SAN DIEGO – What’s Spanish for “oops”?
As an assimilated Mexican-American, I have no idea. But I bet Jeb Bush does since his Spanish is much better than mine.
The former Florida governor went to Twitter this week to claim that he simply made a mistake when he filled in the bubble and identified himself as “Hispanic” on a 2009 Miami-Dade County voter registration application.
Sure, compadre. Whatever you say.
This story won’t do much to assuage the concern of nativists that the likely 2016 presidential candidate is soft on immigration and not worried enough about the Hispanicizing of the United States.
Bush’s youngest son, Jeb Jr., joked about the foul-up on Twitter. He wrote: “LOL – come on dad, think you checked the wrong box #HonoraryLatino.” Jeb Sr. retweeted his son’s tweet, adding, “My mistake! Don’t think I’ve fooled anyone!”
A Bush spokeswoman said this in an email: “It’s unclear where the paperwork error was made. The Governor’s family certainly got a good laugh out of it. He is not Hispanic.”
He’s not? Well, nobody’s perfect. But I suspect this was no innocent mistake. I think there are at least three plausible explanations.
The first thought that comes to mind is that, subconsciously, Jeb does identify himself as Hispanic. Not in a literal sense, of course, but in terms of having an emotional connection to Hispanics.
Even though the liberal media couldn’t wait to remind Bush that he is – as MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell put it gleefully – “a white guy,” his Hispanic bona fides are strong. His wife, Columba Garnica Gallo de Bush, was born in Leon, Mexico, where the two met as teenagers while Jeb was on a foreign exchange program. He lived in Caracas, Venezuela, while working for a U.S. bank. He and Columba have three children, who identify themselves as Hispanic.
Talk to any non-Hispanic who has married into our community, and they’ll tell you: If you live with a houseful of Hispanics, sooner or later you’ll become one.
Besides, Bush lives in Miami, perhaps the most Hispanic city in America. In his two successful elections for Florida governor in 1998 and 2002, Bush got more than 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. Lastly, anyone who has ever heard him speak – in English, or fluent Spanish – knows that he loves the Hispanic community in the United States and has a deep-seated passion for the people, culture and food of Latin America.
The second explanation is we are on the brink of a new world. And Hispanics are the new Christopher Columbus, leading the way. They now make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, and the Census Bureau estimates that the figure will grow to nearly 25 percent by 2030.
Bush understands that the 21st century is going to be the Hispanic century, and he wants to be at the center of the action. It’s hip to be Hispanic. Clearly, Bush can spot the cool kids in the cafeteria, and he’s not shy about trying to muscle his way into the group.
Hispanics should be flattered, especially at a time when many politicians in both parties ignore them, write them off or bash them for political gain. Here you have one who wants to fill out the application and join the tribe. Bienvenido, Jeb.
Why don’t more Republicans understand the importance of a community that spends $1.5 trillion annually and helps decide presidential elections? Why don’t they take a lesson from Bush and treat Hispanics with respect?
The third explanation is my favorite because it will give anti-Hispanic bigots the creeps. It’s possible that, in this instance, Bush’s mask slipped a bit, and America got a glimpse at a diabolical scheme. What if Jeb really is one of us, but he has to deny it?
After all, with one notable exception, every president in U.S. history has been a white male. It would be hard for a Hispanic to get elected. But once he gets to the White House, Bush can declare every day to be Cinco de Mayo, remove the alcohol tax on tequila, and deport Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who suggested lining the U.S.-Mexico border with electric wire because “we do that with livestock all the time.”
I would love to tell you more but it’s classified. Now we have to break off all communication, since we don’t want our man to be compromised. Still, now you know: Jeb Bush is … the Mex-churian Candidate.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.