The Corner

Dishonest or Stupid?

Via Jim Geraghty I see Obama had this to say about proponents of English-only laws:

You know, I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about, “We need to have English- only.” They want to pass a law, “We want English-only.”

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], “Merci beaucoup.” Right?

You know, no, I’m serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job. You are so much more employable.

Me: Jim has a lot more thoughts on this. But it seems to me the central point is that this is either staggeringly dishonest or stupendously dumb. Obama has a great gift at sounding insightful when he insipidly changes the subject to something completely different and more helpful to his cause. But, if Obama honestly thinks the argument against bilingualism has anything to do with the importance of teaching kids a second language, he really has no idea whatsoever what the argument is about. More likely, this is his way of sounding like a brave-truth-teller by offering a “criticism” pretty much every middle class parent already agrees with and deflecting an issue that might put him crosswise with Democratic Hispanic activists and other multiculturalists.

For the record, I agree that students should learn a second language whenever possible. But, as Jim asks, “Has anyone demanded foreign language classes be ‘English-Only?” The stupidity or dishonesty of Obama’s rhetorical switch-a-roo would be manifestly obvious if he’d said:

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child is a lot better at math. You should be thinking about, how can your child become really good at math? We should have every child doing advanced math.

Still, Obama’s verbal sleight of hand shouldn’t surprise us at this point. After all he was able to put a black religious demagogue into his magic hat and with showy rhetorical prestidigitation pull back his own racist grandmother. You’d just think more folks would see the wires at this point.

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