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Right Turn
Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 03/16/2012

Santorum makes excuses for his Puerto Rican misstep

Here is the interview Rick Santorum gave with the El Vocero newspaper on whether Puerto Rico should be required to make English its “official” language as a requirement for statehood:

He clearly says, “Well, as I’ve said repeatedly, that is a condition for admission, that people would and could speak both languages. But they would have to speak English. That would be a requirement. It’s a requirement that we put on other states as a condition to entering the union. If you’re going to participate as a state in the United States, then you need to participate in the language people speak in the states.”

He’s flat out wrong, of course. There is no such requirement. Moreover, along with Spanish, English is the official language of Puerto Rico. He was not only wrong on the facts but hit a trip wire on an issue near and dear to Puerto Rico — local control.

Instead of apologizing, Santorum — as he often does — lashed out at critics. A CBS reporter tweeted that Santorum “in San Juan hotel lobby” said the line about “line [about] English needing to be mandatory here was ‘crap’ and misquoted.” It wasn’t, and he should be big enough to admit he was wrong.

Rather than falsely recount his own words, Santorum would be wise to fess up. In fact he is trying to have it both ways — calm the furor he created in Puerto Rico and play up to the “English-only” crowd in other primary states. The Associated Press reports:

Rick Santorum came to Puerto Rico and promptly waded into the emotional debate over the role English should play in the island’s future, sparking a furor that led the former Pennsylvania senator to insist his remarks were misreported. . . .
In an official statement as he left the island, Santorum emphasized his roots as the descendent of Italian immigrants who spoke both Italian and English when they first lived in the U.S.
“As the son of an Italian immigrant myself, I continue to believe that English is the language of opportunity in America, under statehood or the current status,” Santorum said in the statement. “What I want is for every child in Puerto Rico to speak English fluently, in addition to Spanish of course.”
But that paragraph was left out of the farewell statement Santorum sent to national reporters. A Santorum spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why the statement was changed.

Well, it’s not hard to figure out why. In the meantime he’s likely damaged his chances in the primary.

AP again: “It’s riled some of the establishment in Puerto Rico. Jenniffer Gonzalez, president of the island’s House of Representatives, told Univision on Thursday that she was upset by Santorum’s comments. ‘We are not going to stop speaking Spanish,’ she said. ‘They cannot require us to do something that they have not required any other state in the U.S. to do.’ Santorum’s stand already has cost him some support. One statehood backer who had signed on as a Santorum delegate, Oreste Ramos, told the El Vocero newspaper he’ll no longer be willing to do so because of Santorum’s comments about the English language.”

That said, it’s not the first time Santorum has tried to escape his own words. When his comments in his book “It Takes a Family” first came to light, he claimed it was all about affirming whatever choices women make. That was not a correct summation of his text.

It is always tempting for politicians to cut corners and hope no one is going to bother to check their words. But in the Google and Twitter age (in which Santorum has not previously run for office), chances are that you will get caught and wind up looking like a typical weasely politician.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 03/16/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign

 
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