March 19, 2007

Support, Si! Pander, No!

Memo to Presidential candidates: it is dangerous to use foreign-language slogans without learning the nuances of their history. Mitt Romney either never learned that or decided to try out his new Fidel Castro impersonation in front of the wrong audience (via SWLiP):

People chuckled when presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon raised in Michigan and elected in Massachusetts, bungled the names of Cuban-American politicians during a recent speech in Miami.

But when he mistakenly associated Fidel Castro's trademark speech-ending slogan -- Patria o muerte, venceremos! -- with a free Cuba, listeners didn't laugh. They winced.

Castro has closed his speeches with the phrase -- in English, ''Fatherland or death, we shall overcome'' -- for decades.

''Clearly, that's something he was ill-advised on or didn't do his homework on,'' said Hialeah City Council President Esteban Bovo. ``When you get cute with slogans, you get yourself into a trap.''

It goes deeper than that, which is why this will ding Romney's efforts in a mild way, and add to the anecdotes of clueless politicians.

The mistake reminds me of people who use words they clearly do not understand, in order to sound more proficient than they truly are. Romney made the same mistake here, attempting to convince Cuban-Americans of his solidarity with their cause. In both cases, the avoidable goof gives the opposite impression: it makes the speaker look like a fool, and a pandering fool at that.

Romney is a smart man with a good message, so this will pass within a few days. However, it points out a danger for all politicians in pandering to ethnic groups on a superficial level, without taking the time to understand their culture and especially the nuances of their language. The Cuban-American community wants to see policies that support their die-hard opposition to the Castro regime. They can hear those policies in English and understand them perfectly well. They don't need slogans and cheers; those are the tools of the dictator they oppose.

In fact, that's pretty good advice for the rest of us, too.


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» Did Beth Reinhard misrepresent Romney speech? from Strange Women Lying in Ponds
Yesterday, I noted a report from Herald reporter Beth Reinhard that GOP candidate Mitt Romney allegedly botched a speech to a group of Cuban Americans by using the phrase, Patria o muerte, venceremos! (Translation - Fatherland or death, we shall [Read More]

Comments (8)

Posted by richard mcenroe [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 19, 2007 9:06 PM


Posted by marcus [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 19, 2007 10:32 PM

This reminds me of JFK's famous "I am a Berliner" speech. I am no German speaker, but according to everything I've read and heard, what he said was "I am a jelly doughnut".

Sorta like saying, "I am a danish" as opposed to "I am a Dane".

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 19, 2007 10:52 PM

Captain Ed said:

"Romney is a smart man with a good message, so this will pass within a few days."

Are you kidding? This could be Romney's "macaca" moment. Never underestimate the MSM's ability to create a scandal out of nothing - especially if it serves the interests of the Democrat Party.

Posted by Del Dolemonte [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 19, 2007 11:13 PM

Sorry, Cappy, but the mainstream media will settle on this like the Washington Post did with the Webb race. Anything to assist in the coronation of Queen Bee Hillary.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 12:12 AM

At the time, I thought Dan Quale's "potatoe" answer (at the elementary school) would pass quickly. But it only passes quickly when the press is on your side. Now the press has a template for Romney. He'll be making language gaffes now whether he makes them or not. They might have Romney going to a Polish picnic and saying "Guten Tag....Wie gehts?"--whether it ever happened or not.

And in Quale's case, he was actually working from some answers that the teacher gave him. Didn't matter one bit.

Posted by Conservative Gladiator [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 12:14 AM

Get the actual facts right people…

Here is what Romney said verbatim:

Romney: “I said at the outset that the threat in Latin America is unprecedented. I say that because the Castros have a second tyrant and he has great wealth, from oil. We must stand just as firm against caudillos like Hugo Chavez, tutored by Fidel Castro. Chavez and Castro are brothers in blood, intent on personal gratification at the expense of their people. Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro have stolen the phrase – ‘Patria o muerte, venceremos.’ This phrase should not be used by dictators, but by liberators.

“There are two spheres of influence in the Western Hemisphere. One is dark, bellicose and spreads misery by denying people basic freedoms; the other shines like a powerful light, is peaceful and wants only for its people to live in liberty and prosper.

Me: From what I see it says that DICTATORS shouldn’t be using this phrase and that it should be used by LIBERATORS.

What’s the deal? Sounds like some propaganda from the left to me.

A bunch of sheep is what you all are if you take what the media gives you and regurgitate it.

Posted by Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 12:21 AM

... but keep in mind, the "Macaca" and "Potatoe" gaffs were off the cuff comments... not part of a scripted speech. Some member of Romney's staff... a person who will presumably be part of his White House staff if he makes it into office... decided that it would be a great idea for Mitt to say this. Romney's staff isn't quite ready for Prime Time... this shows that Mitt may not be either. He can overcome it, sure. Gonna take some work, though.

To say it shows a lack of homework? Much worse... it shows a lack of communication. Romney was speaking to a Cuban Miami crowd... I can only assume that he had SOME kind of discussion going on with the local power brokers. That he quoted Castro shows that he didn't run the speech by them. Doing so would have saved him a lot of embarrassment; he probably didn't impress anybody in the crowd today enough to win their support, much less their vote.

In any case Mr. and Mrs. Candidate: Stick to the language you know. Its for the best.

Posted by Adjoran [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 20, 2007 1:26 AM

There is nothing wrong with Romney's speech, if the context is correctly reproduced above by Conservative Gladiator.

Certainly Romney is one the media fears and wishes to take down quickly, despite his trailing third place in most polls. They know he has won in a dark blue state and, as an experienced executive from the private sector, is a polished and convincing speaker. He has a bearing and image which can only be described as Reaganesque - a word which strikes fear deep into their hearts, a paralyzing fear which knows no name.

I'm no Romney man - leaning Giuliani, but persuadable, and McCain is my last choice after that lawyer from Chicago, Cox - but it is apparent he is the top target for Old Media. Especially folks like the Boston Globe, who wouldn't tolerate an ill word said about a religion which encourages young people to strap on explosives and blow up themselves and civilian women and children at neighborhood pizza parlors, but who have spared no disparaging remark about the LDS folks, oppose him vehemently.

It only raises my own opinion of Romney. In the immortal words of the late Jim Williams, he "pisses off all the right people."