In the past, Republican presidential candidates would only have to be a little hypocritical as they came back from extremist right-wing views driven by the GOP primaries and then tried to appeal to moderates — just in time for the general election.
But this time, after the radical, over-the-cliff positions all the candidates have taken, unprecedented, industrial quantities of hypocrisy would be required — especially from Mitt Romney, the leader of the pack.
And yet, we're already seeing it!
Romney, who opposes bilingual education, is now advertising in Spanish! Romney, who became much more draconian against undocumented immigrants in just the past few months, is clearly selling his soul to conservative extremists at the detriment of Latinos. Apparently, he believes he can climb back up the cliff and appeal to Latino voters now. Romney, who pounced on Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich for advocating anything less than mass deportations, apparently believes he can scapegoat and offend Latinos in English, and then buy our votes with a few commercials in Spanish. His hypocrisy is bilingual.
"Soy Mitt Romney y apruebo este mensaje," he says in Spanish. "Muchas gracias." ("I am Mitt Romney and I approve this message. Thank you very much.") Whether Latino voters would fall for such hypocrisy is another story.
On the same day the ad was placed in Florida TV stations by the Romney campaign, Romney said on his website that he was "proud" to have earned the endorsement of anti-immigrant firebrand Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and architect of a series of immigrant-bashing state laws, including those with racial profiling provisions that have been blocked by the courts but clearly would violate the civil rights of legal immigrants and naturalized citizens.
Kobach, thoroughly disliked by Latinos, told Fox News that he chose to endorse Romney because, "On the issue of illegal immigration, Gov. Romney stands to the right. He's the more conservative candidate and I would say head and shoulders above the others, because he has actually taken a very strong law enforcement-oriented anti-amnesty position."
It's true. On immigration, during the GOP primaries, Romney was clearly the panderer-in-chief. In practically every debate where immigration was discussed, he went considerably further to the right, until the point where he even vowed to veto legislation that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who innocently entered the country as children.
By opposing even the DREAM Act, by casting off thousands of young people who have been raised here as Americans and have the overwhelming sympathy of the Hispanic community, Romney declares himself our enemy.
Yet Romney can't win the White House without taking a good portion of the Latino vote away from Obama, who won 67 percent of that vote in 2008.
Nevertheless, when pollsters match Obama against Romney, Latino voters still favor Obama 68-23, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center poll.
Latinos know that Obama broke deportation records and failed to keep his promise to push comprehensive immigration reform through Congress. They know that their unemployment rate is disproportionally higher than it is for most Americans. But even those who hold a grudge against the president for those reasons would have to recognize that Romney's America would not be immigrant-friendly — and that Obama still is clearly the lesser of two evils.
And if some Latinos still don't know all the contradictory positions Romney has taken on the issues that concern them — if they don't recall that he has been on both sides of amnesty, that illegal immigrants would mow his lawn until he decided to run for president in 2008, surely Obama will reminds us with his own Spanish-language commercials.
The Romney ad, mostly narrated in Spanish by his son Craig, is simply a vague depiction of Romney as a man who believes in liberty, opportunity and American values. It notes that Romney "will fight to restore the greatness of our nation." (As if this nation no longer was great).
In Monday night's Fox News debate, journalist Juan William reminded Romney that he has "taken the hardest line of anyone on this stage on immigration reform, including opposition to key parts of the DREAM Act, which is supported by 80 percent of Latinos in this country." But when Romney was asked if he is "alienating Latino voters that Republicans will need to win the general election?" he dismissed the question by explaining that, "as long as we communicate to the people of all backgrounds in this country that it can be better, and that America is a land of opportunity, we will get those votes."
Then he went on to scapegoat undocumented immigrants once again.
"I absolutely believe that those who come here illegally should not be given favoritism or a special route to becoming permanent residents or citizens that's not given to those people who have stayed in line legally," Romney said. "... I have indicated I would veto the DREAM Act if provisions included in that act to say that people who are here illegally, if they go to school here long enough, get a degree here that they can become permanent residents. ?I think that's a mistake. I think we have to follow the law and insist those who come here illegally, ultimately return home, apply, and get in line with everyone else."
Really? And we're supposed to vote for you because you are the alleged defender of the land of opportunity?
You wonder how Latino Republican elected officials who represent immigrant communities can have the audacity to endorse Romney, how they can so blatantly put the interest of their party before those of their own community.
And yet, we're already seeing it! But that's a good subject for another column — coming soon!
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com