One of the more volatile moments from Saturday night’s WWE cage match, er… Republican debate which didn’t directly involve Donald Trump, was when Ted Cruz accused Marco Rubio of telling the mainstream media one thing on immigration while whispering something else to Hispanic voters en Espanol on Univision. Rubio quickly turned around with a scathing response, saying that Cruz wouldn’t know what he said since he didn’t speak Spanish. (Washington Post)
Cruz refused, saying something that lots of Texas Republicans seemed to like: Most people don’t speak Spanish. The goal was probably to throw the championship debater, Cruz, off his game, but also to associate Cruz with a particularly modern kind of alleged cultural failing. Cruz’s opponent knew that might have meaning in a state with a lot of Latino voters.
That WaPo analysis immediately went down into the weeds, seeking some sort of cultural division which could be played up into a running theme of the GOP being out of touch with minority voters. But what of the original charge? Is it true that Rubio has been literally saying one thing in Spanish and another in American? (I’ve lately come to prefer saying American rather than “English” since the languages have diverged so much.) Because if that’s true, it seems like a significantly bigger story than whether or not any of the candidates are bilingual.
Julia Hahn had a piece covering this question a couple of days ago and it certainly seems to support Cruz’s version of events. Since words matter in a campaign, it’s important to remember exactly what Cruz alleged during the debate. He said, “Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office.”
So is it true?
It is perhaps bizarre that Rubio would now try to deny the existence of this exchange, since Rubio’s campaign– in an on-the-record interview with Breitbart News — confirmed the Univision translation of Rubio’s comments.
According to the Univision transcript, Rubio said in Spanish:
Well, DACA is going to have to end at some point. I wouldn’t undo it immediately. The reason is that there are already people who have that permission, who are working, who are studying, and I don’t think it would be fair to cancel it suddenly. But I do think it is going to have to end. And, God willing, it’s going to end because immigration reform is going to pass.
I got the impression from Rubio supporters in the aftermath of all this that he didn’t say he would never end DACA or other mandates from President Obama on immigration, but that this was instead a matter of timing. (It’s a popular theme among politicians who are trying to dance on both sides of a coin.) But this sounds like something else entirely, at least looking at how the transcript reads. He clearly seems to be saying (en Espanol) that yes, DACA will need to end, but preferably only because it’s been replaced by some comprehensive immigration reform plan which gets passed into law. That is very, very different from the position taken not only by Cruz, but by Trump and others hoping for the nomination, who have said that they would use the power of Executive Authority to roll back any amnesty programs on day one.
Who came out on top in this one? It’s tough to argue that Cruz didn’t come off with the upper ground. I can recall a time more than a year ago when I was doing some media hit and was asked what the biggest anchor around Jeb Bush’s neck might be in a potential presidential run. Back then it was a combination of immigration and Common Core. It looks like at least half of that particular virus was spreading all over Florida and it’s come back to bite Marco Rubio as well.