There are currently so many Democrats running for president of the Untied States that the debates had to be split in two. So who stood out the most at the first one on Wednesday night? It depends by what you mean “stood out.” Elizabeth Warren was her usual clear, confident, knowledgeable self. Julián Castro proved more forceful and charismatic than he has till now. But if you’re looking for what goes viral, then the big stand-out was Cory Booker’s face when the exceedingly well-meaning Beto O’Rouke suddenly began speaking Spanish.
O’Rourke — who earned a name for nearly toppling Ted Cruz from his Texas Senate seat — was asked a relatively dull question: whether he supports a 70 percent tax on Americans whose annual income is more than $10 million.
The relatively young (well, 46) businessman-politician started his response in English. “Right now we have a system that favors those who can pay for access and outcomes,” O’Rourke said. “That’s how you can explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and to the very wealthiest.”
O’Rourke — who hails from El Paso, near the border, but is of Irish-American descent — then repeated his response in Spanish.
On one level, kudos! O’Rourke was one of three Democratic presidential aspirants who spoke multiple languages. (The sitting commander-in-chief can barely speak one.) On the other, it could be interpreted as a little jarring, perhaps wincingly overachieving. Booker was one person who seemed a bit taken aback by his linguistic gymnastics. Others felt likewise.
Others were suspicious of O’Rourke’s motives.
For the record, The Hill pointed out that Booker proudly speaks the language.
Still, it was fun to imagine what was going through Booker’s head.