Here’s something you seldom hear in a Republican primary: a candidate taking issue with Ronald Reagan.
It happened this afternoon when former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who’s running in the GOP Senate primary against Gov. Charlie Crist, answered a question on immigration at a Martin County Republican Womens Federated meeting that drew more than 100 attendees.
Rubio delivered a six-minute discourse on immigration policy in which he brought up The Gipper’s support for the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted amnesty to most undocumented workers who could prove they had been in the country continuously for the previous five years.
“In 1986 Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to 3 million people,” Rubio said. “You know what happened, in addition to becoming 11 million a decade later? There were people trying to enter the country legally, who had done the paperwork, who were here legally, who were going through the process, who claimed, all of a sudden, ‘No, no no no , I’m illegal.’ Because it was easier to do the amnesty program than it was to do the legal process.”
“If you grant amnesty, the message that you’re sending is that if you come in this country and stay here long enough, we will let you stay. And no one will ever come through the legal process if you do that.”
There is a Twitter debate this morning about how Republicans watch folks like Rubio lie and then forgive them. Makes us look like chumps. How can we ever vote for such a person again?
But there is a difference between primary challenges and general elections.
As for me, I will now oppose Rubio strongly in the presidential primaries, but his support for amnesty would not cause me to sit home and let Hillary win in a Rubio-Clinton general election. Any more than I would have sat home in 1980 if you looked into your crystal ball and told me Reagan would grant amnesty to illegals, or nominate Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court. Reagan was better than Carter and Mondale. Kennedy, as much as I despise him, is better than Stephen Reinhardt, who is the sort of judge Jimmy Carter liked to nominate.
But for now? Rubio has to pay a price. That price should be that he is out of the running in 2016. Let’s see if we can find someone who won’t blatantly lie to get elected.
Ted Cruz, anyone?