Latin Lovers

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama's appearances at the LULAC convention on Tuesday. Video by Akira Hakuta/
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Como se dice "pander" en Español?

The closest translation seems to be saconería, or insincere flattery. In some Latin American countries, the panderer is a sobón, or kiss-up. Others say he's a chupamedias -- literally, one who sucks socks.

But whatever you want to call it, Barack Obama and John McCain were doing it yesterday -- en abundancia .

The candidates appeared separately before the League of United Latin American Citizens at the Washington Hilton, making for a fun-filled afternoon of identity politics. The McCain campaign stocked the audience with posters announcing "Estamos Unidos McCain," while the Obama campaign supplied stickers and posters saying, "Latinos for Obama."

"Sí, se puede!" Obama, who doesn't speak Spanish, said as he arrived on stage.

There was a whole lot of sock-sucking going on.

McCain, a former prisoner of war, came armed with el pander armado, the military pander. "When you take a solemn stroll along that wall of black granite on the national Mall, it's hard not to notice the many names such as Rodriguez, Hernandez and Lopez," he observed, lauding the "thousands of Hispanic Americans" in the military.

Four hours later, Obama countered with his own military pander. He spoke of the Hispanic soldier who "was denied burial beside the men he fought with and bled with because of the color of his skin."

The resourceful McCain also attempted the rarely employed pander prisionero, the jail pander. He spoke about how he refused early release from a Vietnam prison, because "my beloved friend Everett Alvarez, a brave American of Mexican descent, had been shot down years before I was."

Obama had a version of the jail pander, too. He spoke of immigrants "arrested for crimes they didn't commit and thrown in jail by juries they couldn't serve on."

Predictably, he exploited the economic woes with el pander laboral -- the jobs pander. "Hispanics lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else, or work jobs that pay less and come with fewer benefits," he declared. The Democrat supplemented that with el pander médico -- the health-care pander. "We have 1 in 3 Latinas who don't have health care," he protested.

McCain attempted the difficult el pander a la pequeña y mediana empresa, the small-business pander. "There are 2 million -- 2 million -- Latino-owned businesses in America, a number that's growing very rapidly," he said. "Two million of them."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company