Unseemly Alliances
           By Bob Herbert

          George W. Bush is a nice guy, right?
          A uniter, not a divider.
          So why does he keep such bad company?

          While running 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
          Duke."

          Southern Partisan 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.

          One contributor 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:

          "Your magazine 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."

          Questions about 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

Privacy Policy
. .