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.
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…