So much for the hopes of some that former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain will defy the conventional wisdom (even voiced now by conservative talk show hosts) and get the Republican nomination, and beat Barack Obama in the 2012 elections. He has now come out with an idea that will effectively send him in the eyes of MANY — and I repeat to some conservatives — m-a-n-y — to THIS AREA. His idea: an electrificed border fence to keep illegal immigrants out. He has voiced this idea before but it wouldn’t have been an issue since it could have been dismissed as something he simply said in the past, but now he has suggested it TWICE in recent campaign stops.
Why not just put some chairs next to the fence?
UPDATE: Cain now insists it was just a joke:
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press with David Gregory, Cain said, “That’s a joke, David … That’s not a serious plan.”
“I’ve also said America needs to get a sense of humor, Cain added.
A joke? See below about the late Harold Ezell. Ezell made what were clearly jokes and colorful quotes. If the Times story is correct, he has mentioned this idea now on several occasions, twice recently on the campaign trail — not once adding that this was a joke. Most likely: he got very quick feedback from top GOPers and probably even his friend Newt Gingrich and is moving to squelch it. There were NO indications in the past that he was meant it as a joke or even mentioned it was a joke.
So here is the original post:
This kind of fence — which could never be funded if GOPers were honest about keeping government costs down (it would cost a fortune and probably mean huge cuts in other government programs and services way beyond what is being proposed now) — could a)hurt someone b)possibly kill someone. Here’s a chunk of the New York Times report:
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Saturday that part of his immigration policy would be to build an electrified fence on the country’s border with Mexico that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally.
The remarks, which came at two campaign rallies in Tennessee as part of a barnstorming bus tour across the state, drew loud cheers from crowds of several hundred people at each rally. At the second stop, in Harriman, Tenn., Mr. Cain added that he also would consider using military troops “with real guns and real bullets” on the border to stop illegal immigration.
The remarks were among the most pointed yet by Mr. Cain about illegal immigration, and they come as he is enjoying a surge in national political polls on the back of his victory in a recent Florida straw poll. They also follow on remarks made by Representative Michele Bachmann on Saturday during a speech on illegal immigration in Iowa, in which she also advocated a border fence.
It is not the first time that Mr. Cain has floated the idea of an electrified fence. He has told the story many times of a caller to his former radio show who chastised him for talking about building a border fence, saying that such an idea was impractical. Mr. Cain often says he told the caller that he had recently returned from China, and if the Chinese could build the Great Wall then America could build a border fence.
Last summer, after President Obama remarked that some Republicans seemed to want a moat filled with alligators in addition to a fence, Mr. Cain responded by saying that he would indeed add an alligator-filled moat to his proposed fence, which would be topped with electrified barbed wire.
In his remarks on Saturday, Mr. Cain appeared to go a step further. Speaking to a rally sponsored by the Roane County Tea Party, Mr. Cain said that part of his plan would be to “secure the border for real” with a fence.
The Republican Party could never nominate anyone who seriously proposes this — unless it truly has a death wish. On the other hand, its possible Rush Limbaugh et. al will applaud this idea. (I need to note that this post is being written from Brooklyn, New York, a city that has more stoops than a talk show host convention).
Karl Rove, the Bush family, and other serious Republican political professionals would be in mourning if he got the nomination without repudiating his own assertion since nominating a candidate who seems to suggest — whether he is or not – that people who try to come over to the United States illegally could face de facto American governnment sanctioned electrocution if they try would further decimate the Republican’s hopes to getting the Hispanic vote.
Republican inroads to getting the Hispanic vote are far more realistic than many smug Democrats realize given the number of attractive Republican GOPers whose personal appeal could help them get Hispanic voters to seriously listen to their words. Plus, a recent poll shows Barack Obama’s support among Latinos is dropping.
YES Cain is charismatic, likeable, firm in his principles and not made of Jello (not to mention names but one Republican flip flopper and a certain Democratic President who has been struggling with smoking come to mind), and blessed with the sunniest political personal since Ronald Reagan.
But he is not mainstream with this idea.
Barack Obama must be reading this Times story doing two things: a)smiling b)readying is campaign against Mitt Romney more comprehensively than ever as the new and old media get caught up in Cain catching up with Mitt Romney.
The only question is whether talk show hosts will now take American political discussion and solution finding down a few more notches and start saying, yes, why, an electrified border fence that could kill people is a just peachy idea!
FOOTNOTE: When I was a reporter on the San Diego Union, one of my assigned beats was covering then President Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform. One of my all time favorite news sources was Harold Ezell, a federal official who promoted the program. Ezell was truly a reliable source who happily confronted and answered tough questions, always immediately answered a call, and was a quote machine for both serious quotes and joking comments that usually got activists and others angry (“Why do you quote Harold Ezelle?”). But he was trying to make a joke (lame or not), truly enjoyed his job, and was giving a reporter an irresistible quote that activists would seriously and angrily leap on. His skin was tough enough so he didn’t care and he was willing to debate his positions and beliefs with anyone. Here’s a bit of the bio from his August 1998 obituary:
Harold W. Ezell, who as a Federal immigration official supported amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants only to become a decade later the co-author of a state initiative denying them public benefits, died on Tuesday at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 61 and lived in Newport Beach.
The cause was liver cancer, a hospital spokeswoman said.
After working as an executive for Wienerschnitzel International, a hot dog franchise company, Mr. Ezell was commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s western region under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He supported the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted legal residency to about three million illegal immigrants, more than half of them in California.
In promoting that amnesty offer, Mr. Ezell donned a sombrero and appeared as part of a group called Trio Amnestia, with his deputy and an Hispanic radio personality called El Tigre. At the same time, he crusaded to stop illegal immigrants from entering the United States, organizing night tours to the Mexican border to show illegal immigrants coming into the country and conducting raids on factories and restaurants.
He once got in big trouble for this quote: “If you catch ’em, you ought to clean ’em and fry ’em”.
Ezelle meant it as a colorful,quoteable quote. Not policy.
Cain is proposing, in effect, POLICY.
Note to Mr. Cain: It took several centuries to build the Great Wall – a structure that actually is 5 separate walls that were eventually connected – more or less. Unfortunately for the Chinese, it worked about as well as our current efforts to keep out illegals.
What is surprising about Cain’s proposal is that putting enough juice through the fence to kill people is horrifically expensive, not to mention horrifically wrong.
The punishment should fit the crime. Killing people for trying to cross a border is like killing someone for trespassing. Build a fence if you wish. Assign a border patrol every mile or so if you think that’s necessary. But killing people with electricity or bullets for a minor crime (there are no criminal penalties for illegal entry) is beyond the pale.
There are other means to reduce and even halt illegal immigration, including putting employers in jail who knowingly hire them. No jobs – no illegals. Also, getting rid of sanctuary cities and promptly deporting those who have broken the law when they are discovered whether it be as a result of a traffic stop or a check of school records as Alabama wishes to do, is a far more humane and justifiable means to address the problem.
Cain may get cheers from some opponents of illegal immigration, but it’s a cheap way to get applause. We can solve the problem without making orphans of children or cause parents to lose a child.
Can I use that word I hate to use?
Cain`s inflammatory words should be condemned by Democrats, Republicans, Independents and everybody else who hates racism.
Herman Cain is pandering to the vilest instincts of the Tea Party crowd. Mr. Cain, how low will you descend to win the Republican nomination?
As an Hispanic I am outraged by Cain`s depiction of undocumented workers as subhuman. Most migrants of Latin descent are hardworking and law-abiding; they seek only to improve the fortunes of their families.
I urge African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities to think twice before voting for Cain. His pernicious tomfoolery has no place in a democracy.
In defense of Mr. Cain let me take a moment to deplore our liberal media. Mr. Cain did not say the fence would be fatal; he said the signs would say it would be fatal. Maybe a slight shock to the scared and suggestible would be sufficient…
Well. Mr. Cain needs to Presidential-up. If we wanted to nominate a kook or a crank, we would get behind Ron Paul.
Before we assume that Herman Cain’s suggestion will cause Democrats or even select Republicans to throw even more scorn in his direction, I’d suggest this: Cain could win over many of them simply by saying that in his border plan, the fence would be electrified with power provided by solar panels the government purchased from stimulus-backed green energy companies.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.