Kerry and Bush didn’t really engage each other on the affirmative action issue, except each agreed that quotas are bad.
But Kerry insisted that preferences based on race (and sex) are necessary in order to fight discrimination. But why is discrimination the best way to fight discrimination? Why are preferences okay if quotas are bad?
Bush, on the other hand, refused to endorse any sort of preference, which is wonderful. Instead, he said that the way to help racial minorities is through economic development and better schools. He’s right. It would have been better if Bush had discussed why preferences are not the answer–they’re divisive, unfair, stigmatizing, and so forth–but thank goodness he refused to flinch and endorse them.