LatinaLista — 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 â€” 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 â€” 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 â€” but at least that says more than saying nothing at all.