September 20, 2008
INTERVIEWER: "You voted for the construction of the wall between Mexico and the United States..."
JOHN MCCAIN: "I didn't vote for an...I am not sure what you are talking about, but we can secure...our borders with walls and/or fences in urban areas, and then virtual fences, vehicle barriers.
INTERVIEWER: "But, you did vote for the wall."
MCCAIN: "I didn't vote for an...I don't know what you are exactly what you are referring to."
--Interview with Univision, Sept. 15, 2008.
Trolling for the votes of Hispanic Americans, John McCain distanced himself this week from plans to build a 700-mile wall along sections of the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border. He suggested that he preferred a "virtual" electronic wall, with actual physical fences only in urban areas. But that claim misrepresents his vote back in September 2006, when he helped pass the "Secure Fence Act."
As a leading proponent of immigration reform, the Arizona senator long took the view that action designed to stop the flow of illegal aliens into the country should be combined with offering a path to legal citizenship to those that were already here. But he changed his position in 2006 as he prepared for his presidential bid, and voted for a law that was focused almost exclusively on keeping illegal aliens out. The law stipulates that a large stretch of the new wall would be built in McCain's home state of Arizona.
Most of the top presidential candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, joined McCain in voting for the "Secure Fence Act," which passed the Senate by 80-19.
Questioned by the Spanish language television station Univision about his support for the fence, McCain claimed that he did not know what the interviewer was talking about. But the language of the legislation is very clear. Section 3 of the Act orders the Department of Homeland Security to oversee the construction of "at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors" along five sections of the border, totaling 700 miles.
In the meantime, the Obama campaign has also put out a television adaccusing McCain of "lying" to win Latino votes while supporting hardline Republican policies on immigration and other matters. The advertisement attempts to link McCain to the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who appears on screen along with quotes like "Shut your mouth or get out."
As several bloggers have pointed out, here and here, the Limbaugh quotes have been taken out of context. The attempt to link McCain to Limbaugh is also unfair, given the fact that the radio host has frequently criticized McCain, particularly on the issue of immigration reform.
The Pinocchio Test
Both McCain and Obama have taken liberties with the truth in seeking the support of Hispanic-Americans, who are emerging as a crucial voting bloc in the presidential election. McCain had a politically convenient memory lapse in forgetting his vote for a physical wall along long sections of the Mexican border, while Obama incorrectly suggested that his rival shares Limbaugh's ideas on immigration.