious of breaking the law to be able to be detained and deported if they're found here in this country illegally, as well as those who are trying to seek employment."

Arpaio is a power player in Republican politics; he endorsed Rick Perry before the Iowa caucuses and met with Santorum for 20 minutes on Tuesday. He's also using the power of his office to investigate whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States (spoiler: he was). He'll release those results on March 1, and he told reporters on Tuesday that he briefed Santorum on the details on the inquiry.

As my colleague Adam Serwer reported, a Justice Department investigation in December found that Arpaio's department had consistently violated the civil rights of Latino citizens with no regard for their immigration status:

"We did not begin this investigation with any preconceived notions," said Civil Rights Division Head Thomas E. Perez at a press conference in Arizona Thursday. "We peeled the onion to its core." The conclusion? Arpaio's office "engages in a a systemic disregard for basic constitutional protections."

[…]

The report issued by the Justice Department says Arpaio's office undertook "discriminatory policing practices" through racial profiling, including "unlawfully stop[ping], detain[ing] and arrest[ing] Latinos." Perez also said that Arpaio's office unlawfully retaliated against critics of the Maricopa County Sheriff's office by arresting or suing them, and punished Latino jail inmates for being unable to speak English by denying them basic services. The report also describes the Sheriff's Office as responding to reports of people with "dark skin" or people who "spoke Spanish" rather than people actually committing crimes, and says officials exchanged racist jokes over email. Detention officers in Maricopa jails are described in the report as referring to Latinos as "wetbacks" and "Mexican bitches." The report says Arpaio's office "implemented practices that treat Latinos as if they are all undocumented, regardless of whether a legitimate factual basis exists to suspect that a person is undocumented." 
 


Rick Santorum Misleads on Obama and Iran's Green Revolution

Gage Skidmore/WikimediaGage Skidmore/Wikimedia

At CNN's Arizona debate Wednesday night, surging GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum blasted President Obama and his administration for standing idly by during the 2009 popular uprisings in Iran, better known as the Green Revolution.

Santorum, the former US senator from Pennsylvania, accused Obama of cutting funding for Iranian dissidents and failing to step in to support the revolution, which was sparked by widespread accusations of fraud in Iran's 2009 presidential election. "We did absolutely nothing to help" the protesters and activists fueling the Green Revolution, Santorum argued. That echoed earlier attacks when Santorum said Obama "turned his back" on Iranian protesters.

Santorum's off the mark here.

As FactCheck.org has pointed out, President Obama repeatedly supported the right of Iranians to protest what appeared to be widespread voting irregularities in an election that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claim 62 percent of the vote. "I think it's important that, moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views," Obama said three days after the election.

Days later, Obama railed against the Iranian government's "violent and unjust actions against its own people." The United States, he said, "stands with all who…exercise" the "universal rights to assembly and free speech." And there were more supporting statements like these from the administration.

It's true that Obama didn't dive headlong into supporting the Green Revolution as some might have hoped, but for good reason: The president insisted he did not want to give a Ahmadinejad a "tool" to undermine the revolution. Even then, as FactCheck.org puts it, "The fact is Obama treated both cases similarly: condemning the government's use of violence against their own citizens and supporting the protesters' right to protest."
 


Newt: Killing Bin Laden Doesn't Count!

Another Republican debate, another opportunity to call out Barack Obama's alleged softness on national security.

Toward the end of Wednesday night's presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, when the conversation shifted to foreign policy, newly minted back-runner Newt Gingrich tossed out some tried-and-true applause bait:

As long as you're America's enemy, you're safe.

Gingrich was talking about the president's supposed proclivity for appeasing the United States' enemies abroad. Mitt Romney readily concurred.

That's one thought. Here's another:

Here are a few more:

Kim Jong Il didn't do too well during the Obama years, either, but we'll be fair and chock that one up to coincidence.

So there you have it: A whole bunch of America's enemies, now in a terminal state of not being safe.

 


Parting thoughts:

On education:

On foreign policy:

Icebreaker time!

On immigration and self-deportation:

On birth control, abortion, and religion:

On earmarks (or, "On the fervent desire to stop talking about earmarks"):

On the economy:

On authenticity:

General musings:

Pre-game warmup:

 

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