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Know-Nothings Who Know Better

Romney, in turn, asked Giuliani if he was saying that a person who hired a company for home improvement work should be expected to ask someone in the work crew who had "a funny accent" to prove he was here legally. The exchange made both men look very small.

But there did come the heroic moments from Huckabee and McCain -- moments that may have done them little good with the GOP's primary voters.

When Romney attacked Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, for supporting a proposed state program under which some children of illegal immigrants would have gotten help to attend college, Huckabee stuck to his guns. "In all due respect, we're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did," Huckabee said. I hope he's right.

Huckabee, the first male in his family to graduate from high school, got in a nice dig at Romney's very privileged background by noting: "I worked my way through college."

At a lunch with reporters yesterday, Huckabee did not back down a bit on immigration. "You can't just pander to the anger and hostility," he said. "If that costs me the election, then the country can pick a different guy."

As for McCain, he seemed disgusted by the odor of the nativist compost being spread around the stage. "This whole debate saddens me a little bit," he said. Of immigrants, he dared to declare: "These are God's children as well, and they need some protections under the law, and they need some of our love and compassion." I hope God blesses McCain for that.

What happened on Wednesday night is actually scary. A legitimate concern over the failures of our national immigration policy is being transformed into an ugly attempt to turn immigrants into scapegoats for all our discontents. The real shame is that both Romney and Giuliani know better.

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