New McCain ad is false in any language

A Spanish-language ad blames Barack Obama and Democrats for the failure of an immigration reform bill last year. It was actually Republicans who blocked it.

Published September 15, 2008 4:02PM (EDT)

It turns out John McCain can lie in Spanish, too.

McCain's campaign is running a Spanish-language TV ad in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that blames Barack Obama for the failure last year of a sweeping immigration reform bill. "Obama and his congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?" the ad asks. "The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail."

Like many of McCain's recent attacks, this one glances at the truth, on its way to a more politically expedient falsehood. Yes, Obama did sponsor an amendment last year that threatened to split apart the fragile bipartisan coalition behind the immigration reform bill -- if it had passed. But it failed by a wide margin, like nearly every measure that the coalition opposed. Obama also joined some Democrats in voting for other amendments that Republicans had declared poison pills (because they were less favorable to employers than the GOP wanted), but they failed, too. Republicans offered their fair share of amendments that could have been labeled poison pills as well.

In fact, the main reason the bill collapsed was that a few conservative Republicans dug in their heels and filibustered it to death, insisting on endless time to debate their own poison pills that border security hardliners wanted, even though supporters had managed to fend most of them off already. Only seven Republicans supported the bill on the procedural vote that finally killed it. (McCain backed it, though he skipped earlier votes on the bill on the same day.) Some Democrats wound up backing away from the bill once it was clear it was doomed -- but most Republicans had opposed it from the outset.

Obama may not have been as involved in drafting the immigration legislation as McCain once was (though McCain was on the campaign trail for most of 2007, and wasn't as involved as he once was, either). And yes, he may have backed some amendments that supporters disliked. But it was McCain who abandoned his own legislation after the Republican base rose up against it, and it was McCain, and the White House, who were unable to convince allies on their side of the aisle to change their minds about the bill. Blaming Obama for the failure of immigration reform is simply wrong, no matter what language you do it in.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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