On Sunday’s broadcast of ABC’s “This Week,” conservative talker Laura Ingraham and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) went head-to-head over the issue of immigration and Gutierrez’s previous praise of House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) for positions.
Also participating in the roundtable discussion moderated by fill-in host Jonathan Karl were Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.
Partial transcript as follows:
KARL: — you know, Wednesday after the election.
He said what is Eric Cantor’s position on immigration reform?
I don’t know. He was hardly a leader of…
KARL: — authority…
INGRAHAM: — well, he…
INGRAHAM: — he was the coo…
KARL: — immigration reform.
INGRAHAM: Well, actually, that’s totally wrong and the interview kind of — it was just stunning to watch that interview. He hasn’t learned anything.
Eric Cantor wrote — he was the co-author of the House GOP principles on immigration reform. Both “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” said that that captured the essence of what was in the Senate immigration bill.
KARL: Well, let’s ask him.
INGRAHAM: — and Eric Cantor…
KARL: He’s right here. You…
INGRAHAM: — were together in New York…
KARL: Congressman Gutierrez, you have been certainly leading the charge for immigration reform.
Was Eric Cantor on your side?
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: I have never had a conversation with Eric Cantor about immigration. I’ve never had one conversation. We were at a religious site, a synagogue in Queens together to talk about the plight of Jews in this country and his own personal experience as a Jew. That is the one time.
And I think that it is regrettable.
Look, I’ll tell you something, if you allow your opponent to say that immigration reform is amnesty, you’re going to lose.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right.
GUTIERREZ: I am not for amnesty. I am for replacing the illegal immigration system with a legal immigration system. Let me just suggest that that night, those that want amnesty won that night, because they have taken away from the table securing our borders, making sure we have a verification system in this country when somebody gets employed. And when we’re watching what’s happening in Iraq today, we need an even better system that has checks and balances about who’s coming in and who’s going out.
KARL: So, why can’t we secure our borders?
KRISTOL: Why can’t we secure our borders? Have people voted against Eric Cantor have taken that off the table.
GUTIERREZ: Because part — if you talked to anybody on the border and talk to them about security, the first thing you need to do is you need to have a legal immigration system that allows…
INGRAHAM: So, we can’t enforce our laws right now?
GUTIERREZ: That’s not what I’m saying.
INGRAHAM: Yes, you are saying that. We can’t enforce our laws.
But Luis, did you not praise Eric Cantor’s principles on immigration that were in the House of Representatives? Did you not praise those principles?
GUTIERREZ: Here’s what I said. Here’s I said. I said as a Democrat, we need to respect the fact that there’s a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and when they put forward those principles, principles by the Republican leadership, I said, I want to sit down.
INGRAHAM: Did you not praise his position on…
KARL: Donna, jump in here.
BRAZILE: First of all, I was ready to stand in between Eric Cantor and Laura Ingraham.
INGRAHAM: All right, he can’t a joke about the prisoner swap. He has no sense of humor, that’s why he lost.
BRAZILE: And let me tell you, this woman knows how to throw a punch. And I have to tell you somebody who was observing this race, like I’ve observed — I’m trying to look at all of these primary races. Low turnout. You got to really got to go out in these low turnout elections, although there were a lot more than participate in most primaries. Still Eric Cantor did not pay attention to his voters. He lost touch with them. And he spent the morning of election day, I mean, this is a very important time to be on the local news, not in the national news, but on the local news, at…
BRAZILE: He should have been Krispy Kreme down in his district. He was out of touch.
And the Tea Party is still highly caffeinated. Because the Tea Party is the energy inside the Republican Party. You ignore them, you ignore the base and that’s a problem. And he ignored the base.
KARL: I have got also ask you, you ran a national presidential campaign.
BRAZILE: And we lost Tennessee, hello.
KARL: OK. I know, but, look at this, he ran ads — Cantor ran ads attacking Dave Brat by name. This is somebody nobody had heard of. I mean, isn’t it like malpractice?
BRAZILE: He raised his profile.
BRAZILE: He raised his profile.
And you know this was a classic David versus Goliath. What Mr. Brat had, Professor Brat, he had energy, he had a message and that resonated with voters.
KRISTOL: Also, Eric Cantor ran adds, his political consultants told him, this will be clever. Brat, is running to your right on immigration and other issues as a true conservative and you’re part of the squish Republican leadership — so attack Brat as a liberal. Why? Because Caine, a Democrat, put him on some advisory board on economic development. Pretend you’re to the right of Brat on immigration. That’s what about a million dollars of the ads were.
I think is showed a certain contempt for the voters and it backfired.
INGRAHAM: And Jon, Lindsey Graham — Lindsey — he made grand point, this has to be corrected. There were six opponents of Lindsey Graham in that primary, not one of them ran on the issue of immigration. None of them ran the Dave Brat campaign.
KARL: But I’ve got to ask…
INGRAHAM: Jonathan, you have to understand this, it was focused on the working class. None of them ran on that issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the major challenges to Lindsey Graham was immigration.
INGRAHAM: Not in his six opponents.
GUTIERREZ: If I could finish. I know you are used to your radio talk show where you get to talk all the time, let me get a chance — and it’s also ABC.
But let me just say the following, look, the fact is that Lindsey Graham got more votes this time than he did the last time. Now — you want to know…
KARL: He didn’t hide his position on immigration.
GUTIERREZ: Because he said he was for replacing our illegal immigration system. If I could just finish up. And what is essential to it is I did have conversations with Lindsey Graham. I did support the Senate version of immigration reform. And he defended it before his voters and his voters resoundingly reelected him.
Laura — there are other reasons for the loss…
KARL: I want to ask what you accomplish here, though, you and those who pushed Cantor out? You now have arguably a more liberal — or more moderate majority leader coming in, in Kevin McCarthy, and Brat has been elected — this is a PhD in economics who can’t tell us his position on minimum wage.
INGRAHAM: Well, what we know now is that the issue of immigration is a critical issue in American politics. I’m not running the GOP. This is — let me tell you something, Jonathan, if the results last week were that Eric Cantor won by 11 points, you would be doing “This Week,” saying greenlight to immigration reform. This race shows you the Tea Party is dead, talk radio is dead, immigration reform is dead. You wouldn’t be picking out jokes at a rally and saying this got really personal. It would be Eric Cantor is going to be working with people like Luis Gutierrez to find common ground on immigration.
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