Focus on Illegal Immigration Over Iraq Upsets Schieffer

Demonstrating how out of touch he is with conservatives in the Republican base, on Sunday's Face the Nation Bob Schieffer, who conceded the “surge” has “frankly” made “more of a difference than I would have thought,” expressed his frustration with the focus on immigration over Iraq in the Republican campaign. He fretted to guest John McCain: “Why immigration? I mean, we've got a war going on in Iraq, Americans are dying there, it costs what, about $10 billion a month....An enormous amount of money. And yet, every Republican debate it seems to come down to a shouting match over immigration. We saw this last one with Romney and Giuliani going at it hammer and tong. Why immigration?” Of course, the candidates were only responding to the YouTube questions selected by CNN, so Schieffer's beef with the lack of focus on Iraq would better be directed at CNN.

In his closing commentary, CBS's chief Washington correspondent acknowledged how “the additional troops the administration put into Iraq this year have made a difference -- frankly more of a difference than I would have thought,” but “the whole idea of sending those troops in was to quiet things down so the factions within the Iraqi government could work out ways to share power” yet “they haven't moved an inch.” Schieffer concluded with an admonition: “Immigration has dominated the recent presidential debates, and it is important to be sure, but Iraq is still the place where Americans are dying. We need to be hearing more about that.”

Indeed, Hillary Clinton was tripped up by immigration at a Democratic debate, which illustrated how it is not only Republican voters who are upset about uncontrolled illegal immigration.

Schieffer's question in full to McCain:
Let's talk about the subject that seems to be dominating, at least the Republican debates now, and that is immigration. I'd like to ask you first: Why immigration? I mean, we've got a war going on in Iraq, Americans are dying there, it costs what, about $10 billion a month, is that right?...An enormous amount of money. And yet, every Republican debate it seems to come down to a shouting match over immigration. We saw this last one with Romney and Giuliani going at it hammer and tong. Why immigration?
Schieffer's commentary at the end of the December 2 Face the Nation:
The best advice I ever got on covering foreign policy was when someone said, "Don't ever make news of a cease fire the lead of a story about the Middle East," the lesson being events are always so fragile there that the cease fire would most likely be broken before the story made print or got on television. That's why we shouldn't be rolling out the "Mission Accomplished" banner again in Iraq, at least not just yet.

Things have quieted down considerably. The additional troops the administration put into Iraq this year have made a difference -- frankly more of a difference than I would have thought -- and those troops deserve great credit. But we must also keep our eye on the prize, or in this case, the continuing lack of one. The whole idea of sending those troops in was to quiet things down so the factions within the Iraqi government could work out ways to share power and rule the country. And so far, they haven't moved an inch. Parliament took the summer off, and since its members got back, they have managed to do exactly nothing. Until they do, until there is some progress in solving the problems that are the root cause of the violence, the turmoil may return once our troops leave.

So where do we go from there? Immigration has dominated the recent presidential debates, and it is important to be sure, but Iraq is still the place where Americans are dying. We need to be hearing more about that.

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Iraq Immigration Face the Nation
Brent Baker's picture