TO think that Vice President George Bush was offending Hispanics when he called his three Mexican American grandchildren the "little brown ones" is highly unlikely.
If that were the case, then about every politician in America would be just as offensive to the Hispanic community.
Although it may sound too simple a way to label an entire enthnic group, the word "brown" has imbedded itself into political language. Politicians talk of equality for all Americans, whether they be white, Black, yellow, red or brown. It's a type of political rhetoric politicians love to use. It's a type of political rhetoric the American public loves to hear.
If Americans thought it was offensive, why then is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the master of such a technique, still around?
Besides, how can anyone think that Grandpa Bush would want to offend his own grandchildren? It would have created a stir if Bush was referring to the entire Hispanic community, and if he showed a desire to offend Hispanics. But he wasn't and he didn't He was making an observation, obviously an awkward one, when he said that those are my grandchildren, who happen to stand out a bit in my predominantly white family because they have dark skin, darker than mine if you must know.
AN offensive comment would have went like this: "Hey, Ron, see those three kids over there, those little brown ones? Look a lot like illegal aliens, huh?"
Such a comment would have Bush kicked out of Washington and Gov. Michael S. Dukakis rushed into the White House. Bush, of course, didn't say this. Yet that is exactly what many of Democratic opponents wish the incident with his three grandchildren would become.
The Democrats would have a field day: "George Bush, the man who thinks his Mexican-American children are illegal aliens. Is this the type of family man you want in the White House? Vote Dukakis '88."
But if it would be crass for the Democrats to blow Bush's comment out of proportion by labeling it as an offensive one, it would be simply responsible for them to criticize Bush's own awkward attempts to lure Hispanic voters to the Republican party.
They could point to the fact that Bush will use his son Jeb's family, who are all bilingual, to attract the Hispanic vote. Bush has created a liasion between himself and the nation's Hispanics, through his grandchildren and his daughter-in-law. He could not talk to them directly since he doesn't know Spanish, so he will use other members of his family to relay his message.
George Bush cannot identify with the Hispanic vote, no matter how hard he tries. He once told Hispanic Republicans in Texas that he regretted not learning to speak Spanish. Why didn't he ever make an effort to do so when he was a congressman from Texas, where a large number of Hispanics live?
The vice president also thinks that his promise to appoint a Hispanic to his cabinet will attract Hispanic voters. But it's a question of dessert before the dinner. Bush must still address why Hispanics still suffer from poverty and unemployment in a nation that according to President Reagan, prospers from low unemployment and lower interest rates.
BUSH certainly doesn't come from a background to which Hispanics can relate. But all of a sudden, Bush sees the need to attract the Hispanic voter. He can't do it on his background. He probably can't do it on the past eight years of the Reagan Administration. So he turns to Jeb and his wife and the kids.
But Jeb and his wife and kids are not running for president. It is Bush himself who must say that he sincerely relates to the problems of the Hispanic community in the United States.
Dukakis, on the other hand, can identify with Hispanics just on the sole reason that he spoke Spanish, and very fluent Spanish, at the Democratic Convention. Dukakis can go out and directly talk to Hispanic voters without anyone having to translate for him. He can talk about his background as the son of an immigrant family and Hispanics will relate to him more than Bush.
What Hispanics see in Dukakis is what Bush lacks: sincerity. Dukakis has made a symbolic attempt at the Convention to speak to Hispanics in their native tongue that will most likely result in Hispanics voting Democratic in November.
Bush will need more than Jeb and his wife and kids to attract the Hispanic vote. He will have to prove to the Hispanic community that he will help improve its overall situation in American society. But if he continues to be as awkward as he was in describing his own grandchildren, the nation's Hispanics will keep talking in Spanish while George stumbles along in English.