I realize that most of you don't watch Spanish television. But millions of Spanish-speaking and bi-lingual (Spanish-English) Americans do.
A few hours after the conclusion of the Republican convention, John McCain did a long interview with Univision's reporter and co-anchor Jorge Ramos:
Mr. Ramos, 42 years old, is the Miami-based co-anchorman for the main evening news program of Univision Communications Inc., the dominant Spanish-language network in the U.S. He says Anglos "don't even know how to pronounce my name," but he has an Emmy award for his journalism and a salary in the high six figures. When he and co-anchor Maria Elena Salinas deliver the 6:30 evening newscast, they reach an average audience of 1,057,000 viewers in the 18-to-49 age group that advertisers prize. This is almost 10 times the audience of CNN's "Moneyline Newshour" in the same time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research.
I would like to remind you all, that though DailyKos is overwhelmingly Anglo, with few Latino voices here, a significant segment of the electorate is Hispanic/Latino, and will play a crucial role in several swing states in the Southwest and in Florida. It behooves us to pay much closer attention to that sector. John McCain certainly is.
The transcript of the interview is available here:
Alone with John McCain, Exclusive interview by Jorge Ramos
Ramos covered quite a few issues of importance to Latinos.
I watched the interview, with the Spanish translation, and have selected several key segments where Ramos pushed for clear answers from McCain.
Let me start with Governor Palin. Do you think that the media has been unfair to Governor Palin? Your wife said that, and I'm quoting "the media has decided to treat her differently because she is a woman."
-Well, I know the polls, over half the American people, I saw a poll last night, believe that the media did not treat Governor Palin fairly. But, I'll tell you that doesn't bother her. She is tough, and she is strong, and she is an incredible person and a great partner, so whether they have or not, she has penetrated the American people and the response has been overwhelming.
-Senator, Walter Mondale, the former vice president, had a question for you in The New York Times, and he asked, is she ready for the presidency?
-Oh sure, she is. Look, for example, Alaska supplies 20 percent of America's energy, she knows those energy issues inside and out. She knows how, that ah, she was involved in the negotiations for a huge natural gas pipe line that is going to supply energy to the United States of America. You know right across, a very short distance away from Alaska is Russia, of course. But, the point is that she's got the judgment. Senator Obama said the surge wouldn't work, he said that Iran was a minor irritant. She understands these issues, she'll be just fine, and I am sure that Americans are saying, are thinking and saying the same thing.
-So you think she is ready to be Commander in Chief?
-Do you think that Barack Obama is ready to be Commander in Chief?
-I think that he is ready if the American people make that judgment. But he has not shown judgment, he has not gotten it right, he said the surge wouldn't work. He said that Iran was a minor irritant, he has made bad judgment on a number of issues. Right after Russia invaded Georgia, his first response was to say that they were both wrong. So, he doesn't have the judgment. But if the American people decide that Senator Obama is qualified, I will certainly support that. But, I think he lacks the judgment, and he lacks the experience. I think Governor Palin has the judgment.
-So let me be clear on this, so from your point of view you think that Governor Palin is ready to be Commander in Chief, but Barack Obama is not.
-I think that Senator Obama has shown bad judgment, and the American people will make that decision, I won't. I will point out his failures of judgment, whether it be about the Russian attack on Georgia, or Iran, or willingness to sit down across the table from people like Ahmadinejad, or being totally wrong on the surge in Iraq, and honestly, honestly, shifting so far to the left in order to get the nomination of his party.
"When we were to have the firsts serious vote, the new moveon.org, one of his base, a liberal left organization ran a full page add in The New York Times that said, "General Petraeus, or General Betray us?" In the senate we made a motion to condemn that, to condemn that attack on an honorable man, and you know what Senator Obama did? He was there in the senate and he refused to vote. That is not leadership.
Ramos goes on to question the absence of Bush at the Convention, and quotes Obama's statements about McCain voting with Bush 90% of the time.
He then shifts to the economy, and McCain fumbles with his answer:
Are we worse off than four years ago?
-Oh sure, yeah, I mean, I don't think that four years ago we were hurting very badly, I don't think most people do. I think the events of the last year, two years, set up by out of control spending, huge growth in the size of government, failure to exercise any kind of fiscal discipline or care about the tax payers. Those chickens came home to roost, and we've got to change it.
To tell Latinos that we were not hurting badly 4 years ago is a joke.
Ramos then shifts to an issue that many Hispanics are paying close attention to - bi-lingualism.
Senator, the platform of your party says, and I am quoting, "We support the adoption of English as the official language of the United States, and we demand the abolition of bilingual education." Do you agree with this?
-No. Look, it's fine with me if English is the official language, because it is our official language, it is. Anyone that comes to this country that wants to move up the economic ladder, we all know has to learn English, is a requirement for citizenship, so we all know that, but the point is...
-But, most Latinos are bilingual by the way; nine out of ten of Latinos are bilingual.
-Yeah, sure, sure, but Spanish was spoken...
-But, do you support English becoming the official language?
-If you want to call it official, it already is official, official or unofficial, it is our language, but I come from a state where Spanish was spoken before English, o.k.? So, I cherish Spanish language, our heritage, our culture, our food, everything about our Hispanic culture and that is what I want our party and Americans to do. You know, let's have a little straight talk, has our party has been damaged because some of the language that has been used? Yes, but look, I am the guy that took on the issue of immigration reform when it wasn't popular in my party to do so, at least in certain elements of it. I'll enact comprehensive immigration reform, we'll sit down together with democrats, and we'll get it done, but we got to secure our borders, not only because of illegal immigration, but because of drugs.
"President Calderon, right now is waging a battle for the heart and soul of his country, because these drug cartels are taking over towns in Mexico. We all know that, and we got to help them, and we've started with a Merida initiative that I think it's the first time that Mexican and American authorities are working together to stop the flow of drugs. And if you are going to do that, you got to have secure borders".
Interesting how McCain makes the question about language an answer about drug cartels in Mexico. He also forgets that many of the people watching Univision are not Mexican-American.
Ramos follows the opening and questions him about his vote on "the wall".
But, talking about secure borders...
-You voted for the construction of the wall between Mexico and the United States. However, the Mexican Government has just confirmed that every year, at least half a million Mexicans come to the United States. How exactly are you planning to secure that border? Every single minute there is an immigrant coming into the United States illegally.
-I didn't vote for, I am not sure what you are talking about, but we can secure...
-...about 700 miles.
-I say we can secure our borders with walls and/or fences in urban areas, and then virtual fences, vehicle barriers
-But, you did vote for the wall.
-I didn't vote for an..., I don't know what you are exactly what you are referring to... (you can read the rest of his blather on the transcript)
Ramos pushes harder:
-Senator, the last time we talked, you told us that it would take a year or two to secure the border, and then you said we can address the other part of it. Would that include massive legalization for millions of undocumented immigrants in this country?
-I think it means that we go through a step by step process of allowing people to apply and achieve citizenship in this country, of course. But, I want to point out again; it's a little more complicated.
-It goes against the platform of your party, by the way, because they are against the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants.
What is important here is that Ramos' questions are actually defining for the viewers, the Republican Platform - not what McCain is saying, but what the Repubs actually believe in.
McCain goes on to attack Obama:
Senator Barack Obama told us in an interview that he would present a comprehensive immigration reform to congress during the first year. Could you match that?
-Sure, I would do it in the first day, but I was the one who led, I was the one who led with Senator (Ted) Kennedy, a great political risk to myself. Senator Obama tried to kill it, because he was doing what the unions wanted. The unions in America do not want a temporary worker program, so Senator Obama came to the floor and had an amendment that would have basically killed immigration reform, because it was a fragile coalition between republicans and democrats. So, don't let Senator Obama get away with saying that he supports comprehensive reform, when he tried to kill it.
Ramos continues with data that many of us are familiar with:
Senator, do you think that the position of you party may affect you as a candidate?. The Pew Hispanic Center survey on Latino voters found that only 11 percent believe that you are better than Barack Obama for Hispanics.
McCain answers with attack on Obama saying he has never been south of the border, and goes on to mention that Hispanic names are on the wall at the memorial.
But the final question, to me - was crucial for Florida, where the bulk of viewers are Cuban-American.
I have a couple of more minutes. As you know, Hurricane Gustav devastated Cuba, and now it seems that Ike might affect Cuba again. So, the questions is if you would support lifting the restrictions maybe ninety days, one hundred and twenty days, so that people in the United States can send money to their families in Cuba?
-I am all for humanitarian assistance, if humanitarian assistance anywhere in the world is needed when people are in an emergency or crisis or are devastated. But no, I am not for lifting restrictions on sending money. But I know the American people would support humanitarian assistance, but all I am asking and all the people I know are asking is that Raul Castro empty out the prisons of political prisoners, so that they could get some of that money and maybe live in a free an open society. Let human rights organizations perform and have a free and fair election, that is all we ask.
(my emphasis in bold in his response)
Well McCain just lost another block of Cuban votes in Florida with that response. You cannot tell folks that they can't help their family. Blood is thicker than water and politics in this regard.
Though many of the older folks in Florida are still rabidly anti-Castro, the list for applications for travel to Cuba is a long one, and remittances sent to families is a key issue.
In a recent article after the series of hurricanes to hit the Caribbean
Hurricanes, remittances and Cuba there is a video from Miami (which I can't embed, discussing this.
What is important is this quote about remittances:
Presidential candidate Barack Obama thinks so. "I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island,’’ Obama said in a speech at the annual Cuban American National Foundation, Cuban Independence Day luncheon on May, 23. "It's time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.’’
In 2004 President Bush tightened the restrictions on traveling and remittances to the regime. "[A] total of $300 per quarter may be sent to nationals of Cuba who are members of the remitter’s immediate family (spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling)" says a current CRS Report for Congress explaining the new provisions.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain supports the embargo and the tight restrictions. In a political ad aimed at the Cuban community, Roberto Martin Perez – a Cuban political prisoner for 28 years – outlined McCain’s position on the regime. "Rather than resume relations with Raul Castro, John McCain wants first and foremost for all political prisoners to be released," said Perez in the Spanish ad.
I would suggest strongly that any of you who are doing work on the ground in Florida hammer this home - and stress this to the Obama campaign.
There are real reasons why Hispanics/Latinos are supporting Barack: his support for the Dream Act, real immigration reform, support of bi-lingual education, and his compassion for those divided from family and their roots.
I hope this was a useful window into what McCain is saying to Hispanics.
Obamanos! Let's make sure we GOTV the Latino vote.