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Clinton's civil rights record is thin, says bipartisan panel A 'notable exception' is president's defense of affirmative action


WASHINGTON -- Describing the Clinton administration's civil rights record as positive in tone but lacking real accomplishments, a watchdog group will issue a report today urging the White House to develop a more aggressive plan to combat racial discrimination during President Clinton's second term.

"While the president has spoken with understanding and empathy about the plight of people trapped in racial and economic isolation, he and his administration have yet to put forth a positive agenda that will provide opportunity to those who still lack it," according to the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan group that monitors federal civil rights policies.

The commission was formed in 1982 by the late Arthur S. Flemming after President Ronald Reagan fired him from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in a dispute over affirmative action and other issues.

In its report, the fifth advising the president and Congress on civil rights issues, the commission praises Clinton for defending federal affirmative action programs.

However, the report says Clinton's affirmative action stand was the "one notable exception" to an administration that "has hardly followed a straight line" in protecting the rights and opportunities of poor, disadvantaged and nonwhite Americans.

"Although the president's July 1995 affirmative action speech demonstrates the White House's capacity to respond to a crisis when necessary, the president has not put forth a positive agenda providing opportunity to those who still lack it," the report said.

The Los Angeles Times obtained a copy of the 262-page document and its 12-page executive summary. White House officials had no immediate comment.

William L. Taylor, vice chairman of the commission and a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, said the administration's record on civil rights was much more favorable than those of the Reagan and Bush administrations.

But, he added, Clinton has failed to act aggressively enough to counter a rightward drift by the Republican-led Congress.

The report also condemns the 1995-1996 Congress for seeking to cut labor, health and education programs. It noted that those efforts were "stymied by election-year pressures and the desire by the Republican majority to avoid blame for more government shutdowns."

In the harshest attacks on the White House and Congress, the commission says the enactment last year of legislation overhauling the welfare system represented a setback for nonwhites and the poor.

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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