- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

For the past several days, I have found myself doing something of which I am unaccustomed: defending a member of the Bush family on the subject of racial preferences. Unfortunately, while such a comment sounds like familial profiling, I speak from personal experience with two of the three Bushes I have met, and from observation of the third.
Passionate ideological opposition to race preferences does not seem to be part of the Bush DNA, and President Bush has been no exception to this rule. As governor of Texas, George W. Bush refused to take a position on a ballot initiative in the City of Houston that would have ended race preferences, contending that the initiative was a local issue.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Bush declined to state whether he supported or opposed Proposition 209 the California initiative that ended race preferences in that state. As president, his administration maintained its support of the Clinton administration's position in the Adarand case.
Finally, despite any number of promises that meetings were to be arranged for me to meet with the candidate and then the president, his handlers have made it clear that they consider me a political liability to the president because of my identification as "anti-affirmative action." Being seen with me would anger the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus and Jesse Jackson, I suppose, and harm the president's prospects of getting their support.
Nonetheless, the decision of Mr. Bush to file friend-of-the-court briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in the two cases involving the racially preferential admissions policies of the University of Michigan is worthy of support. The president made a valuable contribution when he said in his press conference, "Our Constitution makes it clear that people of all races must be treated equally under the law." As those words were uttered, my expectations were heightened that, finally, the real George W. Bush was about to be revealed.
My defense of Mr. Bush should not be interpreted as lacking in disappointment, however. When I read the actual briefs, many of my hopes were dashed by the passage, "The court should hold that the university's race and ethnic-based undergraduate admissions policies are unconstitutional because proven race-neutral alternatives to achieving the laudable goals of educational openness and diversity remain available."
It is not the legitimate business of government in America to promote "diversity." Nowhere is such a duty to be found in the Constitution. It is the government's responsibility to not discriminate against any of its citizens on the basis of their "race," ethnicity, skin color or national origin or that of their ancestors. When the government uses "race-neutral" means to achieve a desired racial outcome instead of explicit race preferences, the two approaches become a distinction without a difference. The deliberate pursuit of racial diversity by either race-neutral means or "quotas" is the antithesis of ensuring that individuals are guaranteed freedom from government discrimination and then letting the chips fall where they may.
During World War I, Winston Churchill told the British that "Our dangers are great, but our opportunity is incomparable." "Incomparable" describes the opportunity that the president failed to utilize by not taking advantage of this moment to exhibit the kind of leadership on the contentious issue of race that he so admirably displayed in the aftermath of September 11.
The government's briefs are a cold, politically calculated legal argument against "quotas," as practiced by the University of Michigan. They are not documents that offer, as many would have hoped, a sweeping condemnation of race preferences any place in America, or that refute the idiocy of the nauseating blather about creating "diversity" that emanates from the higher-education cartel.
Race, and the way in which it is addressed when duty summons, is a subject that has always lifted ordinary men to extraordinary heights. Liberty, justice, freedom and equality are the stuff around which some of the most memorable, inspirational and majestic speeches have been given by American heroes, such as Lincoln, King and Kennedy, to name a few.
As I read the Bush briefs, I constantly thought if only. If only Solicitor General Ted Olson had been unleashed to write what I know he believes. If only the president would use his enormous reservoir of goodwill and generosity of human spirit to lead our nation to a new paradigm about race, one that reflects the wisdom of President Kennedy when he said, "Race has no place in American life or law." If only the president would use the instincts that I believe reside within him to tell black people and Hispanics that preferences are just as damaging to them as they are to other Americans. If only the president's political advisers would stop the never-ending process of politically calculating how the issue of race will play out and just allow principle and moral conviction to triumph.
In the fullness of time, I pray and believe that George W. Bush will take a moment to reflect upon the profound changes that have occurred over the past 40 years and ask why the government should be classifying and categorizing his nieces and nephews based on the ancestry of his brother, Jeb, or that of his sister-in-law. When he does that, most assuredly that reality will cause him to be guided by the angels of his better nature on the subject of race. Until then, although he did not make a touchdown, he significantly advanced the ball up the field of play and deserves credit for a first down.

Ward Connerly is chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute and author of "Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences."


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