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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 1999 /10 Kislev, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Jeb Bush's political
ploy of the week -- IF THERE'S ONE THING more noxious than Nanny State socialism, it's can't-we-all-just-get-along conservatism.

Blame the Bush family for the rising popularity of this Disneyland political dogma. Get-along-ers shrink from heated debates and fear all things "divisive." They favor flaccid pragmatism over iron-fisted principle. Their spinal columns are as hollow as their compassionate rhetoric. And their true colors show most vividly when they are forced to confront the issue of race.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, following in brother W.'s faint path, stepped gingerly into the affirmative action debate and unveiled an initiative last week to "increase opportunity and diversity while ending racial preferences and set-asides in state contracting and university admissions." The scheme gives the illusion of establishing colorblind government with an oh-so-sensitive touch. Bush calls it the "One Florida" plan and claims it will end racial discrimination by government "in ways that unite us, not divide us."

This smiley-face program is achieved by taking one step forward (to quiet diehard supporters of equal opportunity who want to eliminate all race and gender preferences by popular vote) and two steps back (to appease left-wing guardians of the affirmative-action apparatus).

Bush denounces the nationwide movement to eliminate government-sanctioned racial preferences as "divisive" – there's that word again – even though he claims his own plan accomplishes the same goal of equal protection under the law. Under Bush's proposed executive orders, Florida purportedly abolishes racial set-asides and minority preferences in state contracting and university admissions. But penalties and enforcement mechanisms are unclear.

Despite his ostensible commitment to non-discrimination, Bush advocates "enhancement of minority business development through financial and technical assistance programs that target the legitimate development needs of emerging minority businesses, minority construction firms and minority franchisees."

In other words: more color-coded government aid.

Instead of encouraging minority businesses to compete on their merits, Bush pledges to "reduce the red tape in the minority certification process to encourage more minority businesses to become certified."
He would also encourage more race-based outreach in state purchasing programs and de facto quotas in hiring. Moreover, under the One Florida plan, countless racial preference programs run by counties, cities, and public schools would remain untouched.

It's more of the same old racial spoils system. To label Bush's plan "the end of affirmative action," as most news accounts have done, is folly. Bush himself asserts: "My plan is not race-neutral....Race-consciousness is appropriate."

As for the higher education component, Bush advocates a few unobjectionable methods of ensuring equal opportunity. He would dramatically increase need-based financial aid and push for greater availability of Advanced Placement courses in low-performing schools. These race-neutral efforts are greatly undermined, however, by the governor's "Talented 20" Program – a knock-off of brother W.'s minority appeasement program in Texas.

Jeb Bush has stated unequivocally: "I oppose rigid quotas and set asides designed to guarantee outcomes for one class of citizens over another." Yet his "Talented 20" Program would guarantee state university admission to the top 20 percent of students in every Florida high school senior class. That percentage – that quota -- was engineered deliberately to guarantee a net increase in minority enrollment in the state university system.

Wasn't the point of One Florida to end numerical racial gerry-mandering that Bush himself calls "legally suspect?"

No, that wasn't the point. Bush's political "play of the week" was intended to help his brother, the GOP presidential front-runner, by defusing a statewide petition drive backed by Californian Ward Connerly to end race and gender preferences at all levels of government.

Bush deserves denunciation from both sides of the aisle for the timing and transparency of his cynical family ploy. As Connerly noted in a TV interview last week: "I think the Republicans are frequently timid people. And they play politics just as Democrats do…Republicans, I regret to say, as a Republican, are far too timid in dealing with this issue, and the Democrats demagogue it."

Connerly's drive has already collected tens of thousands of signatures, and is headed to the courts for legal vetting. Floridians in the media and political establishment may resent the outside agitation. But Connerly and his supporters around the country will not go away. The electorate is ready for an honest debate -- however divisive -- about racial entitlements. Voters will not be fooled by the Bush brothers' sugar-coated Mickey Mouse act.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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11/12/99: A monumental waste of our veterans' resources
11/10/99: Tax-and-spend schizophrenia
11/05/99: Spooky Guy Haunts the Capital
11/02/99: Mourning the loss of the last Liberty Tree
10/27/99: AOL goes AWOL on parents
10/22/99: The persecution of Harry Potter
10/20/99: Don't doctor the law
10/14/99: The trouble with kids today
10/12/99: Pro-animal, pro-abortion, anti-speech?
10/07/99: Beltway press corps needs more skunks
09/30/99: ESPN overlooks athlete of faith, grace, and guts
09/27/99: Personal freedom going up in smoke
09/15/99: Farewell, "Miss" America
09/10/99: Will George W. work for a color-blind America?
09/03/99: Feminization of gun debate drowns out sober analysis
08/27/99: America is abundant land of equal-opportunity insult
08/10/99: Protect the next generation from diversity do-goodism
08/04/99: Sweepstakes vs. state lottery: double standards on gambling
07/21/99: "True-life tales from the Thin Red Line" (or "Honor those who sacrificed their lives for peace")
07/21/99: Reading, 'Riting, and Raunchiness?
07/14/99: Journalists' group-think is not unity
06/30/99: July Fourth programming for the Springer generation
06/25/99: Speechless in Seattle
06/15/99: Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

©1999, Creators Syndicate