Giuliani: U.S. needs tougher immigration laws
But on a day when pending Congressional immigration legislation dominated the Republican discourse, Giuliani was more than happy to expound on that hot-button subject.
Giuliani spoke to a crowded cafeteria of Peerless Insurance employees at what was billed as a "town hall forum," though the event was closed to the public.
While the mayor has been leading the Republican field for president in several national polls, he has been criticized for the scarcity of his visits to the Granite State.
The captive audience of company employees appeared content to take an hour-long break to listen to a presidential candidate, though they were jokingly instructed by a manager to return to work when it became clear that Giuliani would be half an hour late.
The candidate elicited only scattered applause throughout the forum -- notably when he criticized the comprehensive immigration bill as "a step back, not a step forward."
"It's a hodgepodge -- something from here, something from there, something from here, something from there. It doesn't have an organizing principle," he said of the proposed legislation, which was negotiated by a bipartisan group of 12 senators and the White House.
Giuliani argued that immigration law should be simplified and focused on knowing the identities of foreigners residing in the United States.
"The way to do that is to have a database that has your name in it and identifying data. To facilitate that, we have to have a single... tamper-proof, biometric ID card," he said.
Tying the issue to the overarching theme of his campaign -- fighting terrorism -- Giuliani said Congress should work to reduce the pool of unknown immigrants in the country so that law enforcement can target "the illegal immigrant criminal."
"If we can shrink that group, then we can find the terrorists easier, the drug dealers easier, the criminals easier," he said.
Giuliani spent much of the event highlighting his leadership as mayor on Sept. 11, 2001, and arguing that the nation should take an offensive stand against terrorism, not the defensive stance he said Democrats have taken.
Referring to remarks made by former North Carolina senator John Edwards at the Council on Foreign Relations earlier in the day, Giuliani said "the Democrats, or at least some of them, are in denial" about the war on terror.
Edwards had disputed the notion that such a war exists when he laid out his defense policy positions Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.
"By framing this as a war, we have walked right into the trap the terrorists have set -- that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war on Islam," Edwards said.
But Giuliani countered that the Sept. 11 attacks were the result of years of denying the existence of "Islamic terrorists" who aim to harm the United States.
"To avoid repeating the mistakes of history, you have to face them," he said.
Though he did not outline specifically what this offensive stance would consist of, Giuliani referred to the country's reaction to the World Trade Center bombings of 1993 as wholly inadequate.
"The best defense in the face of bullies, terrorists, dictators and tyrants is a good offense, and it's kept us safe before," he said. "This war is over when the terrorists who are planning to come here and kill us cease to make plans like that. Until then, we have to be on offense, and if we're not, we're going to be in danger."
Giuliani said the other main reason he hopes to become president is to grow the economy by reducing the tax burden and erring on the side of privatization.
Citing New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" slogan, he argued that unnecessary government involvement strangles business and harms the economy.
"I believe and I have seen the result of trusting people more and more," he said.
When asked how he would have conducted the Iraq war differently, Giuliani said that no war in American history "was conducted without significant mistakes made."
"I hope we're successful," he said. "I pray for that."
The mayor said he would not have purged the Iraq army of Baath Party loyalists and he would not have allowed them to keep their weapons, saying that was "a mistake in concept and a mistake in practice."
Giuliani also said he would have determined indicators of success at the start of the war and would have monitored those closely throughout, so as to better understand when and where problems arose.
Paul Heintz can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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