McCain distorts Obama's record on immigration
[Cross-posted at the Sanctuary.]
Given that the mainstream press is picking up on McCain's pattern of misrepresentations and false assertions in this election campaign, will they notice this one?
McCain is now claiming that comprehensive reform died in the Senate last year because Obama killed it. Even the restrictionist-leaning Washington Times (which published a series of articles linking recent immigrants to the spread of disease) found this claim to be a bridge too far.
McCain is trying to attract the Latino vote that he needs to win in several key states. He must be hoping that the English-language press ignores the falsehoods found in this Spanish-language ad. But by opening discussion on a topic on which he is particularly vulnerable to charges of flip-floppery, he has inspired unlikely bedfellows like the WaTimes and America's Voice, one of the best-funded organizations pushing for comprehensive reform, which links to the WaTimes story on its front page.
And it looks like the mainstream blogosphere, from which the mainstream press takes many of its cues, may not let this one slip by unnoticed--I saw this story originally on TalkingPointsMemo, linking to a McClatchy story pointing out that Obama and McCain voted on the same side in the key votes of the comprehensive reform battle in Congress. Now I see Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has picked it up.
America's Voice (via Greg Siskind) has an effective rebuttal of the McCain ad:
We are stunned. A Spanish-language ad approved by Senator John McCain accuses Senator Obama and the Democrats of derailing immigration reform? He knows better. The whole political world knows better. Comprehensive immigration reform was blocked not by Democrats but by Republicans. A White House strategy designed to secure 25-30 Republican votes (of the 60 needed) ended up getting only 12 Republican votes. The reason? A number of Republican Senators were intimidated by the intense opposition to the bill fueled by anti-immigrant groups, hard line Republicans and right-wing talk radio and television.
Why such a bald-faced misrepresentation of history? Probably because Senator McCain knows that Latino voters - especially Latino immigrant voters - could prove to be decisive in this year's election. He knows - perhaps more than most in his party - that comprehensive immigration reform is a defining issue and a driving factor for many of these new voters. He knows that they are rejecting his candidacy, despite his heroic efforts in the past on behalf of immigration reform, because he has an "R" next to his name. So what better way to reverse this trend than to strike early by running an ad so audacious in its distortions that it just might negatively define Senator Obama with enough Latino voters to win the coveted states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
We get the politics, but in our view this is dirty politics. Yes, George Bush won some 49% of Spanish-dominant Latino voters in 2004 (which accounts for his increase in overall Latino support from 35% in 2000 to 40% in 2004). Yes, the nativists' drumbeat coming from Republicans in recent years is driving these voters into the Democratic column in droves. Yes, Senator McCain is now drawing support from Latino voters in the low 20s, a level comparable to Bob Dole in 1996. Yes, if you are in the McCain campaign, something must be done to increase your level of support to the low 40s. But no, you don't get to re-write history and blame Democrats, who voted for the bill. No, The McCain campaign cannot hide the fact that he pandered to the Republican base following the demise of the Senate immigration bill by adopting a so-called "border security first" position - a position incompatible with comprehensive immigration reform - in order to remain viable in the primaries. The McCain campaign cannot paint Senator Obama as an opponent of comprehensive immigration reform when both he and Senator Obama fought for it and voted for it in both 2006 and 2007.
Finally, it is not lost on Latinos and immigrants that most of the anti-immigrant measures being implemented at the federal, state, and local level are championed by Republicans. Even the Bush Administration has now moved from supporting comprehensive immigration reform to a strategy of crack downs directed at Latino immigrants in their homes, workplaces, and communities. And as if there was any doubt, at the convention just last week in Minnesota, the Republican Party embraced a mass deportation approach that opposes citizenship for illegal immigrants - a key component of comprehensive immigration reform. This stands in stark contrast to this year's official party platform of the Democratic Party's embrace of comprehensive reform.
Immigrants and Latinos are intelligent. They know the difference between fact and fiction. This ad is more fiction than fact, and the McCain campaign should take this ad off the air.
If McCain believes he can pull one over on Latino voters while keeping the press in the dark about his efforts, he may have overestimated his personal appeal to the reporters he has cultivated so diligently over the past several years. And he may have underestimated his vulnerabilities with multiple demographics on the immigration issue.
Here is the English translation of the ad:
ANNCR: Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?
The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail.
No guest worker program.
No path to citizenship.
No secure borders.
Is that being on our side?
Obama and his Congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.
JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.
See the ad itself here.