John McCain sounds angry and frustrated that, despite the risks he took in pushing immigration reform, Hispanic voters flocked to Democrat Barack Obama in last year's presidential contest. McCain's raw emotions burst forth recently as he heatedly told Hispanic business leaders that they should now look to Obama, not him, to take the lead on immigration.
The meeting in the Capitol's Strom Thurmond Room on March 11 was a Republican effort led by Sens. McCain of Arizona, John Thune of South Dakota, and Mel Martinez of Florida to reach out to Hispanics. But two people who attended the session say they were taken aback by McCain's anger.
What began as a collegial airing of views abruptly changed when McCain spoke about immigration" ... He was angry," one source said. "He was over the top. In some cases, he rolled his eyes a lot. There were portions of the meeting where he was just staring at the ceiling, and he wasn't even listening to us. We came out of the meeting really upset."
McCain's message was obvious, the source continued: After bucking his party on immigration, he had no sympathy for Hispanics who are dissatisfied with President Obama's pace on the issue. "He threw out [the words] 'You people -- you people made your choice. You made your choice during the election,' " the source said. "It was almost as if [he was saying] 'You're cut off!' We felt very uncomfortable when we walked away from the meeting because of that."
In 2006 and 2007, McCain was a leader on immigration, but his efforts ran aground largely because his legislation included what many Republicans derisively characterized as "amnesty," a pathway to citizenship for the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants if they took a series of steps to earn legal status.
Having stuck his neck out in the past, McCain apparently is in no mood to do so again for an ethnic group he seems to view as ungrateful. ... Asked on the show whether he would work with Obama on the issue, McCain said, "At any time, I stand ready. But the president has to lead." ...
[Sen.] Martinez, who is Hispanic, continued, "John is John. Sometimes when he talks, he talks forcefully. He wasn't ranting or raving or anything. I have seen John rant and rave. I don't think this was one of those moments."
This almost sounds like Martinez is talking about Dodger slugger Manny Ramirez ("That's just Manny being Manny"), who is a lot of fun, but not what most people consider Presidential Timber.
Remind me again how the Republican Party came to nominate this guy for President?
But one person's straight talk is another person's vitriol. "My hands were shaking," one source said. "I was nervous as no-end." The senator's comments went on for several minutes at least. And by the end of the meeting, another participant, who had supported McCain in last year's presidential election, was so shaken by the display of temper that he decided it is good that McCain isn't in the White House.
McCain has become irate over immigration legislation before. During negotiations over a bill two years ago, he was so enraged by the comments of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that he got in Cornyn's face and said, "F-- you!" ...
Going forward, some of McCain's allies question whether Obama will be willing to lead on immigration, especially given what they saw as his failure to take risks to advance immigration reform when he was a senator. "He was AWOL most of the time," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of Obama in an interview in July. "I learned a lot about Obama on immigration, and it wasn't good. I learned that to talk about bipartisan change and to stick by a bipartisan deal are two different things. He came by several times, more [for] the photo ops. The only time he came by, he wanted to re-litigate something that had already been decided."
Asked recently whether he would be surprised that McCain's feelings about Hispanic voters and immigration legislation sound very raw, Graham, who also took risks in backing the legislation, which was very unpopular in South Carolina, said: "John understands politics. But he is a human being, like all of us, and it is disappointing because he really was the driving force on the Republican side... to produce a bill that would solve this problem. And the groups that were cheering him on were gone when he needed them."
Hispanics gave Obama a whopping 67 percent of their votes, more than double the 31 percent they gave to McCain. A former colleague of McCain's, Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who opposed immigration reform, told National Journal, "John risked a lot to go out there and do what he did. They basically turned their back on him, a guy who had done a lot more for them than Barack Obama ever would. So I can understand his anger, but I also know that John doesn't get over things easily." ...
By the way, I've been explaining for nine years that amnesty is not the royal road to Hispanic voters' hearts. With the exception of the Cubans and the born-agains, they tend to be natural Democrats for both tax-and-spend and racial reasons. But why should anybody listen to a crazed extremist like me when the statesmanlike Sen. McCain is assuring you of the exact opposite? Who you gonna believe, a wild-eyed nut like me with all my hatefacts and hatestats and hategraphs, or a thoughtful, judicious cross between Pericles and King Solomon like Sen. McCain?