Magazine article Insight on the News

Bush Fails to Counter Lies of Civil-Rights Lobby

Magazine article Insight on the News

Bush Fails to Counter Lies of Civil-Rights Lobby

Article excerpt

The most common media hit on President Bush after his 1988 campaign was the claim that he won by scaring whites about blacks, that the GOP used "code words" to achieve a dirty victory.

So it wasn't altogether surprising when Texas Gov. George W. Bush accepted an invitation to speak at the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP. Liberal media types were easily mollified, with big stars such as CBS News anchorman Dan Rather touting how Bush was running much smarter than Bob Dole, who was punished by the media for rejecting the NAACP invitation as a "setup."

Bush's cross-ideological strategy may have succeeded in some meaningful amount of media fang-retraction. It may have been the virtuous thing to do. But was it smart politics? It was, to my way of thinking, a great opportunity lost. Following the ABCs of politics, the Bush camp had to know that the main media sound bite from his speech would be his Clintonian apology that "the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln." Sure enough, the press jumped all over it, dutifully reporting that this individual Republican is different from them. Score a (perhaps only momentary) point for Bush at the expense of the Republican Party, with shades of Clinton's 1996 triangulation strategy. Like Clinton, he is counting on blind loyalty in the pursuit of victory to supersede the affront.

It also reminds us of the infamous Al Gore-Jack Kemp vice presidential debate in 1996, when Gore congratulated Kemp for being a "lonely voice" in the Republican Party that cared about black issues. Kemp responded not by defending his party's honor on racial issues, but by gloating about himself. Bush scored points for "moving toward the center," and the only people who suffer are those Republicans who apparently have been racists for the last 35 years.

Like Kemp, Bush did not deem it necessary to point out the opposition's position on racial politics -- to remind the NAACP the Democratic Party they are so thoroughly wrapped around is the party of Stephen Douglas, and it very much lived up to the mantle of Stephen Douglas for many years. It was Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen who broke the Democrat filibuster of the Civil Act of 1964, and it was Republican votes that enacted both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in greater numbers than Democrats.

By attending the NAACP convention, Bush also gave credence to the media view that the NAACP is the sole representative of the political views of black Americans, which is a slap at Clarence Thomas and all other black conservatives who've been under assault as insufficiently black from the supposed saints of the so-called "civil-rights movement. …

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