# On Point | Analysis and Insight from Top Thinkers at the University of South Florida

Relative silence on immigration, perhaps in the hopes that immigrants will “self-deport,” reveals contradictions in Republican platform

2012 November 2
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by Vickie Chachere

Elizabeth Aranda, a USF Associate Professor and head of the Department of Sociology’s Latino Research Initiative, is an expert on immigration. With just a few days left in the 2012 Presidential Campaign, she finds the lack of discussion on a hotly-debated matter a silence worthy of further exploration. She writes:

 This presidential race has been silent on the issue of immigration. Maybe, this is because neither party has a good track record on immigration. Although the number of deportations under President Obama reached their peak during his term, we have seen some recent progress with his passing of the initiative that allows for some undocumented youth remain in the country. Still troublesome, however, is Gov. Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” policy that remains part of the Republican party platform. This policy essentially supports “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.” According to their platform, examples of “humane” procedures include denying federal funding to universities that allow undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates, and using the e-verify system to check the legal status of job applicants. Upon closer examination, this “policy” and other GOP actions appear to be a collection of contradictory statements and misguided decisions that will likely alienate Latino voters from the Republican Party.

Contradiction 1 – Specifically using “humane” and “illegal alien” in the same sentence of the party’s immigration platform:

Several elements of this self-deportation policy are extremely troublesome, beginning with the language used. The most egregious example is the use of the term “illegal alien.” Although the term “alien” mirrors how the U.S. government classifies those who are born outside of the United States yet reside in this country, its use is pejorative and does not convey to immigrants that the party (or the U.S. government for that matter) respects who they are as individuals. If anything, it reinforces their position in our society as outsiders regardless of their actual legal immigrant status.

Add to this that oftentimes individuals refer to the undocumented segment of the immigrant population as “illegals,” using the word as a noun instead of an adjective. What is disturbing about this language is that it dehumanizes immigrants. No individual is illegal. To suggest that is to strip individuals of their personhood, a paradox coming from a party whose platform aims to respect “the dignity of life.”

Contradiction 2 – The idea that “self-deportation” is something that can be “encouraged” using “humane procedures:”

The idea that certain practices would convince immigrants to return home is perplexing. First, because no such humane practices have been elaborated, and second, because the idea of self-removal makes little sense. What this policy is really suggesting is a full endorsement of the anti-immigrant climate that has increased in recent years with laws like Arizona’s SB 1070. This climate has created an environment of insecurity, not just for immigrants, but for U.S. born Latino citizens—and it has been anything but humane.

Deportation explicitly involves removal from a country. Implementing a policy of self-deportation raises the question, Under what conditions would immigrants “remove” themselves from a nation? read more…

The Issues: Foreign Policy

2012 November 1
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by Vickie Chachere

Election Day is near – and by now we have a pretty good idea where the candidates stand on the issue. USF Political Science Professor Michael Gibbons wraps up his series on the debates with an analysis of the foreign policy showdown.

With the conclusion of the third debate, and a week to digest it, we now have a pretty good idea of what the differences are between President Obama and former Governor Romney.  The pundits commented almost immediately that Obama won the debate and that Romney pretty much agreed with the Obama Administration’s policies while criticizing the Obama Administration’s policies.  Certainly, Romney’s statements have changed since the Republican primary, embodying the etch-a-sketch strategy that they previously announced.  Even FOX News called the debate a draw, which is a sure sign Obama won.  But again, the punditocracy made their judgments largely on style, saying that despite his loss Romney did what he had to.  Basically, for the media, it was the Sarah Palin bar that he had to clear, i.e. not look entirely foolish.  But did he?

In fact, it’s a little different than they portrayed it and, in that respect, a little scarier.  Romney’s comments on each area of foreign policy had no specifics.  They were all expressed in very general, vague terms, resembling the table of contents of an introductory book on world affairs.  What specifics did exist were those borrowed from Obama.  However, important points did emerge.  Consider the following.

Four times Romney referred to Syria as Iran’s highway to the ocean.  Apparently, Romney is unaware that Iraq stands between Syria and Iran.  Moreover, Iran (i.e. Persia) has access to the Persian Gulf (hence the name), the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea.  It is somewhat frightening that the best the GOP has to offer for Commander-in-Chief is so unfamiliar with (arguably) the most important region of the world for foreign policy that he can’t get the geography right.

With respect to Iran, the Obama Administration has orchestrated a situation in which virtually the entire world is now allied with the U.S. in efforts to control Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  More bellicose foreign policy, including one allowing Israelis to force us into drawing red lines in the sand, would not have made Obama’s achievement possible.

More importantly, just days ago Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad (the Israeli counterpart of the CIA), after describing Obama’s approach to Iran as “courageous” and “brave,” claimed that “What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war. Therefore when [he recently] said, he doesn’t think there should be a war with Iran, this does not ring true. It is not consistent with other things he has said.”

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Joltin’ Joe to the Rescue

2012 October 15
by Vickie Chachere

Can’t get enough of the debates? Neither can we. USF Political Science Professor Michael Gibbons breaks down Thursday’s Vice Presidential face-off.

By now most of the media have weighed in on the Vice Presidential debate.  Predictably, almost all ignored the substance and issues and focused on style.  Some seem to think that Biden’s chuckling at many of Ryan’s comments was “distracting.”  Others pointed out that it was a not too subtle way of marking Ryan’s claims as wrong or as misinformation (“malarkey” is an Irish term used among friends for fibbing/lying; as in “the fish I caught was two feet long” would be malarkey).  Getting away from style, the appeal of demagogues, let’s look at the issues.

Social Security/Medicare:  It is clear that Romney/Ryan want to privatize Social Security/Medicare.  Biden drilled this one home and Ryan, who has advocated and proposed privatization several times, didn’t escape it. (Note: Why anyone would think that individuals investing in the stock market after the panic of 1987, the panic of 2000 and the panic of 2007, is a good idea is beyond me.  For example, if you had money invested in the best of index mutual funds (e.g. Vanguard, Fidelity) in 2000, the value of your 401(b) is only now returning to what it was in 1999, and that’s assuming you continued to contribute 10 percent of your income during that period.  There’s a reason these days that the super wealthy invest not in the market (or real estate) but in priceless art and automobiles.  But privatization will result in great commissions and administrative fees for Wall Street.)

Winner: Biden.

Taxes:  Again, the claim that you can cut tax rates by 20 percent and not eliminate those deductions that the middle class draws upon does not add up.  Several independent analyses have illustrated this.  Just saying that it adds up doesn’t make it so. No matter how many times someone wants to say 10 minus 4 equals 9, it doesn’t.

Winner: Biden.

The Stimulus:  Ryan trotted out the old argument that it failed.  Biden, who helped oversee the stimulus, countered that despite the fact that when Obama took office the U.S. was hemorrhaging jobs, it is now adding them in the private sector and stressed the impact of the automobile bailout.  That saved not only automobile workers’ jobs, but those of all subcontractors who the auto industry helps keep in business, e.g. producers of glass, plastic, hub caps, tires, energy for production, etc., etc.  But the best line was Biden’s reference to Ryan’s request for stimulus money with Ryan claiming that it had created jobs.  Ryan, of course, is not the only opponent of the stimulus to request money from it (and then take the credit for it existing).  Biden’s parting comment, that he would entertain subsequent requests from Ryan was classic. read more…

Looking Backward in Anticipation: The Presidential Debates

2012 October 2
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by Vickie Chachere

We’re one day way from the first debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. USF’s Michael Gibbons takes a look at what’s at stake.

With the Presidential Debates between President Obama and former Governor Romney about to begin, the media have begun to focus on previous debates for the kinds of things each candidate should, could, or must do if the debates are to work in their favor. In considering the potential effect of the debates it is important to keep in mind that in the recent past the immediate post-debate analyses have sometimes been embarrassing for a number of media outlets.  For example, in the 2008 election, focusing exclusively on style, CNN announced success for Sarah Palin.  It also pronounced John McCain the winner of the first presidential debate when next day polls showed Barack Obama with a far greater margin of victory about winning the debate among voters.  The electronic media have also focused on the use of zingers or individual sound bites, the effects of which are overestimated.  Lloyd Bentsen’s famous “you’re no Jack Kennedy” comeback to Dan Quayle did not win the election for the Dukakis/Bentsen ticket.  Reagan’s repeated comment to Carter – “There you go again.” – had nothing near the effect as the U. S. military’s failure to provide back-up helicopters and air support for an abortive rescue mission of the American hostages in Iran in the summer of 1980.

When all is said and done, only two debates can be said to have a significant effect.  The first in 1960 in which then Senator John F. Kennedy outshone Vice President Richard Nixon on a number of levels.  The other was 2000 in which pundits assert that the polls shifted after Vice President Gore lost ground as he came off less likeable.  Even in the latter case, what really shifted the election of 2000 was the purging of the voting polls of 94,000 voters in Florida by Governor Jeb Bush, the irregularities in Democratic precincts, and 98,000 votes cast for third party candidate Ralph Nader that allowed the election in Florida to be close in the first place.  And, of course, Gore won the popular vote by over 500,000. read more…

Parents Magazine: Engage Kids in the Election

2012 September 21
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by Vickie Chachere

USF Professor of Social Science Education Michael Berson contributed to a great feature in Parents magazine on how to involve kids in the upcoming election. It’s no secret that civics education has been on such a decline that there’s a real fear of creating a generation of voters who aren’t just uninformed, they don’t understand the fundamental importance of civic participation. Berson, a Senior Fellow and the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, has some great tips on how to turn the 2012 election into a teachable moment. Read them here.

Visit the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship here for more ideas on how to help kids learn more about civics and their roles and responsibilities in becoming an informed voter.


Diplomats Deaths in Libya

2012 September 12
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Mohsen Milani, director of USF World’s Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies and a internationally-recognized expert on the Middle East. met with reporters today to lend perspective on the violence in Libya and Egypt on Sept. 11. Milani called the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats a tragedy carried out by extremists whom he does not believe represents the mainstream views of Libyans.

Tampa – We Mean that in a Good Way

2012 September 11
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by Vickie Chachere

If you heard Tampa mentioned at last week’s Democratic National Convention, chances were in was shorthand for criticizing the Republican Party’s three-day convention here the week before. Will the negative connotation stick? USF Mass Communications Adjunct Wayne Garcia, a former political reporter and campaign consultant, had some interesting thoughts in this story from the Tampa Bay Times.

“I definitely think that Tampa has become an epithet for Democrats or progressives.  “It was disturbing to have Tampa get flogged so badly by everyone at the Democratic National Convention. It was as if Tampa was the breeding ground for conservative Republican thought and people.”

Obama’s Acceptance Speech: In the Shadow of Supporters

2012 September 10
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by Vickie Chachere

In the final installment of his series of analysis on the four key speeches of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, USF Associate Professor Michael Gibbons examines President Obama’s convention-closing speech in Charlotte. As the election moves toward the critical debates, Gibbons offers his insight on what the President said and if it will be enough to lead undecided voters to approve a second term or move in a different direction with challenger Mitt Romney.

 Most people who heard Bill Clinton’s speech nominating President Obama for a second term anticipated that the former president would be a hard act to follow.  And it was certainly the case that in contrast to Clinton’s speech, the President’s was measured, informed by the realities of the moment.  It was the speech of an incumbent having to encourage his party and undecided voters that, despite the inability of the country to achieve the goals he set out for it four years ago, there is still a clear picture of what needs to be done to get the country back to economic normalcy.

By and large, the media was guarded or critical of the tone.  Many pundits claimed the speech didn’t encourage the enthusiasm that his first acceptance speech did, although one Republican consultant on CNN called it presidential.  Moreover, it wasn’t just Clinton’s speech that overshadowed it.  It was a night of speeches that energized and even excited the crowd.  John Kerry’s speech on foreign policy was called the best speech of the night by some. Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan, gave an animated speech that was met with the most enthusiasm of any speech in either convention and had some Democrats bemoaning that she’s Canadian born.  Even Joe Biden’s speech drew on a passion and experience that many middle class blue collar voters could identify with.  The result was that Obama’s speech, that at times seemed almost more like an academic lecture than a convention speech, was overshadowed by others.

I think for the most part the media ignored how precise and thorough the speech was with respect to the achievements of the administration, achievements in spite of the scorched earth policies of the Republicans in Congress and in those states such as Florida where they control the legislature and governor’s office.  He emphasized the creation of new jobs in manufacturing and saving the automobile industry; the increase in energy efficiency, opening of new areas for oil and gas exploration, and cuts in oil imports and dependency; the commitment to the environment; what is required to improve education, a problem that gets a lot of lip service but very little substantive effort; an allusion to the successes in foreign policy; and finally, identifying the successes and strengths of Obamacare. Interestingly, Gov. Romney just recently identified several of elements of Obamacare that he would actually keep.

read more…

Bill Clinton Spins his Old Magic

2012 September 7
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by Vickie Chachere

The Democratic National Convention has now wrapped up and voters, particularly those who are undecided, will have to determine if the party conventions did enough to define and distinguish each candidate. Associate Professor Michael Gibbons has been listening carefully to the speeches, and in this installment examines the sterling oratory of President Bill Clinton, who wowed the crowd in Charlotte but whose real task was to win over in TV land and motivate voters to turn out for Obama in November. Gibbons next post  – examining President Obama’s speech – will conclude the series in coming days.

To get a sense of the significance and effect of former President Bill Clinton’s speech, one only need take note of two things.  First, CNN political commentator Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and former aid to Mitt Romney said immediately after the speech: “This will be the moment that probably reelected Barack Obama.” Second, in television ratings, Clinton’s speech beat the NFL’s season inaugural game between two contenders for the NFC East championship and possible contenders for the Super Bowl, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.  Even FOX commentators such as Brit Hume had to acknowledge the forcefulness of the former President’s speech, though criticizing its length.

The strength of the speech lies in two of its components.  First, the passion with which the speech was delivered.  There is a reason that the former president is able to animate an audience, and not just Democrats, and a reason why with a 69 percent approval rating he is the most popular living ex-president.  His delivery at the convention, despite the length of the speech, clearly had an effect on the crowd as well as on most of the media.

In terms of substance, Clinton pointed out that the Tea Party dominated Republican Party considers compromise a form of heresy.  Hence, even Republican incumbents with near perfect conservative voting records have been challenged and defeated by Tea Party candidates.  Clinton, on the other hand, knows the necessity of compromise.  Without give and take on the part of himself and the Republican dominated House of Representatives, led by Newt Gingrich, no balanced budget would have been possible in the late 1990’s.  And he ticked off the number of Republican appointees to the Obama administration.

But the most important part of the speech was that, unlike Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech which was revealed to be permeated with untruths and distortions, Clinton presented a litany of facts and numbers all of which have been confirmed by multiple fact checkers.  The accomplishments are substantial.  The creation of 4.5 million private sector jobs resulting in part from the president’s recovery act, tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers, the addition of 500,000 more manufacturing jobs, the multiple successes in foreign policy, and the rescue of the auto industry that saved approximately 250,000 jobs in that industry, not to mention those jobs that were saved in related industries (tire, auto parts not manufactured by the auto companies, glass, radios, and so forth).  But the perhaps the most stunning figure, and the one that attracted the most attention of the fact checkers, is the fact that in the 52 years since 1961, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years during which 24 million jobs were produced.  Democrats have held the White House for 24 years, during which 44 million jobs were produced.

read more…


2012 September 6
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by Vickie Chachere

Associate Professor Michael Gibbons in the Department of Government and International Affairs is analyzing the major speeches at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Here’s his thoughts on Mitt Romney’s speech from last week, and coming soon will be his analysis of Bill Clinton and President Obama’s speeches (he promises to be equally tough on all. Ask his students, he’s a tough grader).


Acceptance speeches by nominees for the office of the President are unique in that they are normally attempts to straddle a line between offering specifics and identifying a general, often vague, vision of the direction of one’s administration.  Given the lack of specifics in the acceptance speech by Paul Ryan, many commentators were anticipating specifics about what policies Governor Romney’s would pursue if he won the election.  This latter point seemed particularly important in light of the confusion in the Romney camp about just what parts of the Ryan budget plan and abortion agenda Romney would sign on to.  But like Ryan’s speech, aside from the specific criticisms of President Obama, several of which are based on untruths, there were no policy specifics as there was with Obama and  McCain in 2008, or Clinton in 1992.  There were no specifics about how Romney would redress the alleged failures of the Obama administration.

An example of the shortage of specifics is the claim that a Romney administration would balance the budget (forgetting, perhaps, that Congress has a role in passing laws).  If one adds up the tax cuts that the Ryan budget proposes, it comes to $4.3 trillion.  That is offset by $1.7 trillion in spending cuts born disproportionately by the middle class and the poor.  That is not a move toward a balanced budget.

However, despite the lack of specifics about his own policies, Romney’s speech, like the Ryan’s, continued to rely on untruths about the Obama record.  He reiterated the claim that the Obama administration cut $716 billion that would hurt seniors.  In fact it has widely been demonstrated that the savings come in terms of reducing overpricing and cutting inefficiencies, two things Republicans have supposedly favored in the past.

Similarly, Romney accuses the President Obama of conducting an apology tour oversees.  Again, fact checkers have repeatedly pointed out that the claim is wrong, but the untruth continues to be part of the Republicans’ attack.

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