May 03, 2006

Bush saved by his own bi-ignorance?

The "Nuestro Himno" imbroglio continued today, with the Washington Post reporting on a tidbit that would seem to undercut President Bush's stated opposition to "The Star-Spangled Banner" being sung in a Spanish translation. As first mentioned on the ThinkProgress blog, Kevin Phillips' book American Dynasty contains this passage about Bush's 2000 presidential campaign:

When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, he would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish, sometimes partying with a "Viva Bush" mariachi band flown in from Texas.

(ThinkProgress also initially asserted that John Secada sang the anthem in Spanish at Bush's first Inaugural, but it turns out that was based on faulty reporting from the Cox News Service: Secada actually sang "America the Beautiful" in Spanish.)

At a press briefing, Scott McClellan said he couldn't recall whether Bush ever sang a Spanish version of the anthem on the campaign trail, and the Post cites other unnamed sources skeptical of Phillips' account:

White House spokesmen and former campaign operatives said they could not recall whether that happened, though given the level of Bush's Spanish proficiency, they seemed dubious.

So Bush's ineptitude in Spanish might rescue him from a charge of hypocrisy on this issue. All of this recalls Texan pundit Molly Ivins' remark that Dubya is less bilingual than "bi-ignorant."

[Update, 5/4/06: The ineptitude defense continues: Scott McClellan says, "The president can speak Spanish but not that well. He's not that good with his Spanish."]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at May 3, 2006 03:02 PM