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Lindsay Graham’s Impressive Bilingualism

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Lindsay Graham’s Impressive Bilingualism"

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220px-Lindsey_Graham,_official_Senate_photo_portrait,_2006

Here’s a nice catch from Dara Lind about Senator Lindsay Graham offering different messages on immigration reform to the English and Spanish press. In English, Graham is threatening to blow up any hope of an immigration deal over the health care bill. In Spanish, not so much:

That’s been his line to the English-language press through this week. In his own statements, he’s been walking a fine line between threatening to walk away himself and making vague pronouncements about the lack of political will generally — presumably among other Republicans. (The notion that Senate Republicans were somehow willing to cooperate before reconciliation is, of course, so laughable that it points out how disingenuous the whole thing is. One also wonders what the heck Graham thought was going to happen with reconciliation on Thursday, when theoretically he could have yanked the WaPo op-ed.) The media has been eliding this carefully crafted distinction. It’s always sad when the press fails to capture the subtlety of weaselly doubletalk.

Even sadder is when they don’t notice just how weaselly it is because they’re watching the wrong Sunday morning talk shows. Because two days after Graham debuted his Cassandra mask for the English-language press, he went on Al Punto, Univision’s Sunday politics show, to express his support for reform. He didn’t ignore the reconciliation point — he mentioned that it would make things “difficult” — but that was hardly the topline message. Furthermore, the content of his appearance was much less important than the appearance itself. Graham doesn’t appear to have any problem being portrayed as the Man Who Would Kill Immigration Reform for the English-speaking DC media, whose incentives to favor partisan squabbles are stronger than their desire to see any particular piece of legislation pass. I’m hardly saying that desire to see legislation pass should be guiding journalistic coverage, but it’s an entirely different audience than the millions of people who watch Al Punto every week — whose desire to see immigration reform pass is much stronger than their appetite for finger-pointing.

One interesting aspect about the rise of digital media is that politicians’ efforts to segment their message has generally declined a great deal. It’s much harder nowadays to say one thing to the hometown paper and another thing entirely to Roll Call and hope that it’ll basically go unnoticed. But the rise of a robust Spanish-language media inside the United States has created a new set of opportunities.

‹ Alan Bersin

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