US Attorney Gen in 'linguistic snare' over English
Washington Post
May 20, 2006

By Dan Whitcomb

HOUSTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush has long opposed making English the country's national language, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Friday, a day after the Senate voted to do so, but the White House said later Gonzales had got caught in a "linguistic snare."

The Senate vote came in an amendment to proposed legislation overhauling U.S. immigration law and directed the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English. Opponents said it could affect the status of some multilingual services offered by government organizations.

Adding to the confusion, the Senate also adopted a softer amendment calling English the "unifying language" of the United States. Senators take both versions into negotiations over a final bill with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gonzales did not directly address Bush's position on the controversial amendment because the Senate has not yet voted on the whole bill. But he said that Bush has in the past rejected such efforts.

"The president has never supported making English the national language," Gonzales said after meeting with state and local officials in Texas to discuss cooperation on enforcement of immigration laws.

He said Bush has instead long supported a concept called "English-Plus," believing that it was good to be proficient in more than one language.

Later on Friday, the White House weighed in to clarify Gonzales' remarks, saying the president does not believe in English as an "official" language.

"The attorney general got caught in a linguistic snare. He took 'national' language to mean what we describe as 'official' language.

"We have no problem in identifying English, our common linguistic currency as a national language; we also view it more expansively as the "common and unifying language," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.