The Common Good

Gang of Eight: GOP Candidates Debate o' the Week

Another week, another Republican Presidential Debate.

This time, eight of the GOP candidates for the nomination spent their evening putting forward their beliefs on the issues of foreign policy and national security. The topics ‘debated’ (out of respect for Debate teams around the country, I use inverted commas) were not surprising – Afghanistan, Iran, the Arab Spring, Israel, foreign aid, immigration.

But there were a few things that the candidates did say that caught my attention as I read through the transcript this morning – particularly in relation to foreign aid and immigration.

It was encouraging to hear at least one candidate come out and support the positive impact and geo-strategic importance that non-military development assistance is playing on the African continent (even if he did accidentally call Africa a "country.")

Rick Santorum, usually known for his more controversial views on homosexuality, told the crowd that when he hears “people up here talking about zeroing out foreign aid and humanitarian aid in particular…I think that's absolutely the wrong course.”

No arguments from me on that, Rick.

Time and again we have been shown proof that wisely used development assistance has resulted in more stable, innovative, healthier states in Africa and around the world. Santorum would do well to remind his colleagues up on the stage with him of that.

Ron Paul however, may take more convincing that most. It was fairly disturbing to see him lay out his position so simply: “I think the aid is all worthless.” And we’ve heard what the rest of the candidates have said on the matter.

So while Santorum gets it when it comes to foreign aid, it was newly crowned frontrunner Newt Gingrich who was saying some interesting things when it came to talking about immigration. Border security, troops on the ground in Mexico, ‘illegals’ sapping the welfare budget – as expected, other candidates made mention of these.

But Gingrich made a bold move. Telling the moderator that he was “willing to take the heat for saying” it, he argued that we need humane way of enforcing the country’s immigration laws. I haven’t looked through all of the transcripts of the previous debates (that would take some time given that we’re on debate #279 now), but I don’t recall once hearing this word used.


Treating undocumented immigrants like human beings? What a novel idea, Newt!

Lambasting the policies suggested by others on the platform, Gingrinch questioned how “the party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century.” Well said , ol' boy.

There were things that I disagreed with Gingrich about when he talked about immigration. But my respect for him dramatically increased when I heard him use that word. Humane. If we could start thinking about all of our foreign (and domestic) policy problems from a standpoint of being humane, we might make some headway. 


Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

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