On Saturday we saw a curious dance between Assemblyman Van Tran and First District Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen orchestrated by Orange County GOP leader Scott Baugh.
Â In what appeared to be a hastily called press conference by Tran, Nguyen announced that she was supporting the endorsement by GOP leaders of Assemblyman Van Tran for the Congressional seat currently held by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.Â Even the press statement fired off after the photo-op, failed to include a single quote from Supervisor Nguyen.
A couple things should be noted about the endorsement dance that was held Saturday morning at Van Tran’s Garden Grove headquarters. First, as Norberto Santana of Voice of OC reports:
Nguyen and Tran stood awkwardly in the middle of the lineup with a noticeable gap between them — it was like all the party heavyweights were trying force two magnets together.
When asked about endorsing Tran, Nguyen stayed on message stressing that she was endorsing the party’s endorsement. Then she stood and smiled.
Second, voters in the Vietnamese community are not stupid. They can recognize a charade when they see one. While some may be moved by Janet Nguyen’s public endorsement of Van Tran, those who do not like Van or JanetÂ are not going to simply change their minds because Tran and Nguyen make a show of making up. The reality is that this will have littleÂ if any impact on actual votes, and might actually take votes from Tran. Vietnamese-American voters who support Congresswoman Sanchez, are not likely to change their position because of an endorsement. If anything, this is a sign that Van Tran feels he must do all he can to solidify his support in the Vietnamese-American community.
In the midst of the outrage expressed by Assemblyman Van Tran over Congresswoman Loretta Sanchezâ€™ comments in an interview on Univision that Vietnamese were trying to take her seat, I figured I should dig deeper to find out more about what Van Tran has been doing and saying in the Vietnamese community since his initial rise to power as a Garden Grove City Councilman in 2000.
I had the opportunity to speak with 76 year-old Nguyen The Ngoc. He had been an early supporter of Van Tran and once believed that Tran truly wanted to serve the Vietnamese community. He now believes that Van Tran is only working for Van Tran, and his own political power.
Mr. Nguyen isnâ€™t involved in political groups. He currently focuses his time working with the youth of the community. â€œThey are our countryâ€™s future,â€ he tells me. â€œThey will replace the elders in thanking America for our freedom.â€ NguyenÂ says he is a registered Republican â€œbecause the designation of Republican contains the word Republic and that is similar to the Republic of Vietnam.â€ He added; â€œThe propaganda that Republicans are anti-Communist and that the Democrats are pro-communist plays a major role in the decision Vietnamese make when they choose a political party.â€
I asked Mr. Nguyen if he was aware of any instances where Van Tran had encouraged members of the Vietnamese community to support his campaigns for office based upon his ethnicity. Nguyen told me that â€œbeginning with his Garden Grove City Council race and continuing through his Assembly and current Congressional campaigns Mr. Tran has encouraged Vietnamese voters to support him, specifically because of his ethnicity.â€ Nguyen added, â€œthis is widely known in the Vietnamese community and has been specifically promoted by Tran in Vietnamese language print media, as well as on Vietnamese radio.â€
â€œVan Tran always says that the Vietnamese community in Orange County needs a voice in Washington, D.C.â€ Nguyen said. â€œTherefore the Vietnamese community must vote for Vietnamese individuals. Van Tran says that only Vietnamese can understand and care for Vietnamese, but he does not live up to that promise.â€
Nguyen was upset that after all of the years that Van Tran has told Vietnamese to only vote for Vietnamese, â€œhe now tells us to vote for a non-Vietnamese (Mansoor) over Phu Nguyen. This shows that Van Tran is a hypocrite,” Nguyen complained.
I asked Mr. Nguyen how the comments that Congresswoman Sanchez made about Vietnamese wanting to steal her seat from Latinos had gone over in the Vietnamese community.â€
â€œI think her comments were accurate. Loretta Sanchez is a very honorable person and she has never brought race into any of her elections,â€ Nguyen said. I do not believe her comments were an example of racism on her part, she has never done that. Van Tran feels that he has lost the support of his Vietnamese constituents. This is just another example of baseless political attacks made by Van Tran on his opponents, like he has made against Supervisor Janet Nguyen.â€
â€œVan Tran knows that the Vietnamese community is very anti-communist,â€ Nguyen elaborated. â€œAnyone who is not part of his chosen team is red-baited by him. Tran has attacked Janet Nguyen accusing her of being a communist constantly. In 2008, Tran sent out a mailer, using letterhead that looked like it was from his Assembly office, claiming she was a communist.â€
â€œWhen Janet Nguyen tries to do good for the community, he opposes it and tells all his supporters to oppose it. Van Tran did this with a multi-million dollar pedestrian bridge project that would have been of great benefit to the community, particularly the elderly. Because it wasnâ€™t his idea, he had the project blocked.â€
Upon learning of Janet Nguyenâ€™s endorsement of Van Tran, Ngoc Nguyen was blunt. â€œI have heard that Janet Nguyen was forced by the Republicans to endorse Van Tran.Â I am pretty sure that there were negotiations behind closed doors â€“ for example, Van Tran may have to publicly apologize toÂ Janet Nguyen for red-baiting, calling her communist in 2008.Â This must be pressure from both state and national republican leadership but I donâ€™t think Supervisor Nguyen is happy about this decision.â€
I asked Mr. Nguyen who he felt has done more for the Vietnamese community Loretta or Van. Nguyen took a deep breath and said; â€œCulturally the Vietnamese community has a tradition of fighting for their community members. However, I do not believe that you have to be Vietnamese to fight for the community. Whoever does the best job I support. Up to today, Loretta Sanchez has provided more services to the Vietnamese Community than Van Tran. After 6 years in the Assembly, I believe Van Tran has not done anything notable for the community.â€
Ngoc Nguyen recalled attending a Community Office Hours event that Sanchez held last year at the ABC Supermarket in Little Saigon. He recalled that dozens of people showed up to thank Sanchez personally for her work helping their families be reunited in America and for her suppport of the community. He said; â€œPeople are pleased that she has worked hard to bring federal funding to fight human trafficking, which affects a lot of Vietnamese.â€
I asked Mr. NguyenÂ if Congresswoman Sanchezâ€™ apology enough to satisfy any doubts of her support for the Vietnamese community. â€œYes,â€ he said, â€œmore than enough. Her actions have proven that she serves all of her constituents including the Vietnamese. Sometimes you slip and misspeak.â€
Below are the Legislative actions taken by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez during the current session of CongressÂ related to the Vietnamese Community.
H.Res. 672: Calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to release imprisoned bloggers and respect Internet freedom
Status: 10/21/2009 Passed/agreed to in House. Status: On motion to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution Agreed to by voice vote.
Description: Calls on Vietnam to: (1) repeal Circular 07, Article 88, and similar statutes that restrict the Internet, so as to be in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory; (2) become a responsible member state of the international community by respecting individuals’ freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of political association; and (3) release all political prisoners, including but not limited to 18 named bloggers and cyber activists.
H.Res. 334: Calling on the Government of Vietnam to release from prison, end the detention without trial, and cease the harassment and house arrest of the people who signed the Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam.
Status: 4/21/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Description: Resolution also expresses that the President should: (1) request that the President of Vietnam release nonviolent, peaceful supporters of democracy; and (2) direct the Secretary of State to establish a Countries of Particular Concern list to condemn countries like Vietnam which engage in “particularly severe violations” of human rights, parallel in structure to the Countries of Particular Concern list for countries with “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
H.Res. 1515: Calling on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to uphold and respect basic human rights by releasing three women democracy activists, writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, attorney Le Thi Cong Nhan, and cyber-activist Pham Thanh Nghien
Status: 7/14/2010 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Description: This resolution would call on the President and the Secretary of State to pressure Vietnam to uphold basic human rights by release democracy activist.
Additionally Congresswoman Sanchez took the following non-legislative actions this session.
- Congresswoman Sanchez led a bipartisan group of eleven Members of Congress in a letter expressing concern over the Government of Vietnamâ€™s continuing disregard for the free speech rights of internet bloggers.Â The letter was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and executives from Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google, calling on internet service providers to protect the freedom of speech and expression and to not collaborate with the Vietnamese government.
- Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez led the other co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam in a letter calling for the release of Le Cong Dinh, a Vietnamese lawyer arrested earlier this week for defending pro-democracy and free speech advocates in Vietnam.Â The letter, which was addressed to Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was also sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak.Â The also urged the government of Vietnam to adhere to international human rights standards.
- Congresswoman Sanchez worked with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to send a letter to Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet urging him to release and dismiss charges against two prominent Vietnamese activists. Both Pham Thanh Nghien and Tran Khai Thanh Thuy are being detained for calling on Vietnam to respect fundamental human rights.
- Congresswoman Sanchez led Congressional efforts to urge the Department of State issued the following statement regarding the release of Vietnamese human rights activist Father Nguyen Ly, who spent more than 15 years in prison for protesting Vietnamâ€™s communist regime:
- â€œI am extremely pleased by Vietnamâ€™s decision to release Father Ly on humanitarian grounds. Father Ly suffered multiple strokes while in prison last year and is reportedly in poor health. Thankfully, he will now be able to seek the medical care he needs in the company of his friends and family.
- Congresswoman Sanchez was the first to call the US Deputy Chief of Mission in Vietnam, Virginia Palmer, and urged her to take action on reports that one of the democracy activists, writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy (Tran Khai-Ton-Twee) and her husband were beaten in front of their 13-year old daughter and imprisoned by the Vietnamese police and government.