Univision’s Spanish debate last night was unique for a couple reasons: The candidates rarely went over their alloted time and, more importantly, the moderators actually allowed each candidate to present his views on each issue! Très impressive. Conspicuously absent from the debate was fence-monger Tom Tancredo, but the rest were there to answer questions important to the Hispanic community. Questions were asked in Spanish, and candidates’ responses were dubbed into Spanish for television viewers. Rudy Giuliani was given the first question – Why did Bush receive 40% of Hispanic votes, but Republicans garner only 30% in the latest election? – and the debate began by Rudy misunderstanding it and answering a different question: Will Hispanic support for Republicans go up or down? Despite the stumble at the gate, the debate went smoothly after that.

Rudy Giuliani was one of the few to recognize that it is impractical if not impossible to remove the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the US. Instead, he argued for an ID card for all immigrants and a need to strongly enforce the borders, in order to stem illegal immigration. Giuliani advocated school vouchers, and stressed parental choice should determine where children attend school. He railed against government mandates in health care (a shot at Romney and Hillary), preferring to open up the market and allow health care to be purchased in other states in order to reduce costs. Rudy applauded King Juan Carlos of Spain’s recent assessment of Hugo Chavez “¿Por qué no te callas?” i.e. “Why don’t you shut up?” On Iraq, Giuliani said the goal is a stable Iraq that is a US ally, and that the US military has a chance to succeed and must be given the chance. Overall, Rudy did well, often generated applause, and by most accounts probably won.

Duncan Hunter, always shooting from the hip and out of left field, more often seems to be a Republican Party cheerleader than a candidate. He (twice) urged young Hispanics to register Republican, because while JFK had abandoned Cuban freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs, Reagan shielded fighters in Ecuador. Hunter said new immigrants must learn the law and ensure that their kids learn English. He opposed amnesty, citing 1983 legislation allowing illegal immigrants to stay, and warned that if the current 12 million are granted legal status, the “3rd wave” will be even more problematic. Hunter challenged a poll indicating 2/3 of Hispanics want the war in Iraq over on the odd grounds that he, personally, had spoken with Hispanic military personnel that felt differently. Hunter finished with a reference to “Stand and Deliver”, saying that the problem with education is that schools should hire inspiring teachers.

Mike Huckabee gave lip service to the anti-immigration crowd, insisting that illegals go to the “back of the line”, which seemed to contradict his recently defended gubernatorial policies of granting scholarships to illegals. He preached against amnesty, but, like other candidates, was unable to comment on the practicality of such a stance. Huck suggested that once there were no illegal immigrants, there would be no “profiling” of legal immigrants. Huck rebounded by announcing the reality that though Hugo Chavez is so disliked, we still receive 60% of their oil, so we must move to become oil-free and/or energy independent. Huckabee stated that one reason the US was succeeding in Iraq was because civilian and US military deaths were down, which may be true, but ongoing deaths is a odd way to define success. He stressed the need to continue so that no power vacuum forms in Iraq. As for the 47 million uninsured Americans, Huckabee suggested that 1/3 are self-insured, 1/3 don’t buy coverage because they think they are invincible, and 1/3 are under-insured. While he got some laughs by mentioning Michael Moore, his suggestion of focusing on preventing illness didn’t seem to alleviate the issue, especially among the 16 million invincible among us. On education, Huck asserted that dropouts aren’t stupid, but, rather, they are bored, a problem he believed could be solved by math, science, music, and art classes, since something else must have bored them. Huckabee answers were so often illogical, that unless you had both the Spanish sound and English closed captioning turned off, he couldn’t have been deemed to have had a good night.

Fred Thompson’s famous charm seemed to woo the crowd to a lesser extent in this venue. He pledged to enforce borders and uphold laws, and suggested that 13 years to get legal status in Hong Kong was too long, certainly a concern among the audience. Fred failed to answer the question about what should happen to illegal immigrant parents of children born in the US, instead weakly saying that legal immigrants should be able to bring their families to the US. Thompson stated that Raul Castro is just like Fidel, and promised to deal with Cuba, but didn’t say how. Thompson said Iraq is part of a global conflict, and if we leave, there will be more recruits for those who seek to bring down western civilization. He said health care markets should be made more efficient, and made what should be the obvious suggestion that people should be able to bring their health care from one job to another. On education, Thompson offered an apparently evolving “several” point plan, one aspect of which involved fathers raising their kids. Fred closed by stating that the Hispanic work ethic is “second to none” and certainly not to him.

Ron Paul, as usual, received the most raucous cheers of any candidate, but also picked up some boos. Paul suggested that those attacking bilingualism are jealous, and while it is practical for everything to be in English at a federal level, there is no reason for local governments or education not to be bilingual if they so choose. Paul attacked Giuliani’s ID card proposal, suggesting such a program could never be implemented without a forcing a National ID card on everyone, an idea which he vehemently opposes. After cheers for that, he received boos for suggesting that we trade and talk to all countries, even those with leaders such as Chavez and Castro. Paul received enthusiastic applause for saying that the US was never justified in going to Iraq, and that we must come home ASAP. When asked about his difference from other candidates on Iraq, Paul said the difference is that he would adhere to the Constitution. Paul suggested that the military felt the same way as the nation, and evinced that by reminding everyone that he was the candidate with the most campaign money from active military personnel. He likened the situation in Iraq to Vietnam, insisting that we can achieve through peace what we couldn’t in war. Finally, Paul stressed a need for change in foreign and economic policies and a return to the freedoms and liberties that all Americans are entitled to under the Constitution.

Mitt Romney stressed the need for an employee verification system so that businesses do not unknowingly hire illegals. After denying it in the last debate, Romney admitted having had illegals employed at his mansion, and, so, hence the need for an ID card which, like a credit card, could be instantly verified. As for illegals, he mentioned compassion, but ultimately indicated they would be deported, albeit compassionately. Mitt called oppressive leaders such as Castro and Chavez cowards, and said that Barack Obama’s suggestion of a visit with Castro was a bad idea. Romney called for isolating Cuba, a strategy which hasn’t seemed to have harmed Castro’s position in half a century, and for weakening Chavez. Mitt said that we were safer thanks to the sacrifices of the military in Iraq. On health care, Mitt said he stopped talking and got the job done, and opined that a person can’t be healthy without a doctor and/or health insurance, which was an odd argument. Romney called for parental involvement in education and stressed the need for testing, so failing schools could be identified and turned around.

John McCain stated that all immigrants should learn English, as that is the way they can move up the economic ladder. He stressed securing the borders and not rewarding those who came here illegally, while stating that he had had Thanksgiving with brave Hispanic soldiers whose parents had come into the country illegally, which seemed slightly odd. McCain again said that the strategy in Iraq is succeeding, and argued for continuation of the war. McCain suggested a $5k refundable tax credit to address the health care issue. On education, he wanted to find teachers in other lines of work, and to put bad schools “out of business”. He cited the example of a private school which was doing so well that nearby public schools were forced to take notice and ended up improving as well. McCain ended by saying that the US is enriched by the culture, language, and food inherited from the Hispanic community. Can’t argue there – who doesn’t love a succulent puerco pibil or a good taco?