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Villaraigosa criticizes Romney over stance on immigrants

L.A. mayor delivers a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention a day after being booed over his handling of a voice vote.

September 07, 2012|By Kate Linthicum and David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at the Democratic National Convention.Villaraigosa took aim at Mitt Romney’s suggestion that cracking down on illegal immigrants would persuade many of them to leave the United States of their own will.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at the Democratic National Convention.Villaraigosa… (Kevork Djansezian, Getty…)

One day after being booed at the Democratic National Convention during an embarrassing dust-up over his party's official platform, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivered a high-profile speech Thursday that offered red meat to the party faithful.

Villaraigosa hammered Republicans for their positions on taxes and Medicare and took aim at GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's suggestion that cracking down on illegal immigrants would persuade many of them to leave the United States of their own will.

"Instead of supporting their dream, Gov. Romney wants to make life so miserable, so oppressive, so intolerable for them that they would leave behind the life they've built, leave their children behind and 'self-deport,' " Villaraigosa said. "How about that for family values?"

His eight-minute speech in Charlotte, N.C., one of dozens meant to fire up the crowd in advance of President Obama's acceptance of the Democratic nomination, followed efforts by the mayor to explain his awkward moment as convention chairman Wednesday.

The platform controversy erupted over a hasty effort to reinsert the word 'God' and declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Those references were in the party's 2008 platform but dropped from the 2012 version. Democratic officials, claiming an oversight, moved to restore the language in the wake of Republican attacks.

The change needed a two-thirds voice vote of approval from delegates. But when Villaraigosa asked for the vote, the crowd in the arena shouted "ayes" and "noes" at roughly equivalent volumes.

"I, uh, I guess I'll do that one more time," Villaraigosa said from the podium. After second and third attempts yielded divided responses, Villaraigosa ruled that the amendments had passed by two-thirds, drawing boos from the audience.

On Thursday, he received some ribbing from MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough, who welcomed the mayor to the program with the words: "The dude needs a hearing aid."

"That was not two-thirds of the people," he told the mayor. "They set you up, man. They set you up."

Villaraigosa defended his handling of the votes. "What you saw up there was a man who was willing to make a decision," he said. "I used to be the speaker of the California State Assembly."

Villaraigosa said President Obama had personally ordered the changes so that the platform "reflected his values."

Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP political consultant, said the president's instructions had placed the mayor in "an untenable position." "Poor Antonio was stuck with the job of having to follow through on the orders from on top," he said.

Still, Hoffenblum predicted that the incident would do little lasting harm to the mayor. "They weren't booing him. They were booing having to change the platform," said Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which analyzes state and national political races.

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