Sullivan: Dvorsky wrong to call Perry "lock-step" Tea Partier


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At a campaign event in New Hampshire over the weekend, 2012 caucus contender Gov. Rick Perry called for "strategic fencing."

Of course, my first thought was, "Finally, a viable presidential candidate who knows a few things about sabers and foils."

I read on to realize the Texas Republican was talking about border policy, not the Olympic battle sport.

Asked whether he supports a fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, the Associated Press reports Perry said, "No, I don't support a fence on the border. The fact is, it's 1,200 miles from Brownsville to El Paso. Two things: How long you think it would take to build that? And then if you build a 30-foot wall from El Paso to Brownsville, the 35-foot ladder business gets real good."

While some hard-line conservatives call for a solid wall along the entire border (and some Republicans have even mentioned electrifying the border), Perry wants to target the barriers at drug violence.

And that's not the only immigration issue on which Perry splits with the right. Conservative immigration group Numbers USA gives Perry a D-minus grade. And Tom Tancredo — perhaps the staunchest of illegal-immigration opponents — wrote in a Politico piece earlier this year, "Perry's only true conservative positions on borders involve calling for an end to sanctuary cities and signing a voter-ID law. While I support these measures, they don't make up for the rest of his positions on immigration. Even a broken clock is right twice a day."

And, for instance, Perry signed the Texas law giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition at the state's universities.

"To punish these young Texans for their parents' actions is not what America has always been about," Perry told New Hampshire's Union Leader before he stepped into the Republican-nomination race.

This is the same Rick Perry who Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said "is in lockstep with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party." The same guy who's been called "Tea Party + Bush" by the liberal blog Think Progress. The very same Rick Perry painted as loony secessionist by the national media.

And he's not the only Southwestern governor whose reasonable immigration plans have been overlooked by critics looking to paint the politician as a radical.

Fellow caucus candidate Gov. Gary Johnson, for example, wants to make immigration much easier and let Mexicans come here to get jobs and pay taxes. To combat drug violence, Johnson would push to legalize marijuana. The legal immigration process under a Johnson administration would be easier, but cheaters would be kicked out.

Sounds like a plan even mainstream Democrats could get on board with. But unfortunately, the only coverage Johnson gets (when he gets any at all) is about his stance on pot, which is generally used to make Johnson seem like a novelty Republican.

And don't forget George W. Bush. He was a strong supporter of temporary-worker programs, pushed to cut processing times on immigration applications, and led the charge for comprehensive reform in 2007 that would have included a path to citizenship for illegals.

Both of those positions seem to have been easily forgotten by Bush opponents and he gets cast — similar to Rick Perry — as a far-right politician, out of touch with reasonable policies.

So is Perry really lock-step with the Tea Party like Iowa's top Democrat says? No. Is he a good candidate? I don't think so, but he still ought to be judged on his positions. Relying on over-simplified designations like "Tea Party" only serve to distract people from real issues and positions.

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