At least you can say that Monica Reyes is an equal-opportunity assailant.
The UNI student and DREAMer (as undocumented young adults have come to be known) waylaid Hillary Clinton last fall when she was in the state for a fundraiser, and over the weekend, she did the same with Jeb Bush.
Neither candidate-in-waiting came off too well. Clinton pretty much ignored Reyes' questions, flashing a "thumbs up" for the camera and crying "Yay!" when Monica introduced herself as an Iowa student, but when asked whether she supported President Obama's delays on immigration reform, Clinton hustled herself on down the autograph line, bleating weakly over her shoulder, "I think we need to elect more Democrats."
Huh? Hillary, It's pretty tough for the DREAMers to do that, if they are not permitted to be citizens, and thus, can't vote. Or is that why you didn't stop to answer?
Bush was a bit more accomodating, in fact, engaging in a short discussion with Monica in some pretty impressive Spanish.
But the GOP poster boy loses some points when she asked if he would terminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and he responded, "DACA? Which one is DACA?" And later stumbled out awkwardly, "I wrote a book."
Granted, Reyes' modus operandi is to catch candidates off guard in a very public place and press them for answers, in front of a camera. It is not surprising that candidates have a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look. At this stage in the pre-pre-race, they are expecting only to sign t-shirts and kiss some first-in-the-nation-caucus babies, not to be engaged in guerilla questioning by excited young immigrants.
Especially when those young people may indeed be sharper than the candidates themselves - at least on this one issue. After all, they have lived it. It's more than politics to them.
It's a pretty tough situation for candidates still feeling out potential campaigns. Every word out of their mouths will be turned inside out and overscrutinized. Going off script can be dangerous.
But, Latino voters are a potentially powerful - even decisive - bloc, if they wish to be. It would not be wise to treat them as if they didn't matter, either.
For the records, Bush opposes DACA, perhaps less because of the program itself and more because it comes from the other party's president. In today's Washington climate, if a party leader on one side says the sky is blue, one from the other had to swear that it is pink.
Anyway, Bush did figure out what DACA, delared that it was illegal (because of Obama's actions) and implied that it should be terminated so that it can be voted back in by Congress in the form of a more "permanent solution" rather than a two-year moritorium on deportation, a thought that is not without merit.
Compare that to Rick Santorum, who on stage at the same event volunteered his opinion that legal immigration should be cut. Good luck filling labor jobs. Expect to hear more of that as the election draws closer.
Monica Reyes and a few others like her, meanwhile, make their point simply by refusing to be silenced.
They are fearless and cunning and informed, they are unbowed by power; 20-somethings are forcing leaders to face an issue that they have skirted for far too long.
No matter how you feel about immigration issues, you have to agree that politicans have failed miserably on reform. They need to be called on it; and who better to do it than those who have the most to lose?
Imagine the courage it takes, to step right into the face of people who may be the next president and hold the young people's very futures in their palm, and demand answers of them?
You might think that you'd like to vote for someone like Monica for some office, someday, but oh yeah - we haven't yet made her a citizen so she could serve her country.
DREAMers haven't exactly endeared themselves to the powers that be. Then again, neither did Thomas Payne in 1775, Henry Ward Beecher in the abolitionist era, sufferagist Susan Anthony in 1855, Malcomb X in 1955, Vietnam protestor Abbie Hoffman in 1969 and many other rabble-rousers and malcontents who didn't wait for an invitation to come to the debate table, and frankly, weren't very well liked once they got there.
At Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit in January, DREAMers carrying placards reading "deportable" were taken away by security. At least one was dragged on the lawn, pinned down by an officer's knees in his back and cuffed, while others chanted for "justice." Video of that felt like it was ripped right out of the tumultuous 1960s.
I'm not saying that a bunch of young DREAMers will make history, but I am saying they have guts, which is rather uncommon these days.
I'll also say they are overdue to be heard.
They were brought to the United States as small children, no fault of their own, raised for all these years as Americans. Some don't even speak the language of the country of their parents or have any connection to those countries cultures. They are as American as any other young people, and all they ask is a path to earn citizenship. Why is that a terrible thing?
In a country where too many people take their American rights for granted, here are some who will fight for them.
Our aging country desperately needs bright, ambitious, strong willed young people. We have some of them right here in Storm Lake. Why would we waste them?
And, it doesn't hurt to push candidates off script now and then. See if they can think on their feet. The person you want to vote for, I suspect, is one who wouldn't be afraid to match wits with a 20-year-old college kid.