Debate coach: Trump wants 'Operation Wetback'?

Story highlights

  • Todd Graham: As debaters, Trump and Carson getting less of a slide now as newbies; their failure on facts, policy plans is growing obvious
  • He says Trump's calling for Eisenhower's atrocious solution on immigration, "Operation Wetback," showed poor grasp of history, reality

Todd Graham is director of debate at Southern Illinois University. His teams have won a national championship for the last three years, and he's been recognized twice as the national debate coach of the year. See his Facebook page. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)"Those new debaters are totally adorable."

I've got a couple of young 'uns on my debate team this year, so that's a statement I've heard more than once. Believe it or not, new debaters have certain advantages over older, more experienced ones.
Todd Graham
But those advantages have a limited shelf life. For the newbie Republicans running for president, that shelf life is coming to an end: Carson? Trump? They aren't new anymore. Not totally adorable; it's time for them to be total policy wonks.
    Last night at the GOP debate in Milwaukee, they failed at this. The election is less than a year away. And people are beginning to notice, among other things, the outrageous implications of their ideas. (For one thing: "Operation Wetback." I'll explain this in a minute.)
    In the first couple of debates, the public gave Donald Trump and (especially) Ben Carson free passes. Indeed, many polls -- totally unscientific, but still valuable -- after the debates had either Trump or Carson winning.
     Trump: I met Putin on '60 Minutes'
    donald trump jeb bush carly fiorina fox gop debate foreign policy vstan orig_00003105

      JUST WATCHED

      Trump: I met Putin on '60 Minutes'

    MUST WATCH

    Trump: I met Putin on '60 Minutes' 01:24
    Why? Lots of reasons, but the one I'm referring to here relates to their "new car smell."
    Here's how it works.
    When you're new at debate, you get credit just for existing. "Congratulations, you didn't pass out, fall down or spill your drink on your debating briefs. You must have won." For my young intercollegiate team, if we stay competitive when debating an experienced team, the judge awards us more points.
    For new presidential debaters like Trump and Carson, audiences fill in the specifics left unspoken, and in a sense assist these new debaters.
    In those first debates, Trump and Carson were shallow on substance, and their supporters didn't mind. But there comes a time when most judges (in this case the viewing public for the Republicans) require more from the debaters -- when the newness has worn off.
    Let's begin with Carson.
    Carson favors taxes that are tithing-style ("tithing" refers to giving away a tenth of one's income, usually to the church), but he doesn't seem to understand the economics of poverty. He wants proportionality. Earn 10 billion, pay 1 billion. Earn 10 dollars, pay one.
    "I don't see how anything gets a whole lot fairer than that." This fails the sense test. A simple study of economics reveals the inherent unfairness in taking away a dollar from a person who has only 10 when considering costs of food, shelter, etc. Equal percentages disadvantage the poor and middle class disproportionately, not proportionally.
    Dr. Ben Carson: I would not raise the minimum wage
    gop debate ben carson minimum wage bts vstan orig cws_00003201

      JUST WATCHED

      Dr. Ben Carson: I would not raise the minimum wage

    MUST WATCH

    Dr. Ben Carson: I would not raise the minimum wage 00:47
    When asked if he would break up the "too-big-to-fail banks," he rambled for a while about regulations (which of them, and why, they helped big banks was left out of his answer) and finished with a flurry of half-thoughts about abnormal situations and the cost of a bar of soap. When pushed by the moderator, his final answer was that he would stop tinkering around the edges, whatever that means.
    Trump?
    Trump touted his familiarity with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying they were both on "60 Minutes," and "that went pretty well"-- I suppose in ratings? Carly Fiorina seized on this with a line that drew a reaction from the audience, implying that Trump's knowledge of Putin was limited to "a green room for a show."
    Trump's trade policy: Well, he seemed totally unaware that China (and India for that matter) is not a part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After Trump blustered on about how the TPP deal was bad because it didn't check China's currency manipulation, Rand Paul mumbled to the moderator, "Hey Gerard: You know," (to a few sprinkled laughs in the audience), "we might want to point out that China's not part of this deal."
    Trump on Kasich: 'I don't have to hear from this man'
    gop debate trump kasich immigration bts vstan orig cws_00004004

      JUST WATCHED

      Trump on Kasich: 'I don't have to hear from this man'

    MUST WATCH

    Trump on Kasich: 'I don't have to hear from this man' 01:02
    Trump's immigration policies: He plans to deport millions of immigrants (the undocumented, including children, who knows). When asked if it would hurt the economy, he replied that "we are a country of laws." Didn't answer the question. When pushed by Jeb Bush and John Kasich ("It's a silly argument, it's not an adult argument. It makes no sense."), Trump replied that Dwight Eisenhower deported more than a million Mexican immigrants successfully.
    Stop right there for a moment.
    Other than it being factually inaccurate, it was an atrocious event in America's history, and yet Trump is touting it as his "solvency" argument (to use a debate phrase).
    He's talking about Operation Wetback. I didn't write that incorrectly. It was called Operation Wetback, and it was every bit as horrifying and inhumane as the name implies.
    Were the people here legally? It didn't seem to matter. Anyone of the wrong skin color, citizens or not, children and elderly alike were taken onto buses. People were left in the desert, separated from their families, transported to the heart of Mexico, abused, and some died.
    Overcrowded ships resembling slave vessels were even used in the Gulf of Mexico. And that's what Trump wants to be his immigration legacy. Operation Wetback.
    Let's not forget the name, shall we?