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Vegas debate: There's no controlling this bunch

October 18, 2011|By Robin Abcarian
  • Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are introduced prior to the CNN-Western Republican Leadership Conference debate at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas.
Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ron Paul, Herman Cain,… (Michael Nelson / European…)

Poor Anderson Cooper. Try as he might, there was no controlling this group tonight.

Cooper wanted to know the candidates’ position on the 14th Amendment, which provides that children born in the United States automatically become citizens, despite the immigration status of their parents.

Herman Cain pivoted to his 9-9-9 plan, saying, “Until we boost this economy, all of us are going to suffer for a long time.”

Rick Perry said he wanted to get back to Cain’s 9-9-9 program, too.

(And by the way -- unfortunately for Cain, because he has not held office previously, he has no honorific attached to his name. So he is put in the position of constantly being called by his first name, rather than Mr. Cain. The overall effect is that he sounds as if he’s being patronized.)

In any case, Cooper told Perry, “That’s not the question.”

And Perry, perhaps channeling Ronald Reagan (who famously insisted during a debate “I am paying for this microphone!”), informed Cooper “You get to ask the questions, I get to answer like I want to.”

He didn’t want to talk about the 14th Amendment, he wanted to talk about the importance of tapping America’s energy resources to improve the economy.

It was Michele Bachmann who gave the question some clarity.

“The issue you are referring to is the issue of anchor babies,” she said.  “When somebody comes illegally across the border specifically for the purpose of having a baby here.” Bachmann said she does not agree with the idea of repealing the 14th Amendment. “This is an issue we can deal with legislatively,” she said.

Rick Santorum, who has returned again and again to the notion that he is the only candidate who cares about families, sensed another opportunity to raise his favorite topic.

“Not one person here mentioned the issue of family, faith and marriage. The basic building block of society is not the individual, it’s the family, and the Latino community understands that.”

Ron Paul slapped Santorum down: “Rights don’t come in bunches, they come to individuals and they come from God.” And then he, too, pivoted away to his own favorite topic—American troop deployment overseas.

“We need to worry more about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said. That way, we’ll have more troops available to secure the border with Mexico.

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