national papers pick up on contradictions of McCain immigration ad


Update: I missed this excellent NYTimes editorial on the McCain ad from yesterday, more below. (end update)

Both the Washington Post and the NYTimes picked up the story of McCain's Spanish-language ad directed to key Western swing states with large Latin@ populations in which the McCain campaign accuses Obama of sabotaging comprehensive immigration reform.  While both articles introduced useful information about the story, the Post's discussion was ultimately more informative. 

Jim Rutenberg of the NYTimes analyzes the background of the ad in some detail:

The bill in question, which died in 2007, would have overhauled the nation's immigration rules by creating a temporary worker program, a "pathway to citizenship" for illegal workers already here and provisions to tighten border security. Members of both parties took the blame for introducing amendments that ultimately killed the carefully developed compromise based upon an initial bill that Mr. McCain had helped draft. Before its fate was sealed, President Bush, who was pushing hard for its passage, directed much of his rhetoric against Republican opponents who dismissed it as "amnesty."

Mr. Obama did support several Democratic provisions that were among those ultimately blamed for undermining it. He introduced an (ultimately losing) amendment curtailing a proposal to award green cards based on a point system that valued education and job skills more than mere family ties. And he joined with most of the Senate Democrats to support an amendment supported by labor groups and widely viewed as harming the bill by limiting the guest worker program at its core.

One problem with this analysis which I've not really seen raised yet is that the guest worker program was criticized by migrant advocates for introducing a class of indentured servants open to exploitation.  Proponents of the current family-based system didn't want to see families here unable to petition for family members under the proposed point system.  The point system also was criticized for failing to recognize the economic contributions of low-income immigrants. 

My point here is that Obama's actions were geared towards making the bill more migrant friendly.  For McCain to now insinuate that Obama torpedoed the bill out of some shadowy desire to stab migrants in the back is supremely dishonest.  

Here are the Times' conclusions about the ad.

Mr. McCain was one of the more outspoken early voices for the liberalization of the immigration system, a fact he played down through the primary season that should now play well with Hispanic audiences. And any voters who carefully followed the debate would know that Mr. Obama was generally supportive of the legislation and that Republicans took much of the blame for its failure. Mr. McCain trails among traditionally Democratic-leaning Hispanic voters and his chances for victory will increase greatly if he can draw more of them into his column. But the spot could prove helpful to Mr. McCain among less informed, undecided Spanish-speaking voters looking for reasons to vote Republican this year.

This is weak sauce.  Relying the tiny subset of "voters who carefully followed the debate" enough to read between the lines here and discern that McCain is being dishonest is exactly the kind of abdication of actual reporting for which the press has come in for such heavy criticism in recent years. Reporting that "the spot could prove helpful to Mr. McCain among less informed, undecided Spanish-speaking voters looking for reasons to vote Republican this year" indicates that this reporter, at least, has given up on either informing such voters that they are being deceived or on informing English-language voters that the con is on with this ad. 

On the WaPo campaign blog yesterday, Ed O'Keefe provided a more informative exposition of the issue, focusing on not just last year's CIR legislation, which both candidates are on the record as supporting, but the highly relevant issue of where the candidates stand now on immigration reform:

Today, Obama says he backs an approach that "protects our security, bolsters our economy, and preserves America's tradition as a nation of immigrants who are welcomed as long as they work hard and play by the rules" -- and he recently told a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gathering, "I think it's time for a president who won't walk away from comprehensive immigration reform when it becomes politically unpopular."

Obama's supporters had harsh words for the McCain spot. "To say that Barack Obama and Senate Democrats blocked the bill that Republicans filibustered is hypocritical and not true. John McCain has lost his credibility when it comes to the immigration issue," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement released by the Obama campaign Friday.

"The man who said he would vote against his own immigration bill during the Republican presidential debates, who was unwilling to stand up to his own party when they approved an anti-immigrant platform, cannot attack Democrats on immigration in Spanish, while pandering to the extreme right Tancredo wing of the Republican Party in English."
Barack Obama recently reiterated his support for comprehensive reform and the DREAM Act:

I've walked alongside the Hispanic community in Chicago, I've stood with you at immigration rallies, and I will fight for you in the White House. And now is the time for us to create good-paying jobs, reduce the student dropout rate, and finally enact the DREAM Act. It's time to finally pass comprehensive immigration reform, provide 15 million uninsured Latinos with affordable, high-quality health care, and end the war in Iraq.
The question now is, after so many flip-flops on the issue, where does McCain stand on immigration?  Nobody seems to know, and the McCain campaign hopes to keep it that way until November 5.

Update: The NYTimes editorial board speaks in no uncertain terms:

What's Spanish for 'Lies'?

Senator John McCain's truth-deficient campaign hit another low last Friday with a fraudulent new ad, this time about immigration.

. . .

Last year's Senate immigration bill was a big, fat compromise that had a lot in it to please both sides in the debate. Among other things, it added tough layers of enforcement at the border and in the workplace, and included a (long and torturous) path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The bill was a right-of-center compromise. Back in the day, Mr. McCain -- who once drafted a comprehensive immigration bill with Senator Edward Kennedy -- would have led the charge for a bill like this. Back when he was still an independent thinker on immigration.

But by the time this bill came along, Mr. McCain was eager to win over the right-wing base of his party, which has never trusted him on immigration (or a number of other issues). Rather than continue to play the maverick, Mr. McCain largely absented himself from negotiations -- and slipped meekly back into the herd.

The bill that emerged from that process was a mess. Advocates of comprehensive reform held their noses and supported it, hoping it could be improved in conference. Republicans attacked it, egged on by talk-radio hosts waging an all-out assault on what they called an "amnesty bill."

Hundreds of amendments were proposed to kill it or improve it, depending on your point of view, and some were called "poison pills" by the "grand bargainers" who had assembled the unwieldy compromise.

So, here is what that misleading Spanish ad is referring to.

Mr. Obama supported an amendment from Senator Byron Dorgan, backed by unions, that would have phased out a guest-worker program after five years. The amendment passed, 49 to 48, but it was no poison pill.

"Not one member of Congress stood up and said, 'I'm voting against the bill because of that Dorgan amendment,'" said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an organization supporting comprehensive immigration reform. "It's preposterous. Not even close."

In the end, it wasn't that amendment or any others supported by Mr. Obama that caused the fragile coalition to fall apart. The bill was killed by Mr. McCain's party. Its supporters were hoping to attract 25 to 30 Republican votes, but they could only round up 12, in the wake of all of those right-wing attacks.

Mr. McCain once was a moderate on immigration -- and steadfast. Now he's slippery. Marching in step with the Lou Dobbs crowd, he talks of border security first and foremost. He says he would have voted against his own McCain-Kennedy bill. He leads a party whose convention platform pushes a hard restrictionist line.

But at the same time Mr. McCain panders to Latino immigrants, in Spanish, accusing Mr. Obama of not being on "our side" -- the pro-amnesty side.

Does this mean that Mr. McCain truly regrets the demise of the "path to citizenship"? That he really supports it, and will push for it harder than Mr. Obama will? Is he willing to stand up to his own party on that?

If he is, let's hear him say so -- in English, too.

To answer the Times' question: Mentiras!

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on September 16, 2008 11:11 AM.

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