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Advocacy groups have been blinded by partisanship lies

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opinion Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

SAN DIEGO -- As they recall the failure of immigration reform in Congress, Democrats want to come off as the good guys.

This means burying the fact that their patrons in organized labor instructed them to kill any compromise that included guest workers -- a concept AFL-CIO President John Sweeney termed "a bad idea (that) harms all workers."

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And it means trying to refute a new Spanish-language television ad from the McCain-Palin campaign that blames Barack Obama and other Senate Democrats for undermining immigration reform in 2007 with procedural delays and "poison pill" amendments intended to make the legislation unpalatable to Republicans.

Translated, the ad says: "Obama and his congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they? The press reports that their efforts were 'poison pills' that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. No reform. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead."

That is exactly what happened. It was smart but cynical politics. Led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats were able to please the unions and deny a Republican president a huge legislative victory, all the while making it look as if the opposing party was to blame for the debacle.

Luckily, some members of the media kept their eye on the ball and put the blame where it belonged: on Reid and the Democrats. The Washington Post's David Broder, in a column published in June 2007, blasted Reid for going "out of his way to rewrite (the immigration bill) to meet the demands of organized labor."

Now, in response to the McCain-Palin ad, Democrats are practicing revisionist history. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said in a statement released by the Obama campaign: "To say that Barack Obama and Senate Democrats blocked the bill that Republicans filibustered is hypocritical and not true. John McCain has lost his credibility when it comes to the immigration issue ... (He) cannot attack Democrats on immigration in Spanish while pandering to the extreme right Tancredo wing of the Republican Party in English."

I understand that Menendez is trying to earn Obama's good graces after being a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in the primaries. But did he really compare McCain to Tom Tancredo, the nativist congressman who also sought the GOP nomination in this year's primaries?

Senator, I know Tom Tancredo. I've written about Tom Tancredo. And John McCain is no Tom Tancredo. One of the few things that these men share is a strong dislike for one another. In one debate, McCain described Tancredo's explanation of what makes someone an American as "beyond my realm of thinking."

Others on the left are also lending a hand to Democratic efforts at damage control. They include groups dedicated to the admirable goal of achieving comprehensive immigration reform. What is not so admirable is the way that these groups have turned on McCain, whom not long ago they praised for fighting the good fight on the immigration issue. Now they claim that McCain has flip-flopped.

Baloney. They're the ones who flip-flopped, and for no grander reason than because we're in an election year.

"We are stunned," declared Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a Washington-based liberal-leaning organization in a statement.

"A Spanish-language ad approved by Sen. John McCain accuses Sen. Obama and the Democrats of derailing immigration reform? He knows better. The whole political world knows better. Comprehensive immigration reform was blocked not by Democrats but by Republicans. ... Immigrants and Latinos are intelligent. They know the difference between fact and fiction."

I always appreciate it when non-Latinos are patronizing and tell me what I should or shouldn't know. I know this much: Some folks inside the Beltway are so eager to put a Democrat in the White House that they're putting party before truth.

They include Latino groups such as the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund who, as Sharry said, should know better.

During a conference call last week with reporters, NCLR Vice President Cecilia Munoz also criticized the ad and called immigration an issue that "tends to determine who the good guys are and the bad guys are for Latinos."

That implies that these advocacy groups can tell the difference. That's the point. Blinded by partisanship, they haven't a clue.

Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is navarrette@wctrib.com.

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