Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger deserves two cheers for his comments to Hispanic journalists last week that Hispanics should "turn off the Spanish television set. It's that simple. You've got to learn English." But I'm holding back on the third cheer, in part because the governor hasn't always followed his own advice.
Like most politicians, Schwarzenegger is quick to embrace English as the national language and hint thnat Hispanics aren't learning it fast enough, but he is also eager to habla Espanol when election-time rolls around. In his re-election bid last year, the governor not only ran ads in Spanish but was interviewed frequently on Spanish-language television and radio. He was also happy to take more than $4 million since 2003 in contributions to his political causes from former Univision chairman A. Jerrold Perenchio, who made his fortune airing soap operas and game shows in Spanish. And, if you want to practice your Spanish skills, a good place to start might be listening to the governor's weekly radio address in Spanish or signing on to his website "Arnold Schwarzenegger: El Gobernador del Pueblo" (gov.ca.gov/espanol).
Schwarzenegger is not alone in this practice. Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney may be talking tough on immigration these days (though not when he was governor of Massachusetts), but he's also airing Spanish-language ads in states with large Hispanic populations. As I've argued for decades, such ads don't reach most Hispanic voters -- who are predominantly U.S.-born and prefer to get their news in English.
But the hypocrisy doesn't end here. In 2006, when Republicans were still in control of both houses of Congress, they couldn't muster enough votes in their own ranks to drop a requirement for bilingual ballots from the Voting Rights Act, which was up for extension. Rep. James "No Amnesty" Sensenbrenner, then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, argued that bilingual ballots facilitate "the participation of language minority citizens in the political process." Nonsense.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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