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Commentary: McCain's Latino ad hits target, Obama's misses

  • Story Highlights
  • Ruben Navarrette: New front in campaign is Spanish-language ad war
  • McCain ad is on target in saying Dems blocked immigration reform, he says
  • Navarrette: Obama ad is off base in claiming McCain agreed with Limbaugh
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By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a nationally syndicated columnist. Read his column here

Ruben Navarrette Jr. says Obama's Spanish language ad wrongly ties McCain to Rush Limbaugh.

SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- The new offensive in the presidential election is a Spanish-language air war in which each party is trying to convince Latino voters that the other is no amigo to the nation's largest minority and that it did them wrong during the immigration debacle in Congress.

It started last week when the McCain-Palin campaign launched a Spanish ad that, translated, says: "[Barack] Obama and his congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they? The press reports their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead."

This week, the Obama-Biden campaign struck back with Spanish radio and TV ads in the heavily-Latino battleground states of Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. Translated, the TV ad says: "They want us to forget the insults we've put up with, the intolerance. They made us feel marginalized in a country we love so much. John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that lies just to get our vote, and another, even worse, that continues the failed policies of George Bush that put special interests ahead of working families."

Stop the tape! The spots are hard-hitting, but only one hits the target. The McCain-Palin ad is accurate. But the Obama-Biden ad is riddled with problems.

For starters, it diverts attention away from Congress by trying to tie John McCain to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, whose picture appears on-screen and who stands accused of referring to "stupid and unskilled Mexicans" and telling immigrants, "You shut your mouth or you get out."

Limbaugh said this week on his radio show that, with the first comment, he was defending the North American Free Trade Agreement and warning against the idea of rewarding "stupid people" with "no skills" in this country -- that is, Americans -- by keeping their jobs in the United States. He suggested letting "stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."

With regard to the second comment, Limbaugh said he was simply parroting the philosophy behind Mexican immigration laws, which are notoriously harsh on migrants from Central and South America.

Limbaugh promised listeners that, on Monday's show, he is going to air Spanish translations of the offending remarks to try to set the record straight and clear the air with Latinos.

I'll be listening. But I don't suppose you could say the same for the folks who created the Obama-Biden ad. It is obvious they don't speak "dittohead." They have probably never listened to Limbaugh or any conservative talkers.

Those of us who do know McCain and his bunch aren't exactly "Republican friends." In fact, they're more like enemies. During the Republican primary, right-wing talk show hosts worked overtime to defeat McCain, preferring the more conservative if less electable alternatives Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee.

As for the claim that Republicans have dos caras (two faces), welcome to politics. On the immigration issue, if they pay attention, Latinos will find plenty of that from Democrats. That party had to balance a courtship of Latino voters, who wanted immigration reform, with the edicts of organized labor, which did not. Labor won. That's the whole point of the McCain-Palin ad.

Finally, as for feeling marginalized in a country you love, I have no doubt that many Latino immigrants do love this country, and they contribute enormously to it. Yet others treat it like an ATM, flout its laws, have no interest in becoming legal or a citizen, and -- when they take to the streets -- see no irony in demanding rights from one country while waving the flag of another. Guess what? Such things have a way of making you feel marginalized.

Here's the shame of it: Both political parties have forgotten how to speak to Latino voters. Instead of explaining how their policies will improve people's lives, they try to scare the life out of them. That's unacceptable -- in any language.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About ImmigrationJohn McCainBarack Obama

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