Reporters' Roundtable: Democrats Spar in Vegas

Our panel of reporters talk about last night's Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas. Joining Farai Chideya are Eddie Escobedo, founder and publisher of El Mundo newspaper in Las Vegas; Sean Gonsalves, a reporter for The Cape Cod Times; and Bob Butler, a reporter for KCBS Radio.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And we're going to carry this topic over to our Reporters' Roundtable. Today, we've got Eddie Escobedo. He's founder and publisher of El Mundo newspaper in Las Vegas. Also Sean Gonsalves, a reporter for The Cape Cod Times. And Bob Butler, a reporter for KCBS Radio in San Francisco. Welcome, folks.

Mr. EDDIE ESCOBEDO (Founder and Publisher, El Mundo Newspaper): All right. Thank you for having me.

Mr. SEAN GONSALVES (Reporter, Cape Cod Times): Thank you.

Mr. BOB BUTLER (Reporter, KCBS Radio, San Francisco): How are you?

Mr. GONSALVES: Very good, very good.

CHIDEYA: I'm great. So let's pick up with what happened last night and just put it in context. Eddie, Nevada is being called the Latino primary state because almost one in four Nevadans are of Latino descent. Do you think that that's a fair assessment?

Mr. ESCOBEDO: Well, we were (audio gap) Nevadans were not satisfied with what happened last night because we wanted to talk about the local issues of state and, of course, city issues than - or what's affecting Nevada. And within - the only thing they discussed was the Yucca Mountain and, of course, the - illegal immigration. But there's some more issue that we are concerned with and we were not able to. And, of course, for some reason, I was not very satisfied with the way it was conducted because there was no exchange between the candidates and the moderator, and a lot of times, we didn't get the right answer, because they went around, not giving the specific answer, yes or no.

And so, even though we were very proud and very happy it happened here in Nevada and it was televised national - I mean, worldwide. So, definitely, that's a plus plus for Las Vegas. But here, again, we - Nevada residents were not happy because of the issues that were discussed here last night. Same issues. They have the war, the health care. But the issues that affect Nevada were not discussed.

CHIDEYA: Well, let met get Bob in here. Don't you think could be just fallout from the television era that people are not playing to the local audience, they're playing to the camera.

Mr. BUTLER: You know, I think that's true for all candidates. Nowadays, they know that every time that they say a word, it could be seen by the entire country. So, you might have people who are in Nevada but they're really thinking about that, you know, that state still up for grabs, some place in the Midwest or some place back east. So their messages are all - you know, I don't even think these people write their own messages anymore. I think the messages are written by strategists and spin doctors.

CHIDEYA: Sean, when you listened last night, did…

Mr. GONSALVES: Oh, forgive me, (unintelligible)?

CHIDEYA: Sean, when you listened last night, did you hear anything that stood out to you?

Mr. GONSALVES: You know, I got to say that I'm skeptical that these debates really change people's minds in any substantial way. I'm always kind of disappointed with the debates because I kind of like old school debates like, you know, Lincoln-Douglas types, you know, slug-them-out, you know, let's get down and nitty-gritty. And I don't know that Americans necessarily have the attention span for that. Certainly the formats aren't that way.

I guess the thing that stood out to me was, you know, the setup to this whole thing was, you know, will Hillary be able to sort of recover after she seem like she did not so good on the 30th of October. But I thought she handled herself pretty well, although I think there were a couple of key questions that she very definitely maneuvered out of without answering too well.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know what, we are going to take a quick and be back with more of our Reporters' Roundtable. We are speaking with Sean Gonsalves, a reporter for the Cape Cod Times, Eddie Escobedo, founder and publisher of El Mundo Newspaper in Las Vegas, and Bob Butler, a reporter for KCBS Radio in San Francisco.

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CHIDEYA: Just ahead, we continue to slice and dice the headlines on our Reporters' Roundtable. And in our family series, making the hard decision to sever family ties.

This is NPR News.

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CHIDEYA: This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Welcome back to the Reporters' Roundtable. Today, I'm talking to Eddie Escobedo, he's the founder and publisher of El Mundo Newspaper in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sean Gonsalves is a reporter for the Cape Cod Times. And Bob Butler is a reporter for KCBS radio in San Francisco. Let's just pick up where we left off. I want to transition to a topic that is related to some of the national issues that got discussed in this debate. You have New York governor Eliot Spitzer reversing his controversial plan to provide undocumented workers with driver's licenses. He said it would improve public safety. He got an endorsement from New York senator Hillary Clinton. Since then, both elected officials have backed off and said that they do not support licenses for undocumented workers.

Bob, what do you think is going to be the fallout of this kind of reversal, particularly from a senator?

Mr. BUTLER: Well, I think, more than anything else - it takes me back to John Kerry and his reputation as being somebody who flip-flopped a lot. You know, that was exploited quite expertly by Karl Rove. And now Rove may not be involved with this campaign, but there must be other people that started under him that may do the same thing, and point out, well, you can't really count on her because she changes her mind too much.

CHIDEYA: So, Eddie, do you think that this is an issue that is going to impact the national debate over undocumented workers?

Mr. ESCOBEDO: Without a doubt, definitely. The reason why Senator Clinton goes along with the New York governor is because the Democratic Party is at stake. And it was a good thing for her to follow the footsteps of the governor, because otherwise, it would have been a controversy and the GOP would have (unintelligible) the Democrats regarding that particular issue. And that particular issue is not going to die until a new immigration reform or bill will apply. So, well, we just have to wait until a new president comes in.

CHIDEYA: Sean, when you take a look at this issue, how is it playing - Cape Cod is fairly remote from Nevada. How is it playing out for you?

Mr. GONSALVES: This is an area that is - immigration is a huge issue here, primarily because the economy here is primarily a female economy and quite a few service jobs. And so, there's a number of immigrant workers here, from Brazilians to eastern Europeans. And so, it's always a hot issue. But in here, just like across the country, its sort of divided by sort of the pragmatic approach, which I think is with this licensing issue is attempting to address it from a pragmatic stand point of view.

And then the sort of ideological position, which is, you know - we've got to shut down the borders, we've got to, you know, kick all of the illegal immigrants out. But I think, you know, more pragmatically speaking - and I think this is what Obama was trying to convey in some way, is from a realistic standpoint of view, at least for the foreseeable future, I don't see how you're going to boot out every illegal immigrant anytime soon - if, in fact, that would even be a desirable thing to do.

So, you know, very much here, in this area, it's a hot issue and it tends to fall on the side of shutting down the borders. In fact, we - you know, we've had a few people out from Massachusetts who call themselves the other minute men and who have even volunteered to join these militias and go down to the borders. And so, it's the rhetoric is so heated that it's very difficult to have a good conversation about it. It's kind of like the Palestinian-Israeli situation, it's one of those issues right now that seems intractable almost.

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