Virginia's junior U.S. senator, Timothy Kaine (D) became the first member of the world's greatest deliberative body to deliver a speech in Spanish. The former governor did so during debate on immigration reform on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
Covering the development, Washington Post staffer Ed O'Keefe gave readers an 18-paragraph story devoted to the history-making oration in his June 12 page A2 story headlined, "Kaine's Spanish speech on Senate floor is a first." Yet nowhere in the entire article did O'Keefe find any critics to complain that, maybe, just maybe, Kaine's ploy was a cynical effort at pandering to Hispanic Americans. Neither was there any concern about the logistics of debate in a chamber that is accustomed to speech and debate being conducted for the record in English.
By contrast, Erin Banco of the New York Times at least mentioned that even some proponents of illegal immigrant amnesty thought Kaine's tactic was counterproductive:
Public reaction to Mr. Kaine’s speech was mixed, even among Hispanic civil rights groups that support the immigration bill.
“To have the speech in Spanish — it brings a great joy and a sense of pride that we are being heard, finally,” said Paloma Zuleta, communications director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
But Lisa Navarrete, a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza, said that while Mr. Kaine’s linguistic outreach was appreciated, the organization believes that “the debate should be something that everyone in Congress can understand and that all languages understand.”
NPR's Eyder Peralta notes that, with unanimous consent, a senator is allowed to address the body in a foreign language and that Kaine did receive such permission, but all the same it is rather inconsiderate to fellow senators -- not to mention the taxpayers back home -- to deliver an entire speech in a foreign language, rather than a few sentences or phrases as part of a larger speech.
It would be nice if the newspaper of record for the nation's capital thought fit to work in that perspective to coverage of Kaine's precedent-setting speech.