The president gave a silly speech yesterday in Pittsburgh before the Urban League, but he was topped by the Democratic presidential candidates who followed him, especially Howard Dean.
Bush promised to close various black-white gaps (especially in homeownership and educational achievement), to help minority businesses, and to help Africa, particularly in its fight against HIV/AIDS. As NRO readers know, I’m skeptical about the president’s gap-bridging; it also bothers me that the federal government would be making special efforts on behalf of businesses that happen to be owned by people of one color rather than another; and it strikes me as patronizing and wrongheaded for the president to feel like he has to talk about Africa just because he is before a black audience.
Dean, on the other hand, castigated the president for opposing the University of Michigan’s ham-handed use of racial and ethnic preferences in the cases recently decided by the Supreme Court (which agreed with Bush on undergraduate admissions, but not on law-school admissions). Dean reviled Bush for saying that the UM policies “amount to a quota system.” “The word ‘quota,’” he declared, “is a racially loaded word that’s designed to appeal to people who are afraid they’re going to lose their jobs to people of color. The president played the race card ….”
It is not playing the race card to call a quota a quota. Playing the race card is pandering to a racial group by accusing someone else, who is doing nothing but opposing discrimination, of pandering to bigots.