The Anderson Debate

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2007; 9:29 AM

So much for the YouTubers.

It was the journalist who got last night's debate off to a rollicking start, in which Rudy and Mitt smacked each other around over immigration.

You remember journalists. They used to run things before the rest of the world started uploading videos.

I love YouTube. I like the idea of YouTube debates. But it was Anderson Cooper who prodded the Republican candidates into revealing contrasts.

CNN began the debate with video from Ernie in Brooklyn, who accused his former mayor of aiding and abetting illegal immigrants by presiding over a sanctuary city. Giuliani said he had no choice but to educate the kids of illegal immigrants but turned over the names of thousands of grown-ups to INS.

It was then that Cooper asked Romney whether New York was a sanctuary city. Romney said the immigrants were already committing a crime by being here illegally. Rudy accused Mitt of having a "sanctuary mansion" by employing illegal immigrants at his home. Romney called that offensive and asked whether homeowners who hired a legal company to do household work should ask to see the papers of employees from that company who have funny accents. Rudy talked about his "holier-than-thou attitude" when illegal immigrants were "under your nose."

Now that was a debate. And it was Cooper who made it happen.

Perhaps a minute after the extended exchange, the Giuliani campaign sent reporters an e-mail titled "Don't take our word for it." It contained a 2006 Boston Globe piece headlined, "Illegal immigrants toiled for governor."

Two minutes after that, a Romney e-mail arrived declaring: "Mayor Giuliani Ran New York City With a Sanctuary State of Mind." Enclosed was a 1994 New York Times piece quoting Rudy: "If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you're one of the people who we want in this city."

Fifteen minutes later, the Mitt gang circulated a posting from National Review's The Corner: "I'm leaning Rudy, but he's all wrong on the Romney illegal immigrant yard workers. They were working for a legal immigrant's legal company, a company widely used."

Back in Florida, a Texas woman named Ashley asked Mike Huckabee about providing college discounts for children of illegal immigrants when he was Arkansas governor. It sounded a little weird when Huckabee said "Ashley . . . you're a little misinformed" to a woman who wasn't there. Romney showed he now takes Huck seriously by likening him to "liberals in Massachusetts" (a big-time insult at GOP gatherings). Huckabee got off a pretty good line when he lectured Romney that "we're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did."

John McCain also had his moments, particularly when he lectured Romney for punting on whether waterboarding is torture.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company