George W. Bush
is a nice guy, right?
A uniter, not a divider.
So why does he keep such bad company?
for president, Mr. Bush proclaimed again and again that he was a
new kind of Republican. He would reach out, he said. And he did. He's probably
hugged as many black children as anyone since Mother Hale. But he took a detour
from his nice-guy itinerary to drop by Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., where
he touted what he described as "our ideas, Republican ideas, conservative ideas."
Maybe he didn't know where he was.
Bob Jones was
the focus of a furious legal fight in the early 1980's that ended when
the Supreme Court ruled emphatically that private schools practicing racial discrimination
could not receive federal tax exemptions. The school gave up its claim to tax-exempt status
rather than change its segregationist ways.
There was an
interesting sidelight to that fight. The Nixon administration,
in accordance with court rulings, had barred tax exemptions to schools
that discriminated. But President Reagan — at the urging of none other
than Trent Lott, then a congressman, and Senator Strom Thurmond, who
was a trustee of the university — changed the policy in 1982. Bob Jones,
racist to its core, became eligible for an exemption. Until the Supreme
Court stepped in.
It was a shameful episode, and a huge embarrassment for Mr. Reagan.
George W. Bush
could have distanced himself from such venues, but he
chose not to. By speaking at Bob Jones himself, and by selecting John
Ashcroft, who also spoke at Bob Jones and is a champion of the old
Confederacy, to be his attorney general, Mr. Bush has dismayed many
millions of Americans, black and white, who have tried hard to move
away from the corrosive policies and customs of the past.
Mr. Bush either does not understand this, or does not care.
The Senate may
confirm Mr. Ashcroft, but nothing will change the fact
that his nomination is a slap in the face of those who feel strongly about
racial justice. He fought like someone possessed against all efforts to
desegregate the public schools in and around St. Louis when he was
attorney general and then governor of Missouri. And he spoke glowingly
of Southern Partisan Quarterly Review, a gruesomely racist magazine.
As the watchdog
publication Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
has said: "When Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft praised the
neo-Confederate magazine Southern Partisan, he was endorsing a
publication that defends slavery, white separatism, apartheid and David
is a sick magazine. It giddily celebrates the
assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Joyful references to his murder can be
found in issue after issue. Of John Wilkes Booth, one writer said, "His
behavior was not only sane, but sensible." Another writer referred to the
Emancipation Proclamation as "an invitation to the slaves to rise up
against their masters."
Leaders of the
Ku Klux Klan are praised. And a wide range of ethnic
groups are slurred.
wrote: "As the genetic racial pool in the United States
from which the democratic government originally derived is dissipated in
successive tides of immigration, our country is being overwhelmed."
So what does John Ashcroft have to say about this publication? I quote:
also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage
of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee,
[Stonewall] Jackson and [the Confederate president, Jefferson] Davis.
Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand
up and speak in this respect, or else we'll be taught that these people
were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to
some perverted agenda."
Bob Jones and Southern Partisan came up at Mr.
Ashcroft's confirmation hearing yesterday. He said he rejected racial and
religious intolerance. But the man who should be called to account for
this appallingly divisive nomination is George W. Bush, whose inaugural
festivities get under way today — at the Lincoln Memorial