Obama and Boehner face hard questioning from Univision’s Jorge Ramos

LatinaLista — One of the pitfalls of Spanish-language networks is that the great US-based programming being done on these networks often gets overlooked by the mainstream media simply because of the language differences.
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Is Spanish media asking harder questions than mainstream media?
That was noted in yesterday’s Latina Lista post where we found that President Obama actually addressed the reason why he used the term “illegal immigrant” in his speech on healthcare to the joint session of Congress in a Sunday interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos on his show Al Punto.
In looking over Ramos’ interview, it quickly becomes clear that Ramos’ line of questioning is harder and more insistent than any mainstream media reporter. For that reason, the President’s interview is one that needs to be seen in its full context.
When I requested the transcript of the President’s interview, Univision officials also supplied me with another transcript of an interview that I had not known about — Sen. John Boehner.
Both interviews contain the expected standard answers but there were some surprises too that underscored the fact that these politicians knew that when it comes to the Latino community hard questions will always be asked and there will be no satisfaction given to easy answers.
Both interviews were supplied by Univision’s Al Punto.
UNIVISION’S AL PUNTO CON JORGE RAMOS
TRANSCRIPT:
INTERVIEW WITH HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER, 20, 2009

Jorge Ramos
Mr. Leader, thank you so much for talking to us. I really appreciate it.
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Oh, I’m glad to be here. Thank you.
Jorge Ramos
Let me start by asking you about, obviously, healthcare. And, do you think that Democrats have enough votes right now to pass healthcare reform without Republicans.
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Uh, no they do not. It’s pretty clear that the latest polling I’ve seen shows that 55% of the American people are opposed to the President’s plan. And when the American people speak up, their government here in Washington listens. I don’t believe there are sufficient votes to pass…
Jorge Ramos
In either house?


House Minority Leader John Boehner
…in either house, to pass this government takeover of healthcare. You know, there are problems in our current healthcare system and we can improve our current system. We can make it more affordable. We can cover those that don’t have good access to high quality health insurance, but I don’t think we need to, to throw the current system out the window and replace it with this big, government run program.
Jorge Ramos
You’re saying a government takeover. Is the real struggle the role of government in our society? I mean, is that at the center of these debates?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
It is at the center of the debate. It’s always at the center of debate here in Washington, and has been for, you know, two hundred and twenty years. And it’s about how big should government get in Washington? How much control should government have as opposed to how much freedom we want to allow the American people to have?
Jorge Ramos
But, but what about if they take out the public option, the so-called public option, would that be?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
That would be a big step in the right direction, but why don’t we take out the five hundred billion dollars for the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid? That’s another big step in the right direction. Or how about taking the mandate off employers that they have to provide health insurance? While it sounds good, there are a lot of employers who are going to have less employees as a result. And a lot of those employees who won’t be there are going to be minorities. I don’t think that’s fair.
Jorge Ramos
I have some specifics that I want to ask you about. Do you really believe that President Barack Obama is going to use federal funding for abortions?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Well, listen.
Jorge Ramos
You spoke about it last September the tenth.
House Minority Leader John Boehner
He says, “No”, but the house bill that they’ve been moving through the house explicitly allows for taxpayer funded abortions. And so, that’s not what the bill says.
Jorge Ramos
But what do you, I mean. You think that the intention of President Obama is to use the federal money for that?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
No, no. The President says he doesn’t want that, but that’s not what the bill says today.
Jorge Ramos
OK, so now I want to ask you about Congressman Joe Wilson. Do you think that his conduct was appropriate in Congress?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
No. Joe Wilson said that his behavior was inappropriate. And that’s why he called the President and apologized. And I’m grateful that the President accepted his apology.
Jorge Ramos
Now, do you think that the President was lying when he said that he was not going to include undocumented immigrants in his health care plan?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Again, the President says that, that undocumented immigrants should not have access to this program. But, that’s not what the bill says. The bill says otherwise. But frankly, I agree with the President.
Jorge Ramos
But even Mr. Baucus’ bill is saying right now that undocumented immigrants won’t be covered.
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Right, see the Baucus bill in the Senate makes it pretty clear. But that’s not what the House bill says today.
Jorge Ramos
How will you deal with twelve million undocumented immigrants who have no insurance? I mean, what would be your plan for them? What can they do?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Well, listen. The real answer here is that we need serious immigration reform. And this has been a very thorny issue for a long time. And I don’t think any one political party or the other can solve it by themselves. That’s why I’ve endorsed a group of members from both sides of the aisle sitting down and having a conversation. And these members have been having a conversation now for over a year and a half. And I’m hopeful that they will be able to resolve this, because the only way to resolve this is to do it in a bi-partisan way.
Jorge Ramos
And this solution, would you consider the legalization of twelve million undocumented immigrants? Is that part of the plan?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Well, I don’t…
Jorge Ramos
Your idea, what do you think?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Well, listen. A lot of those people are here and are, in fact, working. But we’re a nation of laws, and enforcing the law has to be the first step in this process. There is a way to allow them to continue to work in the United States for a temporary period of time. And if they want to become citizens, they need to do what everybody else in the world does, and that’s apply from their home countries.
Jorge Ramos
Mr. Leader, President Barack Obama, as you know, many Hispanics voted for President Barack Obama because he promised that during his first year in office, he would, he would pass an immigration bill. In his first year in office, is this possible?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
At this point I don’t see how that is possible short of a bipartisan agreement that members of both side of the isle can agree on.
Jorge Ramos
What has happened with the Republican party and Hispanics? Republicans got 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004 and then it went down to 31% in the last election. Why? What happened?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Well, you know, a lot of things influence elections. You know, the candidates have some bearing on this. Some were more attractive than others. The overall political environment impacts those numbers. But I believe that the Republican party is a great home for Hispanics. You know, we believe in family values. We believe in limited government. And I think that parents ought to have the right to send their kids to a good school. And to have poor parents have their kids locked in lousy schools and not be able to move them is wrong. And so more parental choice in education. These are the things that the Republican party believes in and I think it’s very much in sync with where the Hispanic community is.
Jorge Ramos
All the Senators that voted in the confirmation process against Judge Sotomayor were Republicans. As you know, Judge Sotomayor is considered among many Latinos, almost a hero. Do you think that Hispanic voters are going to remember that in the next election?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
They may. But listen, this was not about her ethnic background. It wasn’t about the fact that it was a female. It was the judicial philosophy that she’s employed on the bench. And so I understand their votes against her, but it had nothing to do with the fact that, that she was Hispanic or a female. If it had been a male, middle aged, you know, white male, it would have been the same vote given that type of judicial background that she’s had.
Jorge Ramos
And let me finish going back again with health care. Do you agree or what’s your reaction to what President Carter said, that part of the opposition to President Barack Obama has to do with the fact that he’s an African-American?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
I just reject that notion entirely. Listen, I said right after the Presidential Election, it was the defining moment for America to have elected an African-American as our President. Americans never believed that moment would ever happen and frankly, the rest of the world never thought would happen. So it really was a defining moment. And so this talk about the American people’s opposition is not about race, it’s about the policies that he’s advancing. When you look at trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, a stimulus bill was supposed to be about creating jobs and hasn’t. When you look at this cap and trade proposal to tax energy and gasoline and now we find out it’s going to cost $1,700 per home. Add all that together along with their effort to nationalize our healthcare system, the American people are saying “No, enough’s enough!” And that’s the basis of the opposition. And so, we’re in the middle of a very interesting political dynamic in America.
Jorge Ramos
And I have one more question about Acorn. As you know the Census Bureau has cut its ties with Acorn and the House just voted against cutting off funding for housing for Acorn. Is that enough? Do you think President Barack Obama should do more about it?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
I think that he should come out and endorse our efforts to cut off funding for this organization that really is corrupt. You know, when the seventy Acorn employees across the country in twelve states have now been convicted of voter fraud, they don’t deserve federal taxpayer funds. And I think the sooner we cut off this funding, the better off the American taxpayers are going to be.
Jorge Ramos
But you expect President Barack Obama to personally get involved in this?
House Minority Leader John Boehner
I do. I think he needs to come out and say, “we need to pass this bill and we need to pass it now.”
Jorge Ramos
Mr. Leader, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
House Minority Leader John Boehner
Thank you!
Jorge Ramos
Thank you.
UNIVISION’S AL PUNTO CON JORGE RAMOS
TRANSCRIPT:
INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER, 20, 2009

Jorge Ramos
Let’s start. I want to understand, first of all, why there is so much opposition to your healthcare reform? Is it the expanding role of the government or is it as Republicans told us that we are looking into trillion dollar deficits?
President Obama
Yeah. You know I think that.
Jorge Ramos
What is it?
President Obama
Well, part of it is, I think, that the opposition has made a decision. They are just not going to support anything, for political reasons. I think there are some legitimate concerns about the fact that this is a big deal. I mean, we’ve been talking for forty years about trying to change healthcare. And what I’ve said is that we can’t keep on doing what we’re doing right now. That people who don’t have health insurance, the numbers are growing. And that’s true especially in the Latino community. On the other hand, people who do have health insurance, it’s very insecure. So, I think that we can solve those two problems. Give people healthcare who need it, provide security to people who do have health care, and we can do it without adding to our deficit. And we can do it, and actually, over time drive costs down for everybody by making the system work better. But, having said all that, you know, people naturally are worried even though they know that what they get is not very good, they are still worried that, you know, any change might make them more insecure. And so my whole job is to try to insist and constantly explain to people that if you’ve got health insurance already, I’m not asking you to change it. But if you don’t have health insurance or you’re not satisfied with your health insurance, this is going to give you a better option and we can do it in a very cost effective way, because the healthcare system currently wastes so much money.
Jorge Ramos
But what I want to understand, Mr. President, is what’s really behind all the opposition? As you know, President Jimmy Carter said that part of the opposition against you has to do with the fact that you are African-American. Do you agree with him?
President Obama
You know, I think that it really has more to do with the fact that there are some people who think government can’t do anything. As I said, there’s some people who just cynically want to defeat me politically, but there’s nothing new about that.
Jorge Ramos
Well what about the racism…
President Obama
I think it’s much more an issue of people just thinking that government of any sort is bad. And that group is not new. They , you know, were mad at FDR when he started Social Security. They were mad at Lyndon Johnson when he started Medicare. And, you know, I think that the fact that this has become such a heated debate, is a sign that we’re really trying to change the system. That we’re not just tinkering around the edges. Now, I do hope that people can maintain civility in these conversations. And I’ve been concerned about how much anger and venom has been expressed. I think that we can disagree and still be polite, and still give other people the benefit of the doubt that they want what’s best for the United States.
Jorge Ramos
Now, being very pragmatic, I had the opportunity to talk to Minority Leader John Boehner, and he told us that Democrats right now don’t have the votes to pass any healthcare reform without Republicans.
President Obama
Well, you know…
Jorge Ramos
Is he right? Do you have the votes? That’s the question.
President Obama
Let me put it this way. You know, I’d love to get Republican votes, but I don’t count on them. And I’m confident that we’re gonna get healthcare passed.
Jorge Ramos
But do you, at this point, do you have the votes?
President Obama
I’m confident we’re gonna get healthcare passed.
Jorge Ramos
Those who favor a public option say that creating an insurance mandate without a public option is really rewarding the insurance companies that brought us into this mess in the first place. Do you agree? How do you respond to that?
President Obama
Well I think that the public option is an important part of keeping insurance companies in check by giving them competition, giving consumers more choice. If we’re going to have very explicit reforms that say, you can’t drop people because of pre-existing conditions, that you can’t charge people exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, that you can’t place lifetime limits so that suddenly people find themselves without care. And the public option is one element, but just one element of keeping those insurance companies in check.
Jorge Ramos
So at this point the public option is not dead.
President Obama
I absolutely do not believe that it’s dead. I think that it’s something that we can still include as part of a comprehensive reform effort.
Jorge Ramos
Do you believe that undocumented immigrants should be required to buy insurance? Basically, what I would like to know is, could you clarify if they will have access to private insurance in the exchange?
President Obama
Right now, the plan that we’ve put forward, I want to be absolutely clear, should not include undocumented workers, because I think that as is true with SCHIP, as is true with all our various social insurance programs, you’ve gotta be an American citizen, or at least a legal resident in terms of access for those programs. Now, as I’ve said before, and as I did with SCHIP, I do think that children of legal residents, for example, should have access to care. That’s good for all of us. And that’s a principal that I will continue to fight for.
Jorge Ramos
But if an undocumented immigrant wants to buy private insurance…
President Obama
If they want to buy private insurance, then that’s between them and their private insurer, but they can’t do it through the exchange because the exchange is going to be part of an overall plan including subsidies and I don’t think it’s fair for American taxpayers to be including those subsidies. Particularly when there’s not gonna be a lot of money to go around.
Jorge Ramos
Then, there are going to be millions of people who are not going to be covered. So if undocumented immigrants can’t get neither public or private insurance, then they’re going to keep on going to the emergency rooms of the hospitals, and this is too expensive. Isn’t that exactly what you wanted to avoid in the first place?
President Obama
Well look, the… Here’s what I’d like to deal with. I’d really like to solve our immigration problem, but I can’t solve every problem all at once. The immigration problem is one set of problems and a whole range of issues are raised through immigration. Healthcare is a problem that doesn’t just affect all Americans. It especially affects Hispanic Americans, who have the highest rate of uninsurance. Now I’m not talking about undocumented now.
Jorge Ramos
I have a specific problem and let me see how we can find a solution. There are four million children born in the United States who have at least one undocumented parent. What are they supposed to do?
President Obama
Well, if they are born in the United States, they are U.S. citizens. And we’re gonna make sure…
Jorge Ramos
Yes, but one of their parents…
President Obama
We’re gonna make sure that those children are covered, as we already have expanding coverage with respect to SCHIP. As I said, Jorge, we’re gonna have to solve the immigration problem. That’s a commitment that I have made.
Jorge Ramos
I’m interested to know what happened after Joe Wilson said you lied in Congress. Was that the moment in which you think undocumented immigrants got involved into these healthcare debates?
President Obama
No, no, no…
Jorge Ramos
What happened?
President Obama
Well, well… Keep in mind, first of all, I said that undocumented workers wouldn’t be covered before Joe Wilson shouted. So obviously, if there was any cause and effect, it was from what I said. It wasn’t me responding to him. But this is a position that I have said consistently during the campaign. There’s been no change in my approach.
Jorge Ramos
Now, in your speech to Congress you used the words “illegal immigrants.” However, and I remember very clearly, during the campaign you were very careful to use the words “undocumented immigrants”. Why the change? You said words matter. Now, why do you choose to use the language that is being used by…
President Obama
Well, keep in mind…
Jorge Ramos
…those who criticize immigrants.
President Obama
Well, keep in mind what I was addressing. I was addressing misinformation by the other side that was engaging in scare tactics. So I was essentially quoting them. I was saying, “for those of you who are saying that illegal immigrants are going to be covered under this plan,” I said that’s not true. Right? So I’m using their language because I was addressing the misinformation that they are providing. And I was speaking directly to an audience, the American people, who because of this misinformation, I think actually were very responding oftentimes in a negative way.
Jorge Ramos
OK, so. But what I wanted to ask you is about what Latino’s call, “la promesa de Obama – Obama’s promise.” On May 28th you told me, and I am quoting, “what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support.” And then I asked again, “in the first year?” And you said, “Yes, in the first year.” This is your promise and the question that many of them have is, are you going to keep your promise. Can you do it before January 20th?
President Obama
Here’s what I’ve said. I have met with not just the Hispanic caucus, but leaders from both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat. I’ve said I want to get this done. I’ve put Secretary Janet Napolitano, of Homeland Security, in charge of first making a whole host of administrative changes and eliminating the most negative practices that we have been seeing. And then what I’ve said is, start working up legislation that we think can, over time, move through Congress. Now, whether that bill gets introduced on November 15th or December 15th or January 15th, that’s not really the issue. I mean, it would be easy for us to get a bill introduced. The challenge is getting the bill passed. And there I’ve been realistic. What I said is that this is going to be a tough fight and that we’re going to have to make sure that we are working as hard as we can to do it. I am not backing off one minute from getting this done, but let’s face it, I’ve had a few things to do. We had an economic crisis that almost…
Jorge Ramos
I understand.
President Obama
…saw a financial meltdown. Healthcare has taken longer than I would have liked, but it’s a big, tough issue. Immigration reform is gonna be tough as well, but I think we can get it done.
Jorge Ramos
Two more questions. Colombian singer Juanes will be performing this Sunday in Havana, but before that, he met with Secretary Clinton. Is your government supporting this concert and do you think that concerts like this and cultural exchanges between Cuba and the United States will promote democracy in Cuba?
President Obama
Well, let me be clear. The U.S. government isn’t a concert promoter.
Jorge Ramos
Did he get your blessing? Or Secretary Clinton’s blessing?
President Obama
I don’t think it’s a matter of us providing blessings. My understanding is that he’s a terrific musician. He puts on a very good concert. I certainly don’t think it hurts U.S./Cuban relations. These kinds of cultural exchanges. I wouldn’t overstate the degree that it helps. I think what’s gonna be more important is, as we have now opened up travel restrictions and remittance restrictions to Cuba. What I’d really like to see is Cuba starting to show that it wants to move away from some of the anti-democratic practices of the past.
Jorge Ramos
And the last question has to do with Honduras. Will you recognize the winner of the next presidential election in November in Honduras?
President Obama
I really would like to see the parties embrace the Arias approach. That will, I think, confer much greater legitimacy on the elections that are coming up.
Jorge Ramos
Mr. President, thank you so much.
President Obama
Oh, it was a pleasure. Thank you.
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