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February 12th, 2010
10:30 AM ET

Why dissing Palin won't work for Dems

Navarrette says Palin has singular ability to push buttons on right and left.

Navarrette says Palin has singular ability to push buttons on right and left.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

There's (still) something about Sarah.

What is it about Sarah Palin - former mayor, governor, GOP vice-presidential candidate - that drives so many Americans, supporters and critics so far around the bend?

Love her or hate her, you can't ignore her. Palin won't let you. And neither will your curiosity. You want to know what she's going to do next. What does she want? Will she run or won't she? What's her angle? Is she going back into politics or she is content to build a platform for herself outside of politics?

This much is certain: Palin should be really grateful - for her critics, especially those in academia and the media.

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Filed under: Republicans • Ruben Navarrette Jr. • Sarah Palin
January 21st, 2010
10:12 AM ET

Obama team too busy spinning to listen

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

If the Obama White House was as good at listening to voters' concerns and adjusting their policy goals accordingly as they are at spinning Democratic losses in an attempt to contain the damage, they would probably have fewer losses to spin.

Martha Coakley's hopes of representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate weren't even cold before the administration's surrogates were saying how Coakley was a weak candidate, how the election was really about local issues with no bearing on the national political landscape, how this defeat was really part of national anti-incumbency tsunami and how this was most certainly not a referendum on either President Obama's policies in general or health care reform in particular.

Don't believe a word of it - although some of it does sound familiar.

We heard the same thing about weak candidates and elections turning on local issues last year when Republicans won gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. Just how many Democrats fit under the bus?

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January 8th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Why Democrats are jumping ship

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd announced Wednesday that he will not seek a sixth term in November.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd announced Wednesday that he will not seek a sixth term in November.

Ruben Navarrette, Jr.
Special to CNN

When exactly did the donkey become an endangered species?

Democrats had big victories in recent years, taking back control of both houses of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. And, in response to those defeats, Republicans seemed to be wandering in the wilderness. Unsure of whom to be, GOP strategists have been wasting time locked in a completely unconstructive debate over whether to do more outreach or get back to the basics of conservatism. (It's not as if you can't do both those things.)

Today, Republicans are still lost in the woods. But suddenly, things look even bleaker for Democrats, who seem as if they're headed off in a dozen different directions.

Polls show a detectable amount of angst among many Americans over the cost of health care reform, government bailouts and other massive expenditures. There is a sense in many parts of the country that President Obama and Congressional Democrats are trying to do too much too fast and running up too high a bill in the process.

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Filed under: Democrats • Raw Politics • Ruben Navarrette Jr.
January 1st, 2010
01:49 PM ET

Tackle immigration reform in 2010

President Obama addresses a Latino Town Hall meeting while campaigning in 2008.

President Obama addresses a Latino Town Hall meeting while campaigning in 2008.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

It's time again for New Year's resolutions, especially if Congress and the White House really plan to reopen the explosive immigration debate in 2010. Whether or not they do depends on which part of the political carnival you're looking at.

This week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Obama administration is discreetly laying the groundwork to tackle immigration reform early next year.

According to the article, senior White House aides have privately assured Latino immigration activists that President Obama will throw his support behind legislation in Congress to provide a path to earned legalization for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States.

But last week, the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has been offering some private assurances of her own. Pelosi, the article says, has told fellow Democrats not to worry about having to address immigration reform until the Senate acts first.

By passing the buck to "the world's greatest deliberative body," Pelosi is probably hoping that deliberation will become dithering and delay. Then the House can duck the volatile issue altogether. It's the politics of self-preservation. Concerned that voters would react negatively to any talk of legalizing millions of illegal immigrants, Pelosi is obviously trying to preserve her job by protecting vulnerable Democrats.

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October 30th, 2009
10:28 AM ET

Take talk of food racism with grain of salt

ESPN broadcaster Bob Griese has been suspended for one week for a comment he made about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

ESPN broadcaster Bob Griese has been suspended for one week for a comment he made about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board, a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to CNN.com.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

This week, I was on a talk radio show when the host - a white male conservative (what are the odds?) - asked me if Americans are so sensitive that we now have to worry about "food racism."

When I first heard the phrase, I thought he was talking about the time that Hillary Clinton, during the Democratic primary, went looking for Latino votes in a Mexican restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trying to explain to her mostly Mexican-American audience that Americans' concerns are intertwined, Clinton wound up showing everyone that her knowledge of Latino issues is a side order short of a combination plate when she said condescendingly:

"We treat these problems as if one is guacamole and one is chips, when ... they both go together."

Gulp! I remember thinking at the time: "Ay gracias, Señora Clinton. I have difficulty with challenging political issues, but now you're speaking my language. Come on, donkey!"

Instead, the radio host was talking about the latest tempest - a taco in a teapot. One of the most recent skirmishes in the culture wars is about a Latino race car driver and a TV broadcaster who spun out and hit the wall after telling a lame joke that some are calling racist.

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October 22nd, 2009
11:26 AM ET

Latinos are assimilating in the USA

O'Brien and CNN's Rose Arce, left, with Latina actor Lupe Ontiveros, center, in Los Angeles, California.

O'Brien and CNN's Rose Arce, left, with Latina actor Lupe Ontiveros, center, in Los Angeles, California.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
CNN

Have you ever seen 47 million people hold their breath and hope for the best?

Take it from this Latino in America, when many of my compadres heard that CNN was putting together a documentary on being "Latino in America," that's pretty much what happened.

For those of us in the Latino community who worry that those of us in the media are missing the best and most nuanced stories about America's largest minority because we're too busy harping on stereotypes and accentuating the negative - "I'll take an order of high school dropouts, with a side of gangbangers and mix in some gardeners and housekeepers" - there was a concern that CNN would blow the assignment.

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October 16th, 2009
10:48 AM ET

Latinos are assimilating in the USA

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
CNN

Have you ever seen 47 million people hold their breath and hope for the best?

Take it from this Latino in America, when many of my compadres heard that CNN was putting together a documentary on being "Latino in America," that's pretty much what happened.

For those of us in the Latino community who worry that those of us in the media are missing the best and most nuanced stories about America's largest minority because we're too busy harping on stereotypes and accentuating the negative - "I'll take an order of high school dropouts, with a side of gangbangers and mix in some gardeners and housekeepers" - there was a concern that CNN would blow the assignment.

At least the cable network had the courage to take it on. Many of its competitors - ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. - still broadcast in black-and-white and haven't grasped the absurdity of producing Sunday morning talk shows where journalists and pundits gather for roundtable discussions that touch on Latino issues without a single Latino at the table.

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Filed under: Hispanic • Ruben Navarrette Jr.
September 25th, 2009
10:56 AM ET

Obama drops ball on immigration

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
CNN

President Obama has placed the immigration reform community at the back of the bus.

This same president who insists the country can't wait to fix what he calls a broken health care system tells reformers to wait for him to get around to fixing what they consider to be an equally broken immigration system.

The same president who tried to juggle a half dozen major policy initiatives in his first few months in office now seems unsure of his ability to - as he told Univision's Jorge Ramos in an interview last weekend - "solve every problem at once."

And the same president who seems to understand that the longer he waits to accomplish health care reform, the more difficult it will be to get, doesn't seem to understand the same is true with immigration reform.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Immigration • Ruben Navarrette Jr.
September 4th, 2009
11:04 AM ET

Get real about Afghanistan

A car burns after the suicide blast outside NATO's Afghanistan headquarters last month.

A car burns after the suicide blast outside NATO's Afghanistan headquarters last month.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

As someone who often takes a conservative stance on issues, I once again find myself in the curious position of defending President Obama to disillusioned critics within his own liberal base. And once again, I'm glad to do it.

This time, it's Afghanistan. In one of the most complicated corners of the world, Obama - and his military commanders - are pursuing a troop build-up that has those on the anti-war left shaking their heads. Since taking office, Obama has sent an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan. And more could be on the way.

In a recently leaked report to the White House, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, called the situation "serious" but insisted that "success is achievable."

McChrystal didn't specifically ask for more troops. But that request is expected soon. Senior Pentagon officials are expected to ask for as many as 45,000 additional American troops this month. Currently, there are about 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Ruben Navarrette Jr.
July 15th, 2009
09:35 AM ET

Latino in the Ivy League

At Princeton, Sotomayor co-founded the student group Accion Puertorriquena and spoke out about Latino issues.

At Princeton, Sotomayor co-founded the student group Accion Puertorriquena and spoke out about Latino issues.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

Sixteen years ago, after I wrote a memoir about my experience as a Latino in the Ivy League, I got a call from a retired Jewish obstetrician who saw his reflection in my words.

A book about being a Chicano at Harvard in the 1980s had stirred memories of being one of the few Jewish students at the University of Southern California in the 1930s.

Now, I feel like calling Sonia Sotomayor, although I realize that her schedule is crowded this week in light of the Senate confirmation hearings for the nominee to the Supreme Court.

I'd like Sotomayor to know that, even though she arrived at Princeton University in 1972 (the year I started kindergarten), I have a good idea what she went through in college - and, later, at Yale Law School - because many Latinos who later traveled that road experienced the same thing.

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