The news coming out of last night’s debate may be whether Newt Gingrich’s view on what both his opponents and the moderator termed (incorrectly, I would argue) “amnesty” can survive the immigration restrictionists. On his idea of letting people with ties to the United States remain, a senior operative in the Iowa Republican Party told me bluntly this morning that he “can’t overstate” the trouble it will cause. “Whether he’s right or wrong, his competitors will crucify him.” That may be, although on this one, as a proponent of very lenient immigration policies, I don’t have a beef with his concept of letting many people already here obtain legalized status.
That said, two of Gingrich’s proposals last night show his telltale lack of thoughtfulness. Both concern a warped, extreme view of federalism.
First, in his immigration plan he suggested allowing “something like a World War II Selective Service Board that, frankly, reviews the people who are here.” In other words, each community is going to decide who can stay and who should go. I’m going to take a wild guess that the boards in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s city are going to let virtually everyone stay. The same with Texas boards, in light of Gov. Rick Perry’s very moderate view on illegal immigration. So how long before immigrants forum-shop for the “best” boards, and the entire system becomes fraught with gamesmanship? More to the point, why do we want hundreds of different mini-immigration policies? Immigration is, of course, by constitutional edict, a federal responsibility precisely because we want uniform standards and people, once here, move around the country. Typical of Gingrich, the idea sounds very clever (and we are to ooh and ahh over his knowledge of WWII), but in reality it makes zero sense.
In addition, Gingrich has followed Perry down the garden path on allowing states and localities to opt out of Social Security. As I have written before, this idea is also deeply flawed. There are huge issues concerning the financial viability of this approach, logistics and the financial burden on states. Moreover, by taking more people out of the system we would actually make Social Security less solvent.
All of this is typical Gingrich. He has a jillion ideas, flits from one to another but hasn’t really thought through most of them. And then when it comes to implementation and organization he lacks the focus and attention to detail needed to bring ideas to fruition. If we have learned anything from the current Oval Office occupant, it is that those with an academic bent and no executive experience make lousy presidents.