Published October 25, 2012
The Romney campaign accused President Obama of taking the Hispanic community "for granted" after a previously off-record interview was published, showing the president predicting that if he wins it will be because Republicans "alienated" Latinos.
The president made the comment during a 30-minute conversation with the Des Moines Register's editorial board. The Obama campaign released the transcript after the editor complained the president's team had "handcuffed" the newspaper by insisting it be kept off record.
In the interview, Obama made two pledges for a second term, saying he's confident Washington can strike a "grand bargain" deal on deficit reduction and immigration reform next year. He went on to take a swing at Republicans on the latter issue.
"And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon," Obama said, likely in reference to the wave of illegal immigration enforcement laws at the state level.
The Romney campaign, in response, cast doubt on the president's editorial board comments, pointing to Obama's failure so far to pass comprehensive immigration reform despite pledges in 2008 to do so.
"It's a fascinating glimpse into how President Obama has taken the Hispanic community for granted for the past four years," spokesman Alberto Martinez said in a statement.
"He's caught making secret promises to an editorial board in Iowa, which also happens to be a promise he made in 2008, a promise he failed to keep, and a promise he doesn't repeat publicly. The whole episode underscores why millions of Hispanics are deeply disappointed with President Obama."
Much of the rest of the Des Moines Register interview was fairly policy-focused. Obama discussed his plans for the economy, education and energy development while vigorously defending his term to date.
At one point, Obama also told the editors he has "absolutely" no regrets that he didn't more forcefully pursue measures focused on the economy at the time he was pushing for the health care overhaul.
"The suggestion somehow that if we hadn't pursued ObamaCare, somehow we would have gotten additional stimulus out of the Republicans, for example, that we could have primed the pump more, that's just not borne out by any of the evidence," Obama said, noting Republican resistance at the time. The president also defended the health care bill as a measure aimed at treating the economy.
The transcript was turned over and published after editor Rick Green, in a column Tuesday afternoon, revealed that the White House had demanded the conversation be kept out of print. Green said Obama's aides did not give a reason for the "unusual condition" of the call.
"It was a 'personal call' to the Register's publisher and editor, we were told," Green wrote. "The specifics of the conversation could not be shared because it was off the record."
Following the complaint, campaign officials released a transcript to the newspaper, which it then published.
Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki offered a brief explanation for the move.
"This was a call that was meant to be a personal check in with a publisher and an editor, one of whom he hasn't spoken with in four years -- one of whom he'd never spoken with before. They expressed a desire to put this on the record, make it public, we said that's fine," she said.
Green had written that, after the off-record conditions were initially made, the newspaper "immediately lobbied his campaign staff in Des Moines for a formal, on-the-record call," but was told the decision "came from the White House."
"We relented and took the call. How could we not? It's the leader of the free world on line one. And as we weigh with our editorial board this critical decision about who to endorse, it was necessary for us to discuss the challenges confronting our state, nation and world with the president -- even when handcuffed by rules related to what could be shared," Green said.
Green noted that Mitt Romney met with the editorial board "literally" in a barn in Iowa on Oct. 9, and the audio from that conversation was posted online.
Green said in Tuesday's column that the initial snub, though, would not impact the newspaper's decision on an endorsement.
"That would be petty and ridiculous. We take far too seriously what's at stake this election and what our endorsement should say," he wrote.