CBS Grills GOP Senator On Boycott Day

May 1st, 2006 5:10 PM

On this morning’s Early Show, in the 7:00 half hour, co-host Harry Smith interviewed Democrat Governor Bill Richardson and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander regarding the immigration debate. While Smith asked Richardson weak "how do you feel" questions, he grilled Senator Alexander over the issue. He began by asking  about the protests: "Senator, let me ask you first, is this protest today a good idea?"

Senator Alexander, in his response tried to remind viewers what the protests were really about:

"Well, free speech is a part of living in this country. Unexcused absences from work or from school have consequences. And protests about legal immigration, I think most people in the Congress would welcome. Protests in favor of illegal immigration have very little sympathy here."

Smith followed up on this response:

 Yeah. But isn't the notion here that most of the people in the country say, we want to see some kind of reform, the folks in the Senate and the House going to take this to heart?

According to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, a majority of Americans do want "some kind of reform." Unfortunately for Harry Smith the poll shows that 2/3 of Americans want the border secured before any additional reforms are made. A second Rasmussen Poll shows that Congressional candidates who favor building a barrier along the border would receive 49%. Candidates who support "more legal jobs for foreign workers only receive 40%.

Towards the end of the interview segment, Harry Smith continued what Bob Scheiffer started on Sunday’s "Face the Nation." Scheiffer harped on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over her opinion over what language the National Anthem should be sung in. Rice’s response was weak, and the transcript of the exchange follows:

Bob Scheiffer: "Let me ask you also about the issue where foreign policy and domestic policy converge, and that is the issue of immigration. And now, all of a sudden, a lot of people on the right are saying this whole issue of "The Star-Spangled Banner" being sung in Spanish is a bad thing. You're not just a diplomat, you are also a musician; where do you come down on that?"

Condoleezza Rice: "Well, I've heard "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung in any number of ways and--in any number of ways. I think--I think what's really being expressed here is that our immigration policies really need both to be humane and to defend our laws and defend our borders and to recognize that when people want to come here, they want to come here because they're seeking a better way of life. Now, the president is a former border state governor, and he clearly believes that a comprehensive approach to immigration where we recognize the economic goal--role that these people play, but yet keep a firm hold on border security, keep a firm hold on the fact that people have to be legal is extremely important."

Bob Scheiffer: "So--so what language the national anthem is sung in is not a problem for you?"

Condoleezza Rice: "From my point of view, people expressing themselves as wanting to be Americans is a good thing. But we have laws about how they do that, how they become Americans. And I sincerely hope that we can come to an immigration policy that is comprehensive and that befits the fact that this is, after all, a country of immigrants."

Bob Scheiffer: "I think you kind of dodged that question."

Condoleezza Rice: "Well, we hope--Bob..."

Bob Scheiffer: "I mean, does it make any difference or not?"

Condoleezza Rice: "What, what, what language the national anthem is..."

Bob Scheiffer: "What language it's sung in?"

Condoleezza Rice: " sung in? I've heard the national anthem done in rap versions, country versions, classical versions. The individualization of the American national anthem is quite under way. I think what we need to focus on is an immigration policy that is comprehensive, and that recognizes our laws and recognizes our humanity."

This morning Harry Smith concluded the same way, asking both of his guests their opinions on what the language the national anthem should be sung in, and to my surprise, and probably Harry Smith’s surprise as well, both guests agreed that the national anthem ought to be sung in English. Harry Smith: "Yeah. Senator Alexander, let me ask you this, there's been all this hubbub about this Spanish version of the National Anthem. What do you think about it?"

Lamar Alexander: "Well, I think, I think it's not an incidental matter. You know, because we're a nation of immigrants we have a common language and our common language is English. So, so, the, our national symbols especially ought to be in our common language. Singing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish or French would be like saying the Pledge of Allegiance in Chinese, which is our third most spoken language here. We created public schools to help immigrant children largely learn English."

Harry Smith: "Right."

Lamar Alexander: "And we require new citizens to learn eighth grade of English. And the Senate last week just said if you're proficient in English you can become a citizen one year more rapidly. So in our country we need a common language."

Harry Smith: "Governor, what do you think of it?"

Bill Richardson: "Well, I agree. The National Anthem should be in English. And I believe that again, most immigrants want to become American. They want to learn English. They want to be part of the American mainstream. They wear NFL jerseys. They want to be part of America. So, I don't believe that view that immigrants want to learn the anthem in Spanish is accurate. I think that was a side show. But, definitely our anthem is English. And the whole purpose of this objective is to bring many of these immigrants in to civic-minded America. Into learning English. Learning about our history. Et cetera."