Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jack Kemp's Stumble over Affirmative Action

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Jack Kemp's Stumble over Affirmative Action

Article excerpt

WHAT Jack Kemp said or did not say about affirmative action at a Monitor breakfast recently has become a much-discussed subject in Washington.

Mr. Kemp was widely quoted as attacking the Republican opposition to affirmative action. He soon issued a statement saying this judgment in the press had gone too far - that he had been taken out of context.

Well, I was at that breakfast and heard Kemp's words firsthand. I have also listened to the tape. He clearly was stating his opposition to the GOP position on affirmative action when he told us his party "would find it hard to govern the country if it runs a campaign that separates people by race and by gender." And beyond any doubt, he told us he would vote against the position taken by California Gov. Pete Wilson when Wilson led the majority of University of California regents in ending minority preferences in university hiring and admissions.

Indeed, the whole feeling of Kemp's remarks that morning was of a man who was very unhappy with the racial thrust coming from his party's leadership. Yet his post-breakfast "correction" reflects some second thoughts in which this one-time favorite for the 1996 GOP presidential nomination wants it known that he isn't really jumping ship.

He still sticks with presidential candidate Bob Dole, even though the Senate majority leader now has introduced legislation that would go beyond a recent Supreme Court ruling and end federal race- and gender-based affirmative-action programs.

But in all fairness to Kemp it should be said, I think, that he was really trying to leave us with the impression that he held a "moderate," in-between position on the affirmative-action issue. While denouncing what he saw as moves that went too far, such as Wilson's, he more than once said it was "legitimate" for Republicans to examine the effectiveness and equity of existing programs designed to aid women and minorities for past discrimination. …

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