Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has launched a new Spanish-language TV ad that seeks to paint Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as anti-immigrant, even tying the Republican to his longtime conservative talk-radio nemesis Rush Limbaugh.
As first reported by the Washington Post, Obama's ad features a narrator saying: "They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with…the intolerance…they made us feel marginalized in this country we love so much."
The screen then shows these two quotes from Limbaugh:
“…stupid and unskilled Mexicans”—Rush Limbaugh
"You shut your mouth or you get out!”—Rush Limbaugh
The narrator then says, “John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote…and another, even worse, that continues the policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families. John McCain…more of the same old Republican tricks.”
There are some real factual problems with this ad, which is titled “Dos Caras,” or two faces.
First of all, tying Sen. McCain – especially on the issue of immigration reform – to Limbaugh is unfair.
Limbaugh opposed McCain on that issue. Vociferously. And in a larger sense, it’s unfair to link McCain to Limbaugh on a host of issues since Limbaugh, as any even occasional listener of his knows, doesn’t particularly care for McCain.
Second, the quotes of Limbaugh’s are out of context.
Railing against NAFTA in 1993, Limbaugh said, "If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south. Skilled workers, educated people are going to do fine 'cause those are the kinds of jobs NAFTA is going to create. If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do -- let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."
Not one of his most eloquent moments, to be sure, but his larger point was that NAFTA would mean that unskilled stupid Mexicans would be doing the jobs of unskilled stupid Americans.
I’m not going to defend how he said it, but to act as if this was just a moment of Limbaugh slurring Mexicans is not accurate. Though again, certainly if people were offended I could understand why.
The second quote is totally unfair. In 2006, Limbaugh was mocking Mexican law, and he wrote:
“Everybody's making immigration proposals these days. Let me add mine to the mix. Call it The Limbaugh Laws:
“First: If you immigrate to our country, you have to speak the native language. You have to be a professional or an investor; no unskilled workers allowed. Also, there will be no special bilingual programs in the schools with the Limbaugh Laws. No special ballots for elections. No government business will be conducted in your language. Foreigners will not have the right to vote or hold political office.
“If you're in our country, you cannot be a burden to taxpayers. You are not entitled to welfare, food stamps, or other government goodies. You can come if you invest here: an amount equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage. If not, stay home. But if you want to buy land, it'll be restricted. No waterfront, for instance. As a foreigner, you must relinquish individual rights to the property.
“And another thing: You don't have the right to protest. You're allowed no demonstrations, no foreign flag waving, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our President or his policies. You're a foreigner: shut your mouth or get out! And if you come here illegally, you're going to jail.
“You think the Limbaugh Laws are harsh? Well, every one of the laws I just mentioned are actual laws of Mexico today! That' how the Mexican government handles immigrants to their country. Yet Mexicans come here illegally and protest in our streets!
“How do you say ‘double standard’ in Spanish? How about: ‘No mas!’”
But even if one is uninclined to see Limbaugh's quotes as having been taken unfairly out of context, linking them to McCain makes as much sense as running a quote from Bill Maher and linking it to Obama.
Asked for backup as to how Obama could link McCain to Limbaugh, the campaign provided this interview with McCain refusing to condemn the Minutemen from from the Kansas City Star:
Q: ‘Are they a good thing? The Civil Defense Corps, do you think -- do they help in the immigration fight, or not?’
A: ‘I think they're citizens who are entitled to being engaged in the process. They're obviously very concerned about immigration.’
Q: ‘Are they helpful?’
A: ‘I think that's up to others to judge. I don't agree with them, but they certainly are exercising their legal rights as citizens.’
Asked about the “lies” they’re accusing McCain of telling, the Obama campaign provided evidence that McCain in July 2008 told La Raza that he would have voted for the DREAM act, a bill that provides scholarships for the children of illegal immigrants, even thought he earlier in the campaign season said he would have voted against the bill.
Let’s delver further into this.
In the November 2007, Myrtle Beach Sun-News, McCain said of the DREAM Act, which he had cosponsored in the past, "I think it has certain virtues associated with it. And I think other things have virtues associated with it. But the message is they want the borders secured first."
The newspaper noted that McCain said he’d vote against a temporary worker program, even though he supports the idea. "I will vote against anything until we secure the borders," he said. "There is no way we're going to enact piecemeal immigration reform."
Before La Raza, McCain was asked by a young Latina if he’d support the DREAM Act, and he said, “Yes. Yes.”
The full exchange, however, goes like this:
QUESTIONER: Hi. I’m a part of One Dream 2009 and I am one of the 6 million who either have an undocumented parent or is undocumented and I wanted to know if you would support humanity all around the world and support our Dream Act that we are trying to pass.
MCCAIN: Yes. Yes. Thank you. But I will also enforce the existing laws of a country. And a nation’s first requirement is the nation’s security, and that’s why we have to have our borders secured. But, we can have a way and a process of people obtaining citizenship in this country. And, we cannot penalize people who come here legally and people who wait legally. And so, that’s a fundamental principle on which we have to operate. Thank you.
The Obama campaign also provided a number of seemingly conflicting comments McCain has made about offering greater funding for education programs in the No Child Left Behind act -- telling the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in June that he “would fully fund those programs that have never been fully funded,” while not suggesting any greater funding for the bill when he’s talked about education in front of whiter audiences.
That ignores the fact that McCain has suggested reallocating the way the $23 billion for NCLB is spent.
McCain has changed his rhetoric and his emphasis when discussing immigration after almost losing the GOP presidential nomination because of it.
He now says the borders must be secured before anything else happens. And in that, he’s opened himself up to charges of flip-flopping, though the Obama campaign is quoting him selectively and unfairly to make their points.
The greater implication the ad makes, however, is that McCain is no friend to Latinos at all, beyond issues of funding the DREAM act or how NCLB money is distributed. By linking McCain to Limbaugh’s quotes, twisting Limbaugh’s quotes, and tying McCain to more extremist anti-immigration voices, the Obama campaign has crossed a line into misleading the viewers of its new TV ad. In Spanish, the word is erróneo.