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The Philadelphia Inquirer

GOP Doing More For Latinos

Rev. Nelson Quiñones

28 December 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Philadelphia Inquirer. All rights reserved. 

In the year 2020, it could well happen that a Bush will emerge as the first Latino U.S. president. George P. Bush, that is.

With the Nov. 10 nomination of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for U.S. attorney general, current President George W. Bush is laying the groundwork for a Latino presidency within the next two decades.

This is not the first that time Bush has nominated a Latino for a federal or national government position. Besides Gonzales, he has nominated Judge Miguel Estrada and Consuelo Maria Callahan. In his first term, Bush nominated Estrada, a Honduran immigrant and a partner in a Washington law firm, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. But Senate Democrats blocked Estrada's nomination - due, they claim, to conflicting information about his job performance. Estrada withdrew after two years in limbo. Callahan, an associate justice on the California Court of Appeals, was confirmed by the Senate in 2003 to serve on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In his second term, Bush appears to be redoubling his efforts to bring diversity into government offices with qualified candidates. Several Latino judges are being mentioned. Miguel Estrada, a Washington attorney, and Emilio Garza, a U.S. appeals court judge in Texas, are - along with Gonzalez - potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. The President has reached into the Lehigh Valley by nominating Luis Ramos to the National Assessment Regulatory Board.

These actions signal a sincere commitment to serving the nation's growing Latino population. They follow the precedent set by George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990, when he appointed Antonia C. Novello, born and educated in Puerto Rico, as the first Latino - and, incidentally, the first woman - surgeon general of the United States.

If the Senate confirms Gonzales, he will become the first Latino to be attorney general, eighth in line in succession from the presidency.

According to a White House curriculum vitae, Gonzales' qualifications including having been a Texas Supreme Court judge, secretary of state for Texas, Bush's chief adviser and liaison on Mexico and border issues, an adjunct law professor, and a graduate of Rice University and Harvard Law School. He attended the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force.

Such a man is an ideal role model, not only for Latinos but also for all Americans. Gonzales' visibility touches many U.S. Hispanics who can identify with his luchas, struggles from poverty to "a shared hope for an opportunity to succeed. 'Just give me a chance to prove myself' - that is a common prayer for those in my community."

Gonzales is not a perfect fit. The Senate will question memos he has written regarding the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, the Abu Ghraib prisoners, and the trials at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Still, it's hard to question Gonzales' proven loyalty and service to this country. And in the eyes of the American people, a Latino as the country's chief law enforcement officer would establish a comfort zone of acceptance.

Bush was supported by an estimated 40 percent of Latino voters, and he is repaying that support. But he may also be preparing the way for another Latino - his nephew George.

George P. Bush is the son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife, Columba. It is often said that George P. Bush has star quality written all over him. His mother raised him. John Shelby Spong has written that "he is an emerging political force who combines intellect, personal charm and a potent political name. Watch for him to emerge as a Florida senator or governor by 2016 and a candidate for the White House by the end of the first quarter of the 21st century."

It could happen. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos, already the second-largest ethnic group in the United States with more than 35 million, will triple in number by 2050.

For valid reasons, President Bush has secured the loyalty of the growing Latino constituency. Certainly, the Bush legacy is intertwined with the Latino community.

That's why while Democrats talk about diversity, the first Hispanic American presidente most likely to come from the Republican Party.

Rev. Nelson Quiñones is assistant pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Allentown

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