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Bush lays blame everywhere but where it belongs


Looking back on Selma, Ala., in 1965, I'm trying to remember how many liberals I saw smashing the heads of peaceful civil rights marchers. I can't remember a single one. The only liberals I saw were attached to the cracked heads.

That was the case at most of the confrontations I saw. Those swinging the clubs or shooting from ambush could probably be described as social conservatives. Those on the receiving end tended to be of the liberal persuasion.

This applied to the politics of that era. Any legislation thought to be beneficial to blacks -- voting rights, access to public places, job opportunities -- was opposed by most Republicans, especially the far right.

Laws that finally were passed had been pushed by gutsy politicians like Sen. Paul Douglas of Illinois, an unabashed liberal.

It isn't hard to make the argument that if it had been up to the Republican Party of the '60s, there would be far fewer black officeholders, schoolteachers, policemen, firemen, lawyers, doctors, executives, bank tellers, reporters, businessmen and other members of the black middle class.

And it isn't hard to make the argument that if it hadn't been for Democrats, especially those who were liberal and progressive, we would have an even worse racial mess in this country than we have today.

So I'm not sure what President Bush is talking about when he blames the Los Angeles riots on Democratic policies that he says began in the '60s.

Is he talking about Operation Head Start? Yes, Democrats pushed that through. The idea was to start educating black kids as early as possible.

Preschool education isn't a radical concept in the suburbs, where most of Mr. Bush's friends, relatives and political associates raised their children. But it wasn't widely available in the slums of Chicago, Detroit or New York.

The only thing wrong with that program is it wasn't big enough. But even with limited funding, it was one of the most successful educational programs ever launched in this country. And it would have even greater impact if it hadn't been opposed by so many of Mr. Bush's political allies.

Is he talking about laws that were intended to prevent discrimination in hiring and promoting? Sure, in some cases the laws were abused. And we've all heard the complaints about reverse discrimination, some valid, some sour grapes.

But I didn't notice Mr. Bush's party putting forth any bright ideas about job opportunity, other than to whine about what a hardship it was for businesses if they couldn't be selective, another way of saying that they wanted their rights as bigots preserved.

Just who does President Preppie think he's kidding? Since 1968, when Richard Nixon was elected president, the White House has been controlled by the Republicans for all but four years. We've had Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, with only one term for Jimmy Carter.

If there is anything that the 20 years of Republican presidents shared, it was an indifference, almost a disdain, for big cities -- especially those big cities that have large black populations.

High-tech weapons for foreign dictators? There were always a few billion dollars to spare. Subsidies for tobacco farmers? Just ask. Huge contracts for military industries? Stop by any time, the check is ready. Billions for S&L; crooks? Just print some more money.

But at the bottom of the list were Chicago's West Side, New York's Bronx, L.A.'s Watts, and the other big, multiracial cities. If all these Republican presidents had an urban policy, it was this: to hell with them; they're Democratic voters anyway.

Now, after decades of indifference and neglect, a Republican president says it's all the fault of Democrats. However, he hides behind a press secretary and doesn't say just what it is that the Democrats did to cause the riots.

If I had to guess, I'd say he was falling back on that old favorite of Republicans such as Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Reagan.

Agnew and Reagan helped create that legendary urban folk-figure, the welfare mother who travels in a Cadillac and fills her shopping cart with lobster.

That was the contribution to racial harmony of Agnew, a convicted crook, now sunning his corrupt hide in Palm Springs, and Reagan, the upholder of family values, whose own kids now bum-rap him as an indifferent father. Agnew had the gall to sneer at some woman raising three kids on $300 a month, while he was stuffing his pocket with graft. Reagan did the same while on the mooch from big corporations.

Now President Preppie says it's all the fault of Democratic policies. Tune in tomorrow. He'll probably say he saw Willie Horton looting a shoe store.

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