Fist Bumps & The Gingrich Surge

by Geraldo Rivera | Dec 02, 2011

Eric Bolling and I fist-bumped when we ran into each other in the news room Wednesday morning. As always with the smiling, stylish businessman and broadcaster it was friendly.

Still, I had to vent.

"I felt like jumping through the TV screen when I watched you yesterday on "The Five," I told my Fox News friend and colleague.

"Why?" his expression asked.

"Deport them all?" I continued incredulous, referring to his harsh suggestion that we should simply arrest and evict the 11 million plus undocumented immigrants. "What about the babies?" I asked. "The grandmothers? You're starting to sound like what's her name…Michelle Malkin who wants everyone to snitch out their illegal alien neighbors!"

"Yes, deport them," Bolling replied, still smiling broadly. "Beckel (his liberal foil on the "Five") says it would cost $160 Billion. I say it's worth every penny."

"You've got to be kidding," I muttered, shaking my head as I walked into the nearby studio for a scheduled appearance, envisioning helmeted officers running through day care and senior centers looking for undocumented immigrants. "What about all those Irish who came without papers," I tossed over my shoulder determined to have the last word.

"Yeah, and my Italians," the hail fellow well met said unruffled, secure in the knowledge that his sweeping suggestion of universal deportation represents conservative orthodoxy.

But I'm burying the lede.

The reason the sore subject of immigration once more dominated the conversation that morning in our news room was the bombshell candidate Newt Gingrich dropped on the Republican nominating process last week; essentially suggesting a statue of limitation on deportation.

Like his colleagues, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives wants recent arrivals tossed out of here. But for those immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, and have laid down roots and have family ties, Gingrich wants a softer approach, a path to legitimacy that critics say resembles amnesty.  

First of all, bravo Speaker Gingrich, who has surged to the top of the pack in every survey. While it is doubtful that his pragmatic compassion on this issue is the reason the once down and out candidate has all the GOP momentum, it hasn't hurt. (Either has the fact that Herman Cain is imploding but that's another column). And Gingrich's surge is noteworthy for the party driven by a near hysterical obsession with illegal immigrants.

Gingrich's modest proposal was immediately attacked by immigration hawk Michelle Bachman, the Minnesota congresswoman immediately denouncing it during the national security debate in DC when it was first broached, saying "I think the speaker just said that he would make 11 million people who are here illegally now legal."

The frustrated perennial front-running former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney also piled on. Once open-minded on this issue before he closed it, he suggested that Gingrich was about to open the flood gates of hell. "Look, amnesty is a magnet. If people who come here illegally are going to get to stay…" then, the deluge.

Of the five other candidates on the podium at the DAR Constitution Hall debate last Tuesday, only Texas governor Rick Perry hinted that Speaker Gingrich might be on to something. Although Perry has recently been stressing the need to seal the border, and has just accepted the endorsement of anti-immigration hardliner Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Perry had been the only Republican candidate not shouting 'off with their (immigrant) heads!'

"There is a way that, after we secure the border, that you can have a process in place for individuals who are law-abiding citizens who have done only one thing---as Newt says, 25 years ago or whatever that period of time was---that you can put something in place that basically continues to keep those families together," Perry said.

While the immigrants we're talking about may be law-abiding, they are by definition certainly not citizens, but aside from that slip of the tongue by the mal a propos-prone Perry, it once more showed why he too is a Republican candidate Latino voters might reward for having "a heart" about dealing with the undocumented.

But the hard part about immigration moderation and compassion among GOP candidates is how deeply unpopular that stance remains among their party's primary voters. Perry's support of the Texas Dream Act granting in-state tuition and other benefits to the innocent children of illegal aliens has made him persona non grata among Iowa caucus voters.

And yet Gingrich is defying conventional wisdom. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average of presidential preference polls, the new champion of immigrant aspiration is leading Romney by 23.8% to 21.3%. Who knew Republicans cared about actually winning the presidential election.  

If Newt can take the heat, and eventually earn his party's nomination, his stance on immigration will serve him well in the general election.

Then, I can't wait to bump into Bolling.

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