LAS VEGAS -- Presumptive 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Monday that there were two periods in his life -- BC and AC : "Before Columba and after Columba."
That's a reference to his wife of 41 years, Columba Bush, who he met when he was 17 and on a high school trip to Mexico. The encounter prompted Bush to begin learning Spanish, a language he speaks fluently.
I also speak Spanish, and I've been tasked with keeping tabs on what the former Florida governor says in English and Spanish on the campaign trail and in interviews with Spanish-language news outlets. (Sadly, covering a candidate in two languages doesn't mean double the pay. At least so far. But I digress...)
As we follow Bush across the country, we'll occasionally use this space to translate into English what Bush is telling voters or the media in Spanish. It happened here on Monday, when a reporter for a local Spanish-language television station asked Bush about immigration. Here's a rough translation of the exchange -- followed by a similar English-language exchange on the same subject.
Question in Spanish, translated: "Focusing on immigration here, talk a little bit about what you think of the executive actions and if you were president, what would you do for immigrants?"
Bush in Spanish, translated: “If I was president, I would go to the Congress to talk to them – not dictate to them, not to use power I don’t have, because in the case of the president, he’s used constitutional powers that don’t exist. He should do it the appropriate way, which is to go to Congress, present a plan and work with Democrats and Republicans at the same time and try to create a consensus on how to move ahead with protecting the border and also find a solution for those that are here in the shadows.”
Question in Spanish, translated: “But what would be your solution if you were president?”
Bush in Spanish, translated: “I wrote a book called Immigration Wars. And in there, we proposed a conservative alternative that would provide protection of the borders and economic growth based on a new system based in the 21st Century. There are solutions to this and it requires leadership.”
Bush may fault President Obama for not working with both parties on an immigration plan, but the White House supported a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013. It faltered in the GOP-controlled House.
He once again made no reference to Obama's 2013 efforts when he was asked a similar question in English:
Question: “Governor, if you’re elected, how do you move immigration reform forward?”
Bush: “You lead, you lead. The president had two years where he had 60 votes in the Senate and he had a majority in the House and didn’t lift a finger after
a big campaign promise. This was how he got elected, nothing happened. Irrespective of the makeup of Congress, the next president should solve this, because it’s in our interest to create a high-growth solution to the plight of the middle. Right now, we’re in the sixth year of recovery and median income is in decline – it’s never happened before.
“And part of the answer is to fix a broken immigration system, to allow for more economic activity. So leadership is for some reason deeply discounted in Washington. It applies in every other aspect of our life and it could in this case as well.”
As you can see, Bush gave slightly different answers to the same question. He was arguably a little sharper in his English-language answer and made a broader economic argument, while focusing instead on the process and questions of leadership in his Spanish answer.
This was one of the first opportunities to see Bush on the campaign trail engaging reporters in both languages. It surely won't be the last.