||Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN allpolitics.com during the election season.
Bill Press: Bush's minority outreach rings hollow
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Good for George W. Bush. Unlike Bob Dole in 1996, he didn't duck the invitation of the NAACP this year. He accepted their invitation, spoke at their national convention and admitted the Republican party didn't have a good track record on minority issues -- but claimed he was a "different kind of Republican."
So far, so good. Too bad his actions don't match his words.
A different kind of Republican would not have gone to South Carolina and refused to take a stand on whether or not the Confederate flag should be taken down from the State Capitol.
That was a no-brainer. For African-Americans, flying the Confederate flag was
a painful reminder of slavery. The NAACP was boycotting the state for refusing to take down the flag.
But Bush remained silent. And that's not all.
A different kind of Republican would not have launched his campaign at Bob
Jones University. This is the citadel of racism in South Carolina: one of the last schools in the South closed to minority students and a campus where interracial dating was still prohibited when Bush spoke there. Yet Bush went to the campus and praised their conservative values, without uttering one word of criticism. He later apologized to Catholics for going to Bob Jones, but never to African-Americans.
But Bush's poor record on minority issues didn't start with the Republican
primaries. It goes back even before he was governor.
A different kind of Republican, as general manager of the Texas Rangers,
would not have promised that minority-owned firms would get a fair share of contracts in construction of a new stadium -- and then only deliver 5 percent.
And that's not all. A different kind of Republican, as Governor of Texas, would have appointed more minorities to posts in state government. Bush's record has been abysmal. Out of 3,400 total appointments he has made since October 1999, only 7 percent were black. Eighty percent were white.
For example, to the powerful, nine-member Board of Regents of the University of Texas -- which, among other responsibilities, has jurisdiction over affirmative action -- Bush has appointed zero Latinos, and no African-Americans.
Hard to believe the governor could not find one qualified black man or woman for the regents in the entire state of Texas.
And Bush doesn't seem to have learned anything.
A different kind of Republican would never have released a campaign statement
from Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina the same day he appeared before the NAACP. If there is anyone who personifies the racist Old South, it is former Dixiecrat Thurmond, who fled the Democratic convention and party in 1948 because it endorsed a civil rights platform plank. Trotting him out on the very day Bush was playing nice to the NAACP was a poke in the eye to African-Americans everywhere.
Bush officials insist the Thurmond statement -- criticizing Al Gore's references to Harry Truman -- was all in good fun and had no deeper racial meaning. African-American leaders didn't see it that way.
"The 1948 campaign may be bygones to some people. It's never bygones to me,"
Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, told the Washington Post. "That was a white supremacist campaign supported by the worst kind of white racists. For any major candidate for president in the year 2000 to summon up that memory as a source of humor is a clear example of how much history should matter."
All of which is not to say that George W. Bush is racist. He is clearly not. But he is also clearly insensitive to minority issues. And he has missed many opportunities to show that his oft-stated commitment to reach out to minorities is more than just rhetoric.
There's a good reason why Al Gore enjoys such strong support among minorities. Because he and Bill Clinton have delivered on affirmative action, housing, the minimum wage, earned income tax credits, public education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
So far, George Bush and Republicans have delivered nothing but words. And
that's not enough. You can't just talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk.