Just one month after Univision CEO Randy Falco wrote to the Commission on Presidential Debates to express his “disappointment on behalf of millions of Hispanics who do not have a voice in the upcoming presidential debates” that a Hispanic moderator was not set to be included in the debates, Thursday saw a small victory for the U.S. Spanish-speaking community.
Spanish-speaking voters heard President Obama’s dubbed answers to Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart’s questions on foreign policy, unemployment among Hispanics, and immigration on Thursday.
Excited about the opportunity, Telemundo proudly promoted the interview as the “first exclusive interview granted by President Obama to ... a Spanish language network after accepting his nomination.”
While the translation was less than perfect (which is clearly evident if one watches the Spanish interview and reads the English transcript), it got the president’s answers across to an ever-growing voting bloc.
When Diaz-Balart pointed out that since Obama took office the Latino community has faced “56 weeks of uninterrupted over 10% unemployment,” Obama responded with a straightforward “Right.”
In contrast, the Democratic nominee gave a roundabout answer when prompted for what he would say to Latino families asking, “What about us? What are the plans for us?”
First, he made a general statement that “[L]atinos have benefited from [the] progress” his administration has made since the month in which he was sworn in, saying that 800,000 jobs were lost before his policies began to take effect. Then he re-framed the question by repeating that four and a half million jobs have been created by his administration, suggesting that “the question now for every voter … is who’s got a better path moving forward."
In fact, the only statement Obama made in answering the unemployment question concerning Latinos specifically was that "we need to focus on education … and actually, we’ve seen a great expansion of college attendance by Latinos.” It would be great for Hispanic audiences to see Diaz-Balart explore the veracity of such statements when he airs the full interview on this Sunday’s “Enfoque con José Díaz-Balart.”
Faced with Facebook and Twitter questions solicited by Diaz-Balartabout his ability to keep promises of comprehensive immigration reform given a divided Congress, Obama again pointed to past initiatives, but had no real answer in reference to the future.
He mentioned that timely processing of DREAM Act applications is “making a big difference in a lot of people’s lives,” and that his administration was deporting only “those who are engaging in criminal activity, not people who are just doing their work and raising families.”
Other than that, viewers learned only that Obama hopes Republicans will realize they “need to move in a smarter direction” after the election. The president thinks “this is a nation of law and a nation of immigrants, and if that we give people an opportunity to get right with the law, pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English, be good law-abiding citizens, that giving them the opportunity to be legal in this country and pursue their dreams, that that's ultimately going to be good for America.”
Hispanic voters can still hope for more direct answers, since they will soon get another chance to hear from the presidential candidates in Spanish.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Univision’s Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas will speak to Romney and Obama, respectively, during a “Meet the Candidates” forum before an audience at the Bank United Center on the University of Miami's Coral Gables Campus.