MAXWELL:  George W.’s evasiveness on flag just won’t cut it

2/6/2000 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


There he goes again.

Leave it up to George W. Bush to weasel his way out of those ethical jams, especially those involving issues of race.

Last month, the South Carolina NAACP asked the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate to state his position concerning the Confederate flag atop the South Carolina Capitol. His answer? Bush said the people of South Carolina should make their own decision about flying the Confederate flag in Columbia.

No good.

Bush is running for president of the United States, not as a South Carolina state representative. He should have more to say about the Confederate banner, a symbol of human subjugation, racism and death. During a recent stop at CBS’ Face the Nation, Bush was challenged to identify the moral issue the president should take a stand on even if the issue involves states’ rights.

“Bigotry and racism and prejudice,” Bush said.

Bush does not have the courage of his convictions. He did not _ and has not _ taken a stand on the Confederate flag. Although the flag flap is still raging, Bush waltzed into South Carolina the other day and showed that he has trouble standing up to bigotry and racism and prejudice. Are these the kind of sentiments the governor can tolerate?

Here is what happened: Bush _ Mr. Compassionate Conservative _ spoke at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. Bob Jones represents everything that was and is bad about Dixie. Founded in 1927 by the Rev. Bob Jones Sr., an unreconstructed racist, the university admitted blacks for the first time ever in the 1970s only after the federal government yanked its tax-exempt status.

The university still maintains a policy prohibiting interracial dating. In fact, such dating is grounds for expulsion. “In defending the ban on interracial dating,” according to the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, “school officials point to the biblical story about the Tower of Babel, where God divided the tower builders by their different languages. Some segregationists have interpreted the story as a warning against mixing races.”

At a news conference, the Observer stated, Bush said that although he opposes the ban on interracial dating, he saw no conflict between his visit and his so-called message of inclusiveness.

So why did Bush speak at this bastion of bigotry and racism and prejudice? “I went there to see 7,000 people,” he told the Observer. “I went there because I was invited to go.”

Let me understand.

If the Ku Klux Klan invites Bush to speak at its national convention, he would go because he was invited? Would he compliment them on their spiffy new hoods and designer sheets? I exaggerate, of course, but where will Bush draw the ethical line in his search for votes? Why is he so craven in the face of such issues?

Many Bush supporters will argue that I and others are making too much out of his noncommittal stands on the flag and Bob Jones University, that these are small matters. I do not think so. If Bush is seriously trying to woo black voters, he is going about it in a dumb way. Blacks will not forget Bush’s words and reactions.

For many blacks, tolerating racist behavior and philosophy is more contemptible than all of Bill Clinton’s sins combined.

But that is another story for another day.