July 8th, 2008
05:22 PM ET

McCain, Obama appeal to Latinos

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/08/art.mccainlulac.jpg]
Marisa Treviño
Publisher of Latina Lista

Part of the expectations of any niche group, that is lucky enough to snag a high-profile speaker, is that the speaker's remarks will be specifically tailored to the group and reveal, if not startling news, something to maintain a buzz after the applause dies down.

That certainly had to have been the esperanza (hope) today of those attending the 79th Annual League of United Latin American Citizens National Convention & Exposition (LULAC) in Washington, D.C. and who were sitting in the audience listening to the day's guest speakers — Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama.

Even though it is a presidential contest and both nominees are wary of alienating any small part of their supporter base by saying anything slightly deemed controversial, there was clearly one speech that didn't just speak directly regarding issues relevant to LULAC attendees but crossed the safety zone of election politics.

In all honesty, there were not high expectations that either candidate's appearance would provide earth-shattering news. Pundits have observed that policies pertinent to the Latino constituency are "fraught with political risk."

Yet between the two, Obama delivered more of what a Latino audience was waiting for: a personalized speech that, while regurgitating Wikipedia facts regarding well-known historical injustices committed against Latinos, it still was specific enough that the same speech couldn't be used for any other event for a non-Latino audience.

But the buzz that Obama's speech had that McCain's lacked was a promise Obama made: to make immigration reform his top priority in his first year in office.

It would be foolish to think that Latinos will be completely happy with the final outcome of any reform legislation but it was promised that it will be addressed. Now that he has committed himself to this promise, Obama's words will come back to haunt him if he doesn't fulfill them but, at least, he said them.

That goes a much longer way than delivering a generic speech about the economy, business tax rates, employment insurance and finally devoting one small paragraph towards the end of the speech to the issue (immigration reform) that impacts too many Latino communities/families in this nation, as Sen. McCain's speech did.

For McCain, Latino issues are too "sensitive" to fully endorse, especially on a public stage. For someone who ended his speech in front of the LULAC audience by citing his POW experience in the military, McCain isn't showing the kind of bravery that one would expect from someone who endured the humiliating hardships that he did at the hands of an enemy combatant.

One would think that as a former hostage he would refuse to be manipulated and succumb to toting the party line to appease a certain group — but it is an election.

That point was made crystal clear today when for the first time in this campaign, someone actually emailed me McCain's remarks to LULAC. After having written for months about being ignored by the McCain campaign, I thought I had finally gotten noticed.

My euphoria was short-lived when I received an email from a fellow journalist who asked if I had received the notice about a conference call McCain's campaign was conducting regarding Obama's LULAC appearance.

I had not. When I signed on (courtesy of my friend), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, (R-FL) was shredding Obama's Senate record when it came to the immigration issue. After he was done, the floor was opened for questions.

After a couple of questions regarding McCain's changed positions on the immigration issue and Diaz-Balart vigorously defending how McCain has not changed his position but is just refocusing an emphasis on a different part of the issue, the floor was closed to questions.

In total, 3 questions were allowed.

Evidently, to say immigration reform is a sensitive issue in the McCain campaign is an understatement — but at least that says more than saying nothing at all.

Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (21 Responses)

    Why is it that we keep on ignoring a vital issue in this election?

    What about the 1.5 million future Americans being killed annually by abortion? This war against the preborn has casualties numbering up to 50 million since 1973 and has the greatest number of casualties than all the wars in the history of mankind combined!

    I am voting for the man who stands for what is right instead of what is merely popular. Say "NO!" to Obama!

    July 9, 2008 at 9:10 am |
  2. Michelle, Spring Valley,CA

    As a Mexican American , born in Mexico, who did not come here illegally (I was born a dual citizen), raised in Mexico, educated at a US University, I am part of the Latino vote, but bottom line is- issues are issues regardless of where you were born or raised if you're an American. I am paying off student loans just like anybody else, raising my famiy, working, and want a better country for my children. Immigration issues are important, but honestly education, economy, national security... all are up there too. Latino voters can't be put into a mold. And I honestly don't care what language candidates speak, it's what they say that's important.

    July 9, 2008 at 8:05 am |
  3. Trasa, Tx

    Richard, you did bring up something I hadn't to much thought about and that is what about single people? I mean, I do own a home and pay taxes, and even though I don't have children I pay a decent amount in taxes. I feel I'm being punished just because it's just me, but I have to survive in this world just like everybody else. Maybe we should get married Richard, that should solve our problem! Just for tax purposes and any other benefits of being a family that we can get.

    Oh, I do agree about other languages should be required at a young age to teach American children. Other countries do and I think it's sad that we don't. I'm not saying choose one particular, but maybe you could at least stick to the one that is most out there and that is Spanish. But I'm not saying other languages shouldn't be taught, it's optional. But I do feel we all should at least have a 2nd language under our belt to make a competitve in the global market. I feel the world has to cater to us, just because majority speaks English.

    July 9, 2008 at 5:48 am |
  4. Adam

    Well MTV told me that Obama is the best, so it must be true! It is so sad that our country is coming to this. I am not a McCain fan. I just want the truth. The truth is that Obama has changed his postion. He says it's about a new face, change. All I see is the same old political junk. Oh and CNN why don't you be unbiased for a change. Give BOTH of these men equal air time, oh wait you only want one to win.

    July 9, 2008 at 5:48 am |
  5. sandipuma

    Also i will cross over and vote for John Mccain if Mr. flip flop Obama was to get in.

    July 9, 2008 at 5:24 am |
  6. Jay

    If you move to a country, you generally will have to learn the language... if you take over a country, they learn your language... I have to agree with George. Obama is just giving lip service... why won't he go in a debate against Mccain? Plus, Obama is starting the Kerry Flip Flop... he won't be able to stand by his word, or his man, Michelle... I just wish the American people could take a minute and see an unbiased opinion of the republican canidate(looking at your CNN), and they would see a true American that can bring around job stability in this country, will stop the illegals from coming in illegally, can actually make a difference in this world, and is respected by other senators through his old and new policies...

    July 9, 2008 at 12:20 am |
  7. Kerwin Rounds

    What we all fail to realize is that in our society we live by labels ( Black, White, Latino, Indian – Americans and etc. Until we start to look at each other as Americans this country will continue to be a side show to the rest of the world. Our history is to blame for what we go through now , but we can change all of that and support the one true change in the United States of America, having a biracial president!!! I Support Mr. Obama. This nation for the last 8 years has been ran to the ground by President Bush would you let another Republican continue his path? All Politicians lie Bush did it for 8 years and look at America. Mr. Obama has flip-flop on issues but what politician has stuck to every promise they made? None, So please Black, White, Latino, and etc, please look at your options we are all Americans lets act like it!!!!!!!! If Mr. Obama don't get you vote we will continue to move backwards why the world moves forward leaving us behind.

    July 9, 2008 at 12:11 am |
  8. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Larry there are also Chinese and Korean newspapers and television programs – should the candidates learn Mandarin and Korean too – oh wait a minute – there aren't enough of them to swing a vote.

    I'm just over this political system. We're all Americans and to specifically pander to a segment of society is wrong! I'll hold my vote this year since I'm not Latino.

    July 8, 2008 at 9:59 pm |
  9. George Samuel

    Obama is haveing a short sight of all the most importants issues in thsi campaign thats why he is always changing his position at every minute you call on him. He critisises for the sake of been an opostion with any seroius action to backing his promises. Every time he keep inventing ideas he can not leave up to at the long run. Obama will be puting Demecrats at the risk of loosing because of his short view on issues that broght him so at this postion. Mccain remains the Man among two women( Obama and Clinton)

    July 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  10. Rodney

    The Presidential Candidates should be appealing ONLY to legal/tax-paying/registered voters ..... Nobody else ..... Oh Yeah ..... Speaking English is a major plus ..... After all ..... This is America.

    July 8, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  11. Annie Kate

    It seems like to me that Obama has a really big first year planned. I truly wonder if any president can accomplish all that has been promised the first year of their presidency – Congress has to cooperate and they are as slow as turtles.

    I'm disappointed that the immigration issue is getting boiled down to racism. I personally don't care how many come as long as they come legally, pay their taxes, and don't swamp our struggling social programs that they at the moment don't support with taxes. Laws are made for a reason; if you don't obey them there are consequences. Supporting our legal citizens is hard; we shouldn't have to support illegals as well.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 8, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  12. Richard

    All candidates talk about what they will do for the family. I want to know the following. What are you going to do for the millions of voters who are single, homeowners, working, and tying to make their way in this life? These are the highest taxed individuals on the planet and we get nothing for it. We are pushed aside as if our votes do not count. Single people have the same needs as everyone else. Yet, there is never a discussion on how all of the changes to help people who should know better than to have more children than they can afford (I know, I know...but, it had to be said), place a burden on the rest of us. Single workers support this burden! There is no one to help us when we are unemployed, sick, and unable to pay our mortgage? No one! How about having the candidates answer that question.

    July 8, 2008 at 7:25 pm |
  13. Sara tabora

    Everyone else learns our language. Americans have this sense of entitlement. English is the aviation language, the buisness language. It is even in all the airports. We will never be "stuck" somewhere without being able to communicate.

    It angers me that these people are so disposable till it comes to votes.

    I think future generations will reveal these racist attitudes for what they are. "Get out of our country if you are illegal!" Its not just that. There are prejudice undertones. It is not just their status that bothers people. If that was the case than the people saying they should leave better never have done anything illegal ever, cause that would make them unentitled to citizenship right? I say its racism.

    July 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm |
  14. Richard

    Back on the issue of who votes for whom. Do we have to know what ethnic groups vote for what candidate? If so, why do we need to know what ethnicity of the voter? I thought we were getting away from segregation. Just food for thought! If we allow consistently allow the media to segregate ethnic groups then we will always be behind the curve. We need to drop it and now is a good time to do it. Instead of asking if, they appeal to Hispanics/Latinos/Mexican-Americans. Ask if they appeal to Americans in general. I never reply to ethnic questions because it cheapens the response. So, let us stop it NOW!

    July 8, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  15. Richard

    You are so right about both candidates not speaking Spanish. This is a trap that all of Americans have fallen into overtime. Speaking another language should be mandatory in the education system. We should be ahead of the world and not behind it. You can ask anyone from another country about the laws of this government and they will know them. We that live and grow up here do not know because it is not a part of our education courses and that is sad. Our candidates for the office of President should be talking about making those changes and requiring math, science, music, art, and phys ed required before graduating from high school. However, there is one very important element to education. It does not begin or end with the schools. It is at HOME! Parents can teach their children all of the wrong things to do in life and not the right ones. It is very easy to take the lower road and blame someone else. Look in the mirror if you want to make a change. I bet you there are people that can sing Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" and have no idea what it really means. You think if we were more educated that we would elect smarter people in the highest office of the land? On the other hand, have we become so educated that we are stupid?

    July 8, 2008 at 7:02 pm |
  16. Larry

    @GF Sorry for inferring that Spanish is an 'official' language. I just thought it would be useful for presidential candidates to be able to converse in the language of the largest minority of the country. We have Spanish language television shows, newspapers and the Latin Grammys.

    July 8, 2008 at 7:01 pm |
  17. Barbara in Culver City, CA

    I don't think you can generalize about Latino voters. Mexican-Americans in California may not have the same concerns as Cuban-Americans in Florida. That being said, it's probably fair to say that the priorities of Latinos are similar to those of all other Americans: the economy, health care, the war in Iraq. Why must we hyphenate people anyway? Aren't we all just Americans?

    July 8, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  18. Maritza

    This candidate will say anything to get elected , all of his brain -washed voters that voted for him are headed for a very big disappointment, they size of ENRON, the selling , packaging of a big all words, no proof of action lie, always in politics one thing is certain , proof of accomplishment, experience, judgement, and voting record give a prediction in part of outcome, check all of these ,all four and you come up sadly, realistically very short , voters must be very practicle and concider the facts , all of a sudden he has changed position on key issues, Iraq is an example, "refine" strategy" took that one back , duh" I will concider what the commanders on the ground have to say" , common people be smart, don't buy a lie.


    July 8, 2008 at 6:43 pm |
  19. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Larry last I checked we live in America where English is the primary and only language. Anyone who comes to this country should learn English. We shouldn't have to learn their language to speak to them. If that was the case, how many languages would an individual have to learn?

    July 8, 2008 at 6:42 pm |
  20. Larry

    Since Hispanics now make up the largest minority group I am surprised that neither of the candidates, as far as I know, are fluent in Spanish.

    July 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  21. Cindy

    What's the big deal? Both Obama and McCain want to reform the whole immigration thing. So Obama has no leg up there! He is just better at giving speeches but not so much in actually carrying out what he says.


    July 8, 2008 at 5:29 pm |