NPR Democratic debate: weak questions on immigration, logical fallacies

NPR held a Democratic debate earlier today, and it currently looks like they asked a few incredibly weak questions on immigration that simply allowed the candidates to give their stock speeches. Not only that, but the questions appear to have been designed to make the candidates look slightly reasonable by comparison. Rather than asking questions that would have revealed the downsides of their plans - such as the ones I submitted as the second comment here - they went for the strawman arguments.

I'll wait for the transcript to discuss the specifics, but see this, this, or NPR's summary here.

UPDATE: The transcript is here. While the unnamed moderator pressed Edwards and others on a couple issues, I'm struck by how weak the questions were and how many lies and misleading and incomplete statements the moderator let slip by them. There were six basic questions:

...Some citizens in Marshalltown turn in illegal immigrants; some take them in. There's actually a person who's been indicted for sheltering immigrants, which raises a question that I'd like to put to you. What obligations do American citizens have when it comes to illegal immigrants? Would you [Obama] expect Americans, if you're president, January 2009, immigration reform, whatever you want hasn't happened yet, would you expect Americans to turn in illegal immigrants when they come across?

No national figure is calling on people to turn in random illegal aliens. While the question then goes in to what public agencies should do, that doesn't excuse the stupidity of this question.

Senator Edwards, in a recent debate, you said, as I'm sure you've said many times, that illegal workers are exploited, that they're paid less, if they try to report problems, they're asked about their immigration status. But you have also said that you do not believe that illegal immigration is driving down wages. If they're being paid less, how can they not be driving down wages? [...response...] I just want to follow up, Senator Edwards, on something that you said. I've had the pleasure at a debate setting in front of you twice within the last week. And, at the debate on Saturday, you noted that undocumented immigrants are punished if they complain about unsafe conditions, if they speak up. And you noted that these workers would have rights, they would be looked after in an Edwards administration. What rights do immigrants have if they're working without proper authorization?

The moderator pressed him a couple times; the second time he appears to be supporting enforcing wage and workplace safety laws (just not immigration laws).

You [Hillary Clinton] said in a debate on Saturday night that you support people who are, as you put it, Yes, undocumented, but also working hard, trying to support their families. That's why they're here. In the same answer, you said you want to crack down on employers. Is there a contradiction there? If you crack down on employers, doesn't that mean you're telling employers to put these hard-working people, as you define them, out of work?

She went on to give her stock speech about "comprehensive immigration reform". She also gave the standard false choice between that mass deportations (something that, once again, no national figure is calling for). And, as a bonus, she referenced the extremely flawed Center for American Progress "study" about the cost of mass deportations. The moderator didn't call her on any of that.

But are you [Edwards] saying that, for you it's a matter of fact-finding, to see which way you would go on H1B visas, or have you already made up your mind that they should be limited or they should be increased?

I'll let someone familiar with that topic discuss how bad NPR bungled that part of the "debate".

And, finally, an issue that, while important in some ways, is of a much lower priority than other questions that should have been asked, and they didn't ask about the more important aspect of it but simply allowed the candidates to make speeches:

Will you remove the question about what language we speak when we call any U.S. government office?

That allowed Clinton to give a stock speech, and then Kucinich began to hum Kumbaya ("I see the world as one. I see the world as being interconnected and interdependent and there being an imperative for human unity.")

Finally, another incredibly weak question:

Anybody here willing to say directly that immigration, because of the millions and millions of people involved, is going to change American culture as it has in the past? American is not going to be the same kind of place it is now.

Obviously, there are cultural downsides to massive immigration, yet that question just allowed the candidates to, once again, give stock speeches.


Of course, I'm sure the NPR Ombudsman will ignore any complaints given to him about the debate:

BARACK OBAMA DISCRIMINATES AGAINST AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS! Obama likes Mexican and Central American immigrants so much better than African immigrants that he supports practices and policies that allow Mexico and CA with 2% of the worlds' population to provide 66% of America's total immigrants legal and otherwise. While Africa with 10 % of the world's population and far worse poverty and persecution (Darfur et al) gets a mere 2% of America's total immigration slots. If such racial disparities existed in jobs, housing, schools etc anywhere in America they would be rightly denounced as the evidence of racist policies and challenged in the courts and in the streets with demonstrations. But when it comes to immigrants, Obama prefers them brown and wants to forget the blacks and all the rest. Why? -- the answer is politics. He is willing to forget fairness, all men are created equal, the struggle against racial bias etc to indulge in favoritism toward Mexicans and Central Americans because he's convinced that this form of racism buys votes. Obviously Obama believes that giving all potential immigrants a fair and equal chance at US citizenship regardless of their race or country of origin buys no votes. America's immigration practices, especially the tolerance of illegal immigration, function to provide an ample supply of cheap, pliable labor for the self-indulgent rich and for certain business interests.. No candidate of either party, not even the fringe candidates, has proposed that we end our sorry practices that foster racial and ethnic immigration discrimination. Nonetheless, it is particularly disappointing that Obama, the first serious African American candidate for President should go further than any of the other first tier candidates pandering to racist "Hispanic" groups like La Raza & MECLA. Obama, who is half Kenyan, appears to be totally oblivious to the injustice of giving Mexicans huge advantages over Kenyans and other Africans and Asians who might want to immigrate here. It betrays where his deepest loyalties lie, not to justice and equality for other blacks, indeed for all , but to sustaining the comfort of America's privileged class and raising his status within that class. If his true commitment were to justice and equality he would want all potential immigrants to be able to compete fairly for limited US immigration slots on the basis of colorblind criteria such as marketable skills, education, knowledge of English, commitment to become Americans, and demonstrable hardships such as persecution in their homelands. On immigration Obama is the biggest sham of all.