22 July 2005

Tom Tancredo: WARNING!

WARNING: Mouth operates faster than brain!


Tom Tancredo Eyes White House Run

Friday July 22, 2005 9:31 PM


Associated Press Writer

DENVER (AP) - Tom Tancredo has been called a one-horse pony of a politician, a man out of step with his party, a bigot. The Republican congressman vehemently opposes illegal immigration, and he created an uproar last week when he talked about nuking Muslim holy sites.

No matter, Tancredo is pressing on and even hinting at a longshot presidential bid in 2008.

Tancredco has already visited New Hampshire and Iowa this year, and says he found a welcome audience among voters who are fed up with the nation's immigration policies, including proposals by President Bush.

``Unless I misread the political tea leaves, there is a great deal of support for what I say,'' Tancredo said.

Tancredo raised eyebrows last week by telling a radio talk show host that ``you could take out'' Islamic holy sites should terrorists ever launch a nuclear attack against the United States.

``You're talking about bombing Mecca,'' asked the host.

``Yeah,'' Tancredo responded, saying he was ``just throwing out some ideas.'' He later said his comments were taken out of context and refused to apologize.

Few consider Tancredo a serious challenger for the GOP presidential nomination, but his stance resonates with some in a post-Sept. 11 era when volunteer groups like the Minutemen have been patrolling the border for illegal immigrants.

Such critics contend illegal immigrants are a security threat, take jobs from Americans, overburden the health care system and raise the crime rate.

Tancredo would like the United States to patrol its borders with the military. He said the U.S. also needs a guest worker program that requires employers to prove a need for short-term labor, without amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Esteban Flores, executive director of the Latino Research and Policy Center in Denver, calls Tancredo a bigot who is trying to use racial division to further his career. He compared Tancredo to George Wallace, the outspoken opponent of desegregation.

``He's preying on peoples' fears, which is the worst way to build public trust,'' Flores said.

Tancredo doesn't see it that way.

The 59-year-old grandson of an Italian immigrant is a former public school teacher. He said he began his campaign after becoming disgusted with bilingual education requirements that he says turned out students illiterate in two languages.

Tancredo said he received a warm reception when he traveled to New Hampshire to give an award to a police chief who arrests undocumented immigrants on charges of trespassing. It warmed him up for Iowa, the key caucus state he visited this month.

Unlike 2002, when the GOP tried to distance itself from Tancredo amid concern he could cost them Hispanic votes, the national party is backing the four-term congressman's re-election bid in the heavily Republican suburbs of southern Denver. So far, there is no Democratic challenger for the 2006 race.

The GOP is eager to point out it has a plank on immigration reform, though Bush and Tancredo disagree on the details.

Bush promoted a guest-worker program that would allow migrants to work in the United States for a limited time as long as they have a job lined up.

``The president sees immigration reform as a necessary component to protect our borders from traffickers and smugglers, and we have to deal with it in a humane way,'' said Aaron McLear, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton this month called for changes that would allow undocumented immigrant students to receive college aid. During a recent visit to Denver, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called Tancredo's views ``despicable.''

Experts say Tancredo has no chance at the White House, but like Ross Perot's campaign on a balanced budget in 1992, he has found an issue that could force other Republicans to treat immigration as a major issue.

``If he gets lots of attention, if he moves in the polls, some candidate has to pick it up,'' said Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver pollster.

Tancredo is quick to dismiss his critics, saying he has a duty to make sure immigration laws are enforced.

``I also know that if given the slightest opportunity, most of the candidates out there right now will not address it forthrightly. They will say things like, `I'm against illegal immigration, next question.' We're going to have to do a lot better than that.''


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