Associated Press

Thursday, July 2, 1998

Gov. Bush Praises Bilingual Ed.
By DAVID KOENIG, Associated Press Writer

DALLAS--Gov. George W. Bush, a potential Republican presidential candidate, won favor with the nation's largest Hispanic political organization as he demonstrated his own bilingual approach.
     House Speaker Newt Gingrich, however, drew just polite applause from the audience at the annual convention the League of United Latin American Citizens.
     While Gingrich made no mention of his support of making English the nation's official language, Bush pushed for an "English plus" approach that favors teaching English while not ruling out bilingual education.
     "If the bilingual program serves to teach our children English, then we ought to say, 'Thank you very much,' and leave them in place," Bush said Wednesday. "And if the bilingual program locks someone into Spanish and does not achieve state objectives, then we must say 'Change the program, eliminate the program."'
     The delegates, some of whom have opposed English-only proposals in their states, roared their approval.
     Bush also frequently spoke in Spanish, even answering some questions at a pre-speech news conference in Spanish.
     Support for English-only proposals by some Republican office holders has been blamed for driving Hispanic voters away from the party in some states, notably California.
     Bush also warned against "policy and rhetoric that will wall Mexico off from America." He opposed the use of military troops to patrol the border with Mexico.
     "The U.S. military is trained to fight the enemy, and Mexico is not the enemy," Bush said.
     Bush, heavily favored to win a second term as governor in November, has not said if he will run for the White House in 2000. Gingrich is also believed to be weighing a presidential campaign -high-ranking House Republicans are already jockeying to succeed him as speaker.
     Gingrich followed Bush to the podium and did not directly address the language issue.
     The Georgia Republican drew his loudest applause when he said the United States shares blame for the prevalence of illegal drugs with the countries where drugs are cultivated.
     "There's no point in talking about bashing Mexico on drugs or bashing Colombia ... (or) Bolivia on drugs," he said. "The primary problem with drugs in the world today is the American market buying them."
     Gingrich joined Bush in calling for tougher border enforcement, but also left wiggle room. He said the border with Mexico can't be sealed because that would cut off legal trade along with illicit drugs and illegal aliens.