Why Not Me

by Geraldo Rivera | Aug 17, 2012

I’m borrowing the title of Al Franken’s fictional campaign autobiography to ask the Presidential Debate Commission why I or other Latino journalist was not asked to moderate one of the debates. With due respect to those chosen, while the job is challenging, it is not rocket science.

Most big-league journalists including Latinos have the skill set required to enable, facilitate and occasionally provoke the most rehearsed news event of the election season. The focus and the substantive burden should be on the candidates, not the moderators. Their task is to be fair, prepared, and pay attention. There is a certain amount of ring mastering, but the more confident and competent the host, the less need for laugh lines or gotcha moments.

Because of my war correspondent style, I would probably not be selected by the stately Presidential Debate Commission.

Perhaps I am too larger than life. But before announcing my candidates for the job, all skilled and well-mannered, let me tell you why something that seems like racial anchor profiling is required.

8.7% of the presidential electorate 2012 will be Hispanic. That hefty number is enough to make all the difference in battleground states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida.

The burgeoning Latino demographic and the potential impact of a 2008-like 67%-32% Obama sweep is the reason Latino issues should be discussed.

As I have written in my books “HisPanic” and “The Great Progression” if the Democratic candidate continues to reap that 67% percent of the Latino vote and the community continues to turn out at 2008-levels, there may never be another Republican president, (barring a sea change in GOP attitudes toward Hispanics).

But while critical to the fortunes of the candidates, those impressive numbers are still not the reason an ethnic Latino moderator should have been considered for at least a supporting roll in the presidential debates.

Proficiency in Spanish is one broad reason, but only because it is a passport into a community whose priorities sometimes diverge from the majority’s.

If you don’t believe me, watch newscasts on Telemundo or Univision. Don’t worry about not understanding the palaver, just focus on the stories being covered. They are as likely to contain the latest bulletins from Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina or Mexico, as from Washington or New York.  Stories of politics and corruption, violence, the economy, even sports are reported from a vastly different point-of-view.

Highest profile, easiest recent example: the intense reaction to Mexico’s stunning victory over superpower Brazil in the soccer final. It far over shadowed anything our Olympians achieved in terms of coverage on the Spanish-language networks.

The point is not seriously arguable.

Spanish-language newscasts more accurately reflect the current cares and concerns of most of the America’s 47 or 48 million Hispanics than do the English-language networks. That will change as the English network’s broaden their outreach, and as the Hispanic community continues its rapid assimilation into the fabric of larger American life. But it is not there yet by a long-shot and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Another example, the Spanish-language networks have been far more preoccupied with the treatment of immigrants in recent years. They do not demonize the undocumented. They have chronicled the upset caused by the Obama Administration’s just de-escalated flurry of deportations. And the Spanish networks have been far more keenly tuned in to the fate of the 1.2 to 1.7 million immigrant children and young adults whose lives have just been profoundly altered by President Obama’s executive order granting them a reprieve from the catastrophe of deportation.

Added bonus: the Spanish networks have covered the alarming antics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arizona governor Jan Brewer far most critically.

Objectively speaking, isn’t Randy Falco right when he suggests the need for “…someone to speak credibly to the concerns of Hispanics in America,”?

The president and CEO of Univision the highly-rated Spanish-language powerhouse network goes on to suggest two of his own team of anchors, Jorge Ramos and Mary Elena Salinas. Both veteran journalists who are proficiently bilingual and widely traveled domestically and internationally, they could comfortably fill the bill. So could Jose Diaz Balart over at rival Telemundo.

It isn’t racial profiling or affirmative action.

It is respect shown a vast community whose concerns will gradually coincide with their fellow Americans, but do not yet.
If the Presidential Debate Commission had thought it through, the move would have been simple common sense.

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