Iowa Republican Presidential Debate December 10, 2011 (ABC News, GOP, Iowa Caucus, Gingrich, Romney, Perry, Ron Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, Diane Sawyer, George Stephanopoulos, Drake U)

Yet another worthless GOP debate takes place tonight with what will be sold as the most important debate so far. That's because it will take place in Iowa a few weeks before the Iowa Caucus.

MODERATORS: George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer

WHEN: 9pm Eastern

WHERE: Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

PARTICIPANTS: Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum.

NON-PARTICIPANTS: Jon Huntsman didn't meet the minimum qualifications. Herman Cain recently "suspended" his campaign.

TRANSCRIPT: When available.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Stephanopoulos will, of course, attack the candidates in scurrilous ways. The candidates won't be able to do much about it and won't engage him in debate with the goal of showing him wrong. If the topic of immigration comes up it will be yet another worthless show. The candidates can't debate and aren't willing to show how others are wrong, and moreover there isn't that much difference between their (actual) immigration positions and those of Stephanopoulos or Sawyer. All the candidates will point out that we need to secure the border, but none will go much beyond that. Stephanopoulos or Sawyer will not, of course, challenge Gingrich on his absurd immigration ideas or challenge Rick Perry on helping illegal aliens deprive citizens of college. The the moderators are challenged, it will be a fake challenge.

SUGGESTED READING: The links in the list of candidates above, debates, and most importantly of all the alternative to bogus political debates. That plan would ensure that the presidential candidates promote vetted policies with only known side-effects. All the debates so far simply allow candidates to give their stock speeches without being challenged on the flaws in their plans.

Feel free to leave comments below before, during or after the debate. This post will be updated after a transcript becomes available. Note that Occupy Des Moines might be outside the event or might even attempt to cause a disruption during the broadcast.

UPDATE: The brief immigration part of the transcript starts here:

Some notes:

1. Surprisingly, Diane Sawyer somewhat makes a point made on the secure the border page. She also somewhat pressed Newt Gingrich on his "draft boards" plan.

2. Gingrich seems to be implying that he'd deport the vast majority of illegal aliens in the U.S. He seems to be claiming that his draft boards would only be for those who "have been here 25 years", which would be a very small number of people because most illegal aliens who would have been here that long would probably have already been legalized by the 1986 amnesty. Gingrich said "I think we should make deportation dramatically easier" without explaining exactly how he'd do that. Any attempt to increase deportations would be met with very stiff resistance from the far-left, the Democratic Party, businesses, religious leaders, and on and on. Even if Gingrich were sincere, he wouldn't get what he wants because opponents of deportation are stronger than those who support it. Many of those who support it (such as the tea parties) are easily distracted and aren't in any way capable of opposing even the weakest of the many organizations (example: ThinkProgress) who enable illegal immigration.

3. Romney presented his own fantastic plan: that all the illegal aliens in the U.S. would be required to "register the fact that they're here in the country" and then be "given some transition period of time to allow them to-- settle their affairs and then return home and get in the-- in line at the back of the line with everybody else that wants to come here." First, there's no such thing as the "back of the line"; see immigration line. More importantly, that would never happen - at least under the current conditions - for the same reasons outlined above.

4. Neither Romney nor Gingrich - even if they were sincere - have no plan to deal with the far-left and the Democrats who'd resist their deportation plans. Romney's and Gingrich's supporters who might be sincere have given little indication that they're willing and able to deal with the far-left and the Democrats. The Teapartiers and rightwing bloggers largely ignore an outrageously anti-American bill like the DREAM Act - a bill on which the Democrats are extraordinarily vulnerable - and we're supposed to believe that President Gingrich or President Romney would be able to engage in large-scale deportations? No, there are far deeper problems that need to be fixed first.

5. Diane Sawyer then described for Rick Perry a situation that isn't permitted under our laws: illegal aliens aren't allowed to serve in the U.S. military unless we've declared war, which we haven't for any of the several current conflicts. That doesn't mean that illegal aliens aren't in the military, just that they shouldn't be there.

6. Perry didn't answer Sawyer's question in any way. Instead, just as he's apparently been trained to do, he launched into a discussion of securing the border. Apparently Perry missed Sawyer's stipulation.

7. Perry then said we just need to enforce the laws that are on the books and named some specific things he might do. He might be able to do those specific things with one hand, but with the other he'd be standing on the border waving people over through some sort of guest workers program or similar. And, even if he were able to do those specific things, he didn't outline a plan to enforce immigration laws across the board. As with Romney and Gingrich, even if he were sincere he has no plan to actually do what he says: even if he tried to enforce the laws across the board, the far stronger illegal immigration supporters would (under the current situation) prevail.

The U.S. is in a world of hurt. Candidates express broad outlines of plans that stand little chance of actually happening and, instead of pressing them on their unworkable plans, the media simply moves on to the next question. Reducing illegal immigration and the number of illegal aliens in the U.S. shouldn't be that difficult, but it is. And, that's because of (to be frank) the far deeper problems that many illegal immigration opponents have.

Transcript follows.


DIANE SAWYER: And I'd like to turn now, if we can, to the issue of immigration. And so many people talk about it in their living room, talk about it around their dinner tables at night-- if I can. And can we just do one thing for the interest of time? Can we stipulate that every single person on this stage tonight has said the number one thing to do is secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders, secure the borders. You may have slightly different prescriptions to do it. But, we stipulate that, that that's what you all want to do first.

I'd like to turn, now, the question, the 11 million undocumented people in this country. And Speaker Gingrich, I'm gonna come back to you because you have talked about citizen review boards to review individual cases, that treated them in individual basis. You-- you've-- you mentioned the fact that someone who's been here 25 years, served the community, should get special consideration under this board. How many years is the threshold for your-- is it five years-- has served the community under the criteria that you've set out before, five years also a candidate?

NEWT GINGRICH: I think, first of all, that anybody you would apply to a-- the citizen review board idea came out of a selective service model. It was used as draft boards in World War II. We relied on the local citizens to render judgment about who oughta be deferred, who oughta be drafted. Did they have local knowledge? That's the starting point.

Second, I started wi-- with-- with cases that I think are very hard to-- to argue about. Someone who's been here 25 years, somebody who has been a good local citizen, may well belong to your church, has children and grandchildren in the United States, and I will just say flatly, I do not believe the people of the United States are gonna send the police in to rip that kinda person out and ship them outta this country, (COUGH) particularly because those are precisely the people that end up in churches as sanctuaries.

And I think we oughta be honest about that. I think most of the workers who are here who have no ties to us should go home immediately. I think we should make deportation dramatically easier. This is, I think frankly we oughta make English the official language of government. And we oughta have an effective guest worker program with very severe penalties for those employers who hire people illegally.

DIANE SAWYER: But, the Pew Center for Hispanic Center, as you know, has said that maybe 3.5 million people could come under the criteria that you laid out.

NEWT GINGRICH: I-- I don't think there's 3.5 million people who've been here 25 years.

DIANE SAWYER: But they're talking about people who have been here 15 years. 15 years.

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I wasn't. They were. You used a number that doesn't relate to my proposal.

DIANE SAWYER: But, under the criteria that you have set out, do you have a threshold on the number of people you would consider before the review board?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I-- that's why you have the citizen review panel. The per-- the person has to have been here 25 years, have genuine ties to the community, be a good citizen, and have an American family sponsor them. And they still don't get citizenship. This is not amnesty. They get residency. And they pay a penalty in order to get residency.

DIANE SAWYER: Okay, I'm gonna turn it to k-- to Governor Romney because we heard Speaker Gingrich say we're not gonna round people up and deport them. And I think at one point-- you said something similar in a meeting at Bloomberg that-- that they're not going to be tracking everybody down and moving them out. And yet, to our colleague David Muir-- wanna try to clarify something. You said, "You seem to indicate that people should go back home to their country." And in some cases it may mean as much as five years if they get at the back of the line or more. Are you saying-- how many people should be sent back home to their countries? Should they be tracked down to establish who they are, sent back home to their country?

MITT ROMNEY: I-- I believe that any time that we start talking about a-- a form of amnesty, whether it's technically amnesty or not, when we start talking about how people have been able to come here and stay illegally for some period of time, that they're gonna be able to stay here permanently and become a permanent resident of the United States with-- with rights to our education system, our health care system, and so forth, we will then create another magnet that draws people into our country illegally.

So, the right course for us is to, once again, talk about what you described. Secure the border. Once we do that, we can start talking about the 11 million or whatever number that may be that are in the country illegally. My own view is those 11-- 11 million people should register the fact that they're here in the country. They should be given some transition period of time to allow them to-- settle their affairs and then return home and get in the-- in line at the back of the line with everybody else that wants to come here.

Don't forget, when we talk about-- about-- the difficulty of people going home, there are millions of people who-- many of whom have relatives here in this country who are in line, who want to come here. I want to bring people into this country who have skill, experience, family here who want to draw them in. I do not want to do something. (NOISE) I do not want to do something which encourages another wave of illegal immigration. So, from my view-- viewpoint, the key-- the key measure is this: No favoritism for permanent residency or citizenship for those that have come here illegally.

DIANE SAWYER: So, you've said all 11 million. If I could Governor Perry-- there is a case or there are a number of these cases of-- of people who have signed up for the military, the U.S. military, who have been undocumented but nonetheless go and sign up. What should happen with them?

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Well, let me-- address the issue that you asked from the start, and obviously securing that border is the-- is the key. And any of these conversations that we're having now are nothing more than intellectual-- discussions until you secure that border.

But if this country would simply enforce the laws that are already on the book, you think about all of the laws that we have that are already out there, laws that clearly saw-- that-- that, "Here are punishments," and, "Here's what will happen." If this country would simply enforce the laws that we have on the book-- I will tell you one thing: As the president of the United States, you will not see me sending my Justice Department to sue states like Arizona that are havin' to sovereign rights, I think, put in jeopardy by our Justice Department.

You will not see a catch and release program like this administration has today th-- where people who are caught who are illegally in this country, and because they haven't been (RUSTLING) caught in a violent situation, they're released. Released into the general population. That's the problem that we've got in this country.

I would suggest to you we spend time with the laws that we've got on the book being enforced, we'll have a substantial smaller number of people of which we're gonna have to make decisions about at that particular point in time. And then we can have a legitimate conversation about immigration reform.