Gustavo's Debate with Tom Tancredo: Gustavo's Side, Complete with the Video!
Okay, coverage of my debate last night with arch-Know Nothing Tom Tancredo has officially reached overload--hey, Weeklings: aren't there skinheads that you can go after instead of writing about me?--but you might as well hear my side.
I met Tancredo and Westword editor Patty Calhoun across the street from the debate's venue at El Noa Noa. Tancredo ordered the tamales smothered in green chile sans rice; I drank a shot of Herradura.
The two lunatics shake hands!
Photo by Nick Lucchesi of Westword
Riviera editor and Colorado native Kedric Francis e-mailed me just before we met: "He [Tancredo] wore leather pants, had long hair and dated the Russian teacher when he taught me 9th grade Social Studies." I shared this with Tancredo; he laughed.
We didn't talk much about immigration during our dinner--he spent most of his time preaching the virtues of school vouchers--but did call Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist a "lunatic." Pot, meet kettle!
Tancredo reminded me of a goofy uncle--a guy with a loud laugh, with a strange habit of winking every five minutes, a bad combover but ultimately charming in person (just like Gilchrist!). We chatted amicably beforehand--and then, the debate:
I'm writing this at midnight (though it's scheduled for 6 a.m. or so), after having spoken at five separate lectures in Denver, so you'll forgive my hazy recollection of the actual debate. The crowd was overwhelmingly in my favor, so I received most of the applause. I personally feel Tancredo couldn't answer my question of Mexican acculturation and didn't consider my structural critiques of American capitalism (for instance, he said illegal immigration drives down wages, but I made the point that legal immigration does as well, so what's the difference economically?), and I know he became frustrated with me at times over some of my answers.
I apologize to DREAM Act students for not pressing that issue further, but it's he who completely changed the subject on that and other questions. I felt like I stayed on point throughout the discussion, while he oftentimes switched the subject or didn't answer the question--I'm still waiting for the names of those politicians in Texas influenced by narco money, Tom.
Overall? A great back-and-forth, and Tancredo said afterward we should take this show on the road; I cracked we can become the Hope and Crosby of the immigration wars. He laughed like the goofy uncle he is.
A winner? I've already received criticisms from people who like me who say I was too polite to Tancredo and let him dominate the conversation, but they also said Tancredo kept interrupting me and came off as rude. I didn't press him on many of the crazy things he's said over the years (although Tancredo fumed when I brought up the fact he once suggested we nuke Mecca), and he contradicted himself a couple of times but whatever: I was satisfied with my performance.
Some people have said I killed Tancredo; some say I sucked. The only person whose opinion mattered in this--Calhoun, who has followed Tancredo for decades--said I got the best of Tancredo. Maybe it's the altitude sickness talking, but it's all good...
Oh, and the tape. Skip to 37:00 in the video, and excuse the distorted voices--both Tancredo and I BOOM...
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