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John McCain gets put on the linguistic spot

It wasn't the sort of issue that John McCain (or Barack Obama) needed to prepare for Saturday in Washington when each courted Latino elected officials at their annual meeting. But Monday, at a McCain town hall meeting in Pipersville, Pa., a woman had a pointed question for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a query sparked by America's changing demographics.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain responds to a question at a town hall meeting in Pipersville, Pennsylvania "Why, as an American, do I have to push a button to speak English or hear English?"

The audience, a sea of mostly white faces, erupted in deafening applause.

"I think you struck a nerve," said McCain, for whom this is a delicate issue, given his support in recent years of efforts to reform U.S. immigration law that included a "path to citizenship" for most illegal immigrants that was derided by its foes as "amnesty."

"I tell ya," continued the woman, "I really get ticked. I really do."

"I can tell," said McCain.

"And then you go into Lowe's," she continued, referring to the home improvement store, "and it says 'Entrada.' And every utility bill you got has got a foreign language on it."

Oh, and by the way, she added, would he autograph a copy of his book, a gift to her husband for his 71st birthday?

On immigration, McCain gave his now-standard reply, acknowledging ...

... the importance of securing the country's borders first. English, he said, must be learned by anyone wanting to become a citizen.

"I understand your frustration," he said, before he made a subdued plea for tolerance.

"There is a great thing about America and that is we welcome all people -- we are the great, great nation that brings people together from all different backgrounds and languages and cultures. And we love the Hispanic heritage, we love the Irish heritage, we love all of the heritage that has enriched our country."

Veteran town hall emcee that he is, he did not forget the second question.

"I'd love to sign the book," McCain said, passing along birthday regards to the woman's husband.

-- Robin Abcarian

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

Comments () | Archives (8)

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It is a given that the Republicans will take all the racist votes. From the KKK to the closet intolerant Democrats for McCain, the Republicans can have them all. That will set the Democratic party apart from and above the narrow minded group who seem intent on fighting change to their last breath.

Does that mean citizens and legal residents, won't have to 'Press One for English' any more? Or are our politicians going to keep up the momentum of pandering to every foreign language individual? It costs taxpayer a small fortune to print voter ballots in 6 or 8 foreign languages in California. But then California is a 'Sanctuary State' No wonder the state is dealing with a $17 billion budget meltdown. NUMBERSUSA for answers.

If this were a real news site and not just a failing propaganda organ, it would point out that McCain didn't address her concerns. In fact, he in effect called those who object to forced bilingualism intolerant.

And, if this were a real news site, it would think up questions about this issue and try to ask them of McCain, rather than simply using elderly ladies who don't know how to ask questions to push its agenda.

Let me suggest that the LAT learns how to do real reporting before it's forced to lay off even more staff.

Finally, McCain gets something right.

And it doesn't cost "a small fortune" to print voter ballots in foreign languages. For all intents and purposes, it cost the same to print regardless of the language. This is a false argument. If they paid someone 15 bucks an hour for translation service, and the ballots took 5 minutes... wow, that's a fortune! Much cheaper to have each eligible voter with English as a 2nd language ask the poll workers individually to help translate, or just vote blindly.

Push 1 for English is what upsets you? Really? And private business catering to a large demographic with "Entrada" gets on your nerves? Does intolerance know no bounds? Just like the business, government should work in the interest of its demographic, rather than playing politics because of some irrational fear people have towards immigration. It's no different than keeping the black man out of your neighborhood because "he's not one of us".

Thing is, anywhere in the world where people of more than one culture gather, you can dial one for English. That includes Mexico, where major companies know the value of serving all potential customers. In fact, it's downright unpatriotic to want to legislate Lowe's from capitalizing on the Spanish-speaking market.
I realize that many of the idiots who fear the option of a second language at customer service centers have never left the United States, but, should they someday choose to, they'll notice that they have the option of speaking English anywhere they go, which is fortunate for them, as it's the only language they're capable of, anyway. Speaking, that is: writing, not so much ...

How in the world can the Republican Party get saddled with a nutcase whack-job who knows nothing about economics, is so anti-capitalist he uses "profit" as a term of derision, has never run a business or had any job outside of government, will raise taxes, is so stupid that he believes "stopping global warming" is worth destroying the American economy, won't drill ANWR to alleviate our energy deficit, won't appoint strict constructionist justices, won't protect marriage, would throttle free speech given another opportunity, hasn’t protected the borders in his 26 years in Congress, will give amnesty, citizenship, and a ‘key’ to our country to 20 million illegal aliens (god’s special children in his twisted mind), is beloved by the New York Times in addition to other liberal media, and lives in a delusionary world of rage and self-appointed war hero vanity?

McCain "is so stupid that he believes "stopping global warming" is worth destroying the American economy," says Zeezil

Zeezil is so stupid that he doesn't understand that NOT stopping global warming will destroy America.

We are a nation of laws. Without laws we are nothing more than a bunch of disorganized fools. People who enter our country illegally not only disrespect our laws but disrespect every american who entered this country legally and that includes all of our ancestors. As a nation comprised of hundreds of different enthic groups what has given us our strength and bonded us together is one common language. To now say that it is not only o.k. to publically speak a forien language and to encourage it by printing ballots and congresional bills in different languages tears at the very fabric of our society. To do these things divides us and does nothing to bring us together. If you cannot relate to someone how can you understand them.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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