Russell Pearce Wimps Out on D.C. Trip, and Paul Begala Wipes the Floor With Him on CNN

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Check out this killer debate, first aired in August on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 between state Senate President-elect Russell Pearce and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala, on the subject of changing the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship provision.

The video was recently re-posted to CNN's site, and is worth watching again and again for the sheer pleasure of seeing Pearce destroyed on national TV.

Both Cooper and Begala take on bully-boy Pearce, known for talking over people, interrupting them, and trying to roll over anyone taking him on. But they don't let this happen, and effectively counter Pearce's prevarications regarding the original intent of the 14th Amendment's framers.

Pearce states that the 14th Amendment was meant only for African-Americans, although the plain language of the amendment does not support this contention.

Cooper counters, correctly, that the debate over the 14th Amendment included a discussion of the children of Chinese laborers, and that both sides in the debate realized that the 14th Amendment would cover all those born in the United States, save for a few exceptions. (Such as the children of foreign diplomats.)

Pearce claims, falsely, that this is not true. Hey, don't believe me, or Cooper, or Begala, read the U.S. Senate debate from 1866 yourself, here. And you'll see that Pearce is full of it.

Begala dismisses the notion that immigrants are flooding over the border to have children, pointing out that, "People come here to work, they don't come here to have babies. They can have babies anywhere they want to have babies."

Then he sinks a dagger right into Pearce's Hawaiian-shirted chest, by outing him as un-American.

"The 14th Amendment was put in after the Civil War, after 600,000 of us died for the notion of freedom," Begala states, firmly. "And one of those freedoms is, if you're born here, you're an American. And you shouldn't have to pass anyone's test of political correctness to be an American."

At one point, Pearce slips up, and calls the amendment "unconstitutional." Begala sees an opening and goes in swinging.

"The 14th Amendment is the Constitution," Begala states. "The 14th Amendment can't be unconstitutional, Senator. It is the Constitution." 

At that point, it looks like Pearce's head is going to explode.

Moments later, as Pearce huffs, Begala pounds away.

"If it only applies to African-Americans," says Begala, "which is clearly wrong -- the Senator is wrong about his history, he's wrong about his Constitutional scholarship -- then you don't need to change it."

Begala also observes that immigration is down and enforcement and deportations are up under the Obama administration. So what's the point of attacking the 14th Amendment?

Pearce goes off on his "enforce the law" spiel. To which Begala replies, "We are going to enforce the law, but we're not going to shred the Constitution, Senator. That's what you want to do."

I also liked Begala's comment on trying to deport the 12 million people here illegally.

"It would be the largest movement of human beings on the North American continent since the Trail of Tears under Andrew Jackson...which did not work out very well back then, Senator. It's nuts. Your position is not rooted in reality."

This is why I miss the Clinton administration, because of people like Begala, who knew then, and know now, how to roadblock and push back on Republican lies. 

So why has Pearce wussed out on being in D.C. today for the scheduled presser where various right-wing wackjobs are unveiling their hateful and illegal plot to snatch birth certificates from the hands of American citizen tots?

Because, I believe, he's getting pressure from all sides to focus on Arizona's economic woes in his new role as Senate President, instead of leading another divisive anti-immigration drive, which promises to be SB 1070 redux.

And as much as he relishes the spotlight and being the lightning rod, I'm sure some, even in his own camp, are wary of having a standard-bearer with past ties to white supremacists such as J.T. Ready, who is now dedicated to exposing Pearce

Won't stop Pearce from shooting his mouth off. But it has put a crimp in his game. And that's a good thing.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.