- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2000

Al Gore's angry and abrasive campaign manager, Donna Brazile, is at it again, shamefully playing the
race card in an attempt to energize black voters to save the vice president's failing candidacy.
Miss Brazile, the first black woman to manage a major presidential campaign, has a history of blurting out racial statements. But this time even some Democrats cringed when they heard what she said about two of America's most distinguished black Republican leaders and saw Al Gore refusing to disassociate himself from her bitter remarks.
In an interview on Bloomberg News Service's Web site, Miss Brazile was defending the Clinton-Gore record on blacks while accusing the GOP of not having a program to help poor minorities.
"Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have no love and no joy. They'd rather take pictures with black children then feed them," she said.
When Miss Brazile's remarks were reported by The Washington Times, she denied making them. But Bloomberg had the full text of her comments and confirmed their story. Rush Limbaugh and other talk-radio moguls flogged the story for all its worth, but it did not get broader media coverage until Mr. Watts, who chairs the House Republican Conference Committee, and Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shot off letters condemning Miss Brazile's venomous attack. Mr. Watts told Mr. Gore that "her racist remarks … are appalling," calling them "a cheap political stunt that only hurts and divides Americans."
In a rare break from his policy of staying above the political fray, an angry Gen. Powell said he was "offended" by Miss Brazile's remark, which he said "contaminates and destroys the opportunity for open debate on issues of importance to all our children."
"We can debate and disagree over specific programs and approaches, but let's not start the new century by playing the polarizing 'race card,'" he told Mr. Gore.
He recited a long list of public-interest and social-service groups he has worked with to help young people, including the America's Promise crusade he leads. "I do so to help feed, educate and spiritually nourish all of America's children, black and white, and not just for photo ops," he said.
George W. Bush also jumped into the controversy, accusing Miss Brazile of practicing racial "slash and burn politics," which he called "unacceptable." Mr. Gore's acceptance of her comments "will be an indication of the kind of administration he might have should he win the vote," he said.
At first, Gore campaign officials attempted to ignore Miss Brazile's remarks. But when Gen. Powell's letter followed Mr. Watts' letter and the story made the nightly network news shows, Mr. Gore was forced to deal with it. He could have said that her bitter racial aspersions had no place in any political campaign, but instead he defended what she said in the face of Republican National Committee Co-chairman Pat Harrison's call for Miss Brazile to be fired.
"Gen. Powell is a great hero, whom I admire greatly," Mr. Gore told reporters in Iowa. "But having Gen. Powell and Congressman Watts in the Republican Party is, in fact, no substitute for an agenda that supports all of our people, including African-Americans.
"That's what Donna was trying to say. She's doing a great job and she will continue doing a great job," he said. Privately, though, Mr. Gore believed Miss Brazile's remark was damaging, because he ordered her to call Gen. Powell and Mr. Watts. He, in turn, also called both of them to bring the issue to an end.
But did Miss Brazile apologize for suggesting these two prominent black leaders, who have an exemplary record of helping the less-fortunate, would "rather take pictures with black children than feed them"? "She said she was sorry, but she never apologized," Gen. Powell's chief spokesman Bill Smullen told me.
Miss Brazile is a veteran practitioner of the politics of race-baiting. She got her job because of her talent for mobilizing minority Democrats. But some of her tactics have backfired. In 1988, when she was a top aide to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis during his presidential run, she accused Vice President George Bush of running a "racist" campaign and called on him to " 'fess up" to unproven rumors he had had an extramarital affair. Mr. Dukakis fired Miss Brazile and personally apologized to Mr. Bush.
Last month she told reporters that the major pillars of the Democratic Party were labor, blacks, gays and "other minorities," triggering an angry response from the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC condemned her statement, publicly warning Mr. Gore that her polarizing single-interest-group strategy was what led the Democrats to defeat in the 1980s.
In an interview with The Washington Post last November, Miss Brazile said her goal was not to let "the white boys" win the election. If a campaign manager for one of the GOP presidential candidates had made the same blatantly racist appeal that Donna Brazile made, he would be crucified in the press and looking for a job. That Mr. Gore allows her to continue to play the race card shows how desperate his losing campaign has become.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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