MIAMI – Seeking to pair his political enemies, Newt Gingrich on Wednesday blasted Mitt Romney’s call for self-deportation of illegal immigrants as an “Obama-level fantasy” and called for “psychological warfare” to oust Cuba’s Castro regime.
Appearing at a presidential candidate forum with the Spanish-language station Univision, Gingrich said that Romney’s call for having illegal immigrants return to their home countries is vastly inferior to the former House speaker’s plan to let some longtime immigrants stay in the United States.
“I think you have to live in worlds of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic $20-million-a-year income with no work to have some fantasy this far from reality,” Gingrich said, jabbing at some of the details of Romney’s self-released income taxes this week.
By comparison, Gingrich said, his approach to immigration includes “people who have been here for a long time, who are grandmothers and grandfathers, who have been paying their bills, they’ve been working. Now, for Romney to believe that somebody's grandmother is going to be so cut off she is going to self deport? This … is an Obama-level fantasy.”
Under questioning from moderator Jorge Ramos, Gingrich said his plan would cover longtime immigrants who have family in the United States and who have been in the country for 20 to 25 years. He would have a local citizen board -- modeled after World War II-era draft boards – review their requests.
Ramos responded that Gingrich’s plan would exclude most of the estimated 11 million people who are now in the country illegally. Of the rest, Gingrich said, “most of them, I’d urge to get a guest-worker permit.” When Ramos said that could not be done under current law, Gingrich answered: “We can write a law which makes them eligible to apply for a guest-worker permit.”
In another proposed legislative change, Gingrich said he wants immigrants who receive graduate degrees in science- and technology-related fields to be eligible for visas “so they automatically upon graduation know that they can stay and work in the United States.”
To deal with the Castro regime, Gingrich called for steps similar to those used during the 1980s to hasten the breakup of the Soviet Union, including economic, diplomatic, and “covert operations” tools.
“What you want to do is, you want to network everybody,” he said. “It’s also psychological warfare. You want to say to the entire younger generation of the dictatorship, 'You have no future propping up the dictatorship.' ”
Ramos asked Gingrich several questions about his personal life, including whether it was hypocritical of him to seek President Clinton’s impeachment for lying about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky while the speaker was having an affair. Gingrich repeated his stance that his and Clinton’s situations were not parallel. “I didn’t do the same thing,” he said. “I never lied under oath; I have never committed perjury; I have never been involved in a felony. He was. I had one of his closest friends come to see me and said to me, ‘You know, lots of people have done what he did,’ and I said ‘That’s right, but they didn’t lie under oath about it.’ And the guy looked at me and said, ‘Well, you’re right;that’s a felony and that’s a real problem.’ ’’
Gingrich also repeated his denial of his ex-wife Marianne’s claim in a recent ABC News interview that he sought an open marriage. "We offered several witnesses to ABC who said it was not true,” he said. “ABC did not want any of the witnesses.” The network has disputed that assertion, saying it would have been happy to interview anyone who could corroborate his position.
At a subsequent campaign event, Gingrich got some assistance from a onetime House colleague -- Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., co-author of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that strengthened the U.S. embargo with Cuba. Burton refuted Romney's contention that his friend served as a lobbyist while his consulting firm did work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
“I’ve been in Congress for 30 years and I know a lobbyist when I see one," Burton said. "And Newt Gingrich is not, has not and never has been a lobbyist.”
In an additional bid for Cuban-American support, Gingrich invoked Luis Haza, a violist who played the "Star Spangled Banner" at his event. The normally feisty Gingrich became choked up when discussing how Haza is giving his granddaughter Maggie Kushman violin lessons.
“If you talk to Luis, you will understand the passion that he is left here to deal with over the years, and why my determination to free Cuba and to help the people of Cuba be free is because he is a deep, deep advocate for human freedom and decency," Gingrich said.