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Dunce Bush: "didn't know anything about" the Voting Rights Act

Clarence Page has an unbelievably revealing piece on our president’s “gentleman’s C” intellect. Civil rights of any kind are not high on the Bush agenda. (Chicago Tribune):

While courageous American troops and Iraqi civilians risk life and limb for the right to vote in war-torn Iraq, President Bush has made the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus, currently all Democrats, more than a little nervous about how much he values voting rights back here at home.

According to various eyewitnesses at a private meeting in the White House Cabinet Room last week, the president was characteristically cordial, yet remarkably non-committal in responding to a wide range of questions, mostly about racial disparities concerning such issues as employment, education, health care and legal rights. But the most “mind-boggling moment,” in the words of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), came after Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) asked the president, “Do we have your support in extending and strengthening the 1965 Voting Rights Act when it comes up for renewal in 2007?

The president responded, according to witnesses, in a way that made caucus jaws drop: He did not know enough about that particular law to respond to it, he said, and that he would deal with the legislation when it comes up.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Ma.) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) were shocked by Chimpy’s ignorant response to Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr.’s question.

The black legislators were largely not pleased. “I thought the president either needs to fire his staff or pay more attention during Black History Month,” Cleaver said. My efforts to reach caucus chairman Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) for a comment were not successful, but former chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Ma.) recalled, “I was shocked. I thought he was going to say that [renewing the law] is something that we need to do to make sure everyone’s right to vote is guaranteed–especially when he has been saying so much about freedom and liberty in the rest of the world.”

Perhaps, I thought charitably, the president’s lack of similar passion for the Voting Rights Act displays persistent differences in the parallel realities of black and white America. I am less than a year younger than he is, yet I have no problem remembering how effectively the act ended poll taxes, literacy tests, gerrymandering, intimidation and other shenanigans that diluted or eliminated black voting power.

Yet, the president should not have to recall episodes like the 1964 deaths of three voting-rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss., or the state trooper attack on voting-rights marchers in Selma, Ala., in 1965, to think of the law those events helped to create. He need only remember the court disputes over ballot access in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio this past November. The Voting Rights Act is a part of his life’s narrative too.

I wonder how Bush’s new black pastor friends and black wingnut conservatives at Project 21 are taking this news about their fearless leader and advocate?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding