Tweaked in Translation

When a campaign wants to gin up some attention for their latest ad, they usually e-mail a transcript to the media. But today, when the Obama camp announced its latest Spanish-language radio spot, it sent out two transcripts.

According to the campaign, the first one was sent out in error. It was, apparently, an older version. Here's the new one, they said, in a subsequent e-mail.

Political junkies love moments like this. It affords us a rare glimpse into the secret world of message-massage. Why does the campaign go with certain phrases? What did the campaign consider saying, then discard? Little mistakes like this offer some insight.

I was an English major, and so in the spirit of those useless old Lit classes, I offer this close reading of the two versions — a side-by-side textual analysis of the changes.


Title: "Bootstraps"

His father was an immigrant. His mother from a humble, middle class family... Obama never pulled people down as he made his way up...


Title: "Nuestro Proprio Camino" (Our Own Path — MK)

He grew up without a father - raised by his mother with the support of his grandparents... Obama never forgot his roots...

Hmmm... If I had to speculate wildly about authorial intent — which is what English majors do —my thesis paragraph might look something like this:

The writer's original impulse is to forge a bond with the readers (e.g., Latino immigrants) by identifying the candidate as a fellow immigrant and by sympathizing with their anger over anti-illegal immigrant sentiment ("Obama never pulled people down on his way up..."). But in the subsequent version, the writer backs away from this approach, realizing it might be a stretch to call Obama's father — a Kenyan studying in America — an immigrant, and that the "pulling people down" phrase might go a little too far in identifying the candidate with the immigrants rights movement.

Of course, my term paper would probably come back marked up in red pencil: Speculative!

Here's the new ad:



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Also, the official version of the English transcript has this phrase: "...Obama has stood with us for immigration reform and spoke out for our veterans."

But in the ad itself, the Spanish announcer says this: "He fought to extend the G.I. bill, and bring our heroes home."

I have no theories on that one.



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Say whatever it takes to get their votes!

Sent by Harold | 3:08 PM | 7-23-2008

Any candidate who attempts to appeal to some group of voters is unfit for office.

They should be shunned out of politics.

They don't respect your intelligence, and are obviously running for office on the wrong reasons.

Sent by Jody Sol | 3:45 PM | 7-23-2008