May 4, 2006

Bush’s Spanish not that bueno: spokesman

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush boldly
spews out Spanish phrases at any opportunity where they might
be relevant, but the White House acknowledged on Thursday that
Bush's fluency is, well, not bueno.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan used that defense to
dispute a report that Bush sang the U.S. national anthem in
Spanish during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Critics have accused Bush of hypocrisy for opposing a
Spanish language version of the anthem.

They pointed to a book called "American Dynasty" by Kevin
Phillips, who wrote that Bush "would drop in at Hispanic
festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing 'The
Star-Spangled Banner' in Spanish."

McClellan said the assertion did not ring true to him
because, "The president speaks Spanish, but not that well."

"I'm saying that not only was that suggestion absurd, but
that he couldn't possibly sing the national anthem in Spanish.
He's not that good with his Spanish," McClellan said.

Bush, a former governor of Texas, sprinkles his speeches
with Spanish phrases, as he did during both his presidential
campaigns, to show kinship with Hispanics.

He was at it again on Thursday, celebrating Cinco De Mayo,
the day marking the May 5, 1862, Mexican defeat of the French
army at the Battle of Puebla, with a smattering of Spanish
phrases and urging newly arrived immigrants to learn English.

"Bienvenidos, welcome to the White House," he said. "You
may have noticed this celebration is not on the Cinco de Mayo
-- it's on the Cuatro de Mayo."

For scheduling purposes, Bush marked Cinco de Mayo a day

"It's such an important holiday, we thought we would start
early," he said to laughter.

"Those who come here to start new lives in our country have
a responsibility to understand what America is about and a
responsibility to learn the English language so they can better
understand our national character and participate fully in
American life," he said.

Last week, Bush said he thought the national anthem should
be sung in English, after the "Star-Spangled Banner," or
"Nuestro Himno," made its debut with a new Latin beat and
Spanish lyrics.

Bush's wife, Laura, appeared to disagree.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with singing it in
Spanish," she told CNN in an interview on Wednesday.

She said she thought it should be sung in English, but
pointed out that, "We are a nation of immigrants. We are a
nation of many, many languages, because immigrants come and
bring their languages."