One hundred days into the Bush administration, few would deny that Washington is a changed town. In contrast to Bill Clinton -- a political quick-change artist without regrets -- the new president has already made good on the two principal campaign promises he made to voters during the recent election: a large tax refund to citizens overcharged for the expense of government, and a change of tone in the nation's capital.
In other words, policy-wise, George W. Bush is as good as his word. Bush has also delivered on the political front, appointing the most diverse Cabinet in the nation's history and establishing "compassionate" issues like education and support for faith-based charities as government priorities. In fact, in the first 100 days both the president and his Cabinet have done more to reach out to minorities and citizens left behind than any Republican administration since that of Abraham Lincoln. Those of us who voted for Bush can take confidence and pride in this aspect of his governance, too.
That is the Washington aspect of the story. But out in the country, the signs are not so encouraging and the future looks less bright. Bush may have changed the tone in Washington for the better. But in the rest of the nation, Democrats have continued to change it for the worse.
Just after the Florida election drama drew to a close, an African-American staffer for one of the Republican House leaders was having a Christmas dinner with his family, when his 12-year-old niece asked this question: "Now that Bush has been elected president, am I going to be treated as three-fifths of a human being?"
The same anecdote with slight variations has been reported from all ends of the country. A teacher at a rural black elementary school in South Carolina e-mailed and told me that her students were asking essentially the same question: Now that Bush was president, would they be made slaves again? In the April 30 issue of the Weekly Standard, Eric Cohen reports taking a group of black fourth and fifth graders from a Washington housing project to an outing in the nation's capital. The trip was taken just after the Inauguration. A few days earlier, a man had been arrested for firing shots at the White House. Cohen asked the children what they thought of their new president.
"When I heard about the shooting I was pretty happy," said one of the boys with a laugh. "I thought Bush might have got shot." Other comments were just as bitter.
"President Bush is going to put us all back in slavery."
"He's going to round up all the black people and kill them."
Where on earth could these black youngsters be getting ideas like that? The Democratic Party perhaps? The Democratic Party's presidential candidate? The leadership of the civil rights movement? The inescapable answer is this: all three.
During the campaign, the Democratic Party and the NAACP sponsored millions of dollars of ads on television and black radio accusing Bush of supporting hate crimes like the lynching of James Byrd Jr., incarcerating "75 percent of minority youth in Texas" and maliciously executing blacks and Hispanics on death row. It was Al Gore who, in an election campaign attack on Bush's alleged judicial preferences, repeated the libel claiming that the framers of the Constitution regarded a black person as "three-fifths of a human being." (This is one of the most widely believed myths in black America today. In fact, it was not "blacks" as such, who were so designated but slaves -- there were thousands of free blacks -- and it was the anti-slavery Framers who insisted on the three-fifths figure in order to diminish the electoral power of the slave South.) And it was Democratic and NAACP spokesmen in Florida who described the voting booth mess as a "return to slavery."
In sum, every element of the anti-Republican paranoia rampant in African-American communities throughout this nation was deliberately planted there by the Democratic Party and the civil rights leadership. Nor did the racial slanders end with Bush's election. The nomination of John Ashcroft for attorney general was turned into a star chamber proceeding reminiscent of 17th century Salem, when a man without blemish on his public record was interrogated as though he was a modern day witch: Mr. Ashcroft, are you now or have you ever been pro-slavery?
Has everyone lost their senses? Slavery has been dead for 136 years, and there has never been a movement to revive it. Thousands of free African-Americans actually fought for the Confederacy, yet John Ashcroft was nearly denied the position of attorney general because in an interview with an obscure historical journal he praised the loyalty of Confederate leaders to their cause!
The fact is, that in the nation's public political arena, we have lost our senses. Or, rather, have been beaten senseless by the racial McCarthyism of the left. Republicans -- and others -- had better learn how to combat this latter-day witch-hunting hysteria or surrender the fight in advance to any political opponent who is willing to employ a race-baiting attack.
Ashcroft is now paying penitential visits to black churches to demonstrate that he really isn't a witch. He has announced that eliminating "racial profiling" -- a principal demand of the race-baiting left -- will be a top Justice Department priority. Will this political appeasement of his persecutors work?
The visits to black churches are good in themselves -- it's time that Republicans reached out in a big way to African-American communities. But they will not buy Ashcroft peace. Not unless he surrenders to the left and gives up his conservative ideas.
The same rule applies to the Bush administration, which has also signed on to the campaign against "racial profiling." Bush is a good and decent man, and there is not a racist bone in his body. There is more racial animus in a single speech of NAACP president Kweisi Mfume or Jesse Jackson or Rev. Al Sharpton than in all the words that George W. Bush has uttered in his entire life. Yet these men, and the Democratic Party, have willfully caused black children all over America to think of Bush as a "racist" who would put them back in chains.
This will not go away with symbolic gestures like visiting churches or genuflections to left-wing causes like ending "racial profiling." It will only go away when the demagogues are exposed -- when those under attack are willing to call racial McCarthyism by its proper name and fight back on the issues themselves.
The symbolic aspect of the administration's gesture on racial profiling is sound. It is saying "we hear your concern." The problem is that there is no way to end "racial profiling" as the NAACP and Democrats define it except by giving up the fight against crime.
Black males will always be stopped and arrested in far greater numbers than they make up in the population because black males commit violent crimes in far greater numbers than they make up in the population. Black males, who represent 6 percent of the population, commit more than 40 percent of violent crimes. In New York City, based on victim reports, a black male is 13 times more likely to have committed a violent crime than a white male. How are the police going to avoid stopping a greater percentage of black males than white, if they are to protect citizens from the criminals who prey on them?
Readers who do not understand this proposition should read Heather MacDonald's meticulous analysis "The Myth of Racial Profiling" in the current issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal from which the following data is taken.
The racial profiling crusade began with a New Jersey Turnpike stop of suspected African-American drug dealers. Under a deafening media barrage powered by the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton-NAACP left and abetted by Bill Bradley, Al Gore and the Democratic Party machine, the Republican administration in New Jersey caved to the anti-profiling cause. A report was issued, which "confirmed" that there was indeed racial profiling by New Jersey cops, thus giving life support to the myth. The report's conclusion was based on the fact that 53 percent of the people stopped and searched by officers looking for drug dealers were black, while blacks make up only 13.5 percent of the population in the state.
When an embarrassing photo of New Jersey's then-Republican Gov. Christie Todd Whitman frisking a black suspect was published in the press, she and her Attorney General Peter Verniero capitulated to the demagogues and certified the statistics, assuring the public that this unacceptable racial profiling would be stopped. In February 1999, Whitman fired the head of the state police, to emphasize the point.
In an atmosphere in which racial demagoguery has made politics surreal, facts like these do not appear to present a problem. Testifying on racial profiling before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2000, New Jersey Sen. Robert Toriccelli assured the committee: "Statistically, it cannot bear evidence [sic] to those who suggest, as our former superintendent of state police suggested, that certain ethnic or racial groups disproportionately commit crimes. They do not." Well, Senator, actually they do.
As MacDonald points out in her essay, blacks make up over 60 percent of arrests in New Jersey for drugs and weapons violations. "Against such a benchmark," she concludes, "the state police search rates look proportionate." MacDonald also points out that 64 percent of the homicide victims in drug turf wars are black and 60 percent of victims and perpetrators in drug-induced fatal brawls are black, which computes with the fact that 60 percent of the drug offenders in state prison are also black. "Unless you believe that white traffickers are less violent than black traffickers, the arrest, conviction and imprisonment rate for blacks on drug charges appears consistent with the level of drug activity in the black population."
And what is the result of ignoring these realities and outlawing "racial profiling" in the state of New Jersey? MacDonald reports that since the Whitman surrender, "Drug arrests dropped 55 percent on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey in 2000, and 25 percent on the turnpike and parkway combined." The inescapable conclusion: Unless you believe that drug dealers have responded to these facts by decreasing their own activity, then it's apparent that the civil rights leadership, the Democratic Party and their Republican appeasers have increased the flow of narcotics to New Jersey's inner city African-American communities along with all the destructive consequences that implies.
If Ashcroft and the Bush administration follow the pattern of appeasement and proceed down the politically correct path to the world the Democrats are demanding, two things are certain. The mainly minority victims of minority criminal predators will multiply, and the Democratic Party, waving the bloody shirts of racial persecution and Republican insensitivity, will march to victory at the polls. Think of Whitman, the poster girl of racial profiling. Would her capitulation to the left have prompted the constituencies seduced by its myth to vote for her in the next election?
There are only two ways to combat this political pathology. The first is to fight it on the only ground feasible, which is that of reality. The facts must be aired; the demagoguery must be exposed. The second is to beat back the racial McCarthyites by calling them to account.
Let us begin with the reality. "Racial profiling" is only an injustice if it is profiling solely on the basis of race. There have been recent cases of rogue police officers and even rogue departments targeting minorities like blacks because they are black. This is offensive and inexcusable, and the Ashcroft Justice Department should take every measure available to see that it is stopped.
But where "profiling" means that race is but one element in a clearly defined criminal dossier, it must be defended on its merits, because -- among other things -- it is the best way to protect minorities themselves. That is the way to present the case for sound police methods against the attacks of the racial McCarthyites. While blacks do commit over 40 percent of the violent crimes, the overwhelming majority of their victims are black as well. In order to protect vulnerable communities, which are overwhelmingly black, non-racist profiling is actually necessary. Unless politicians like Ashcroft have the courage to explain this, and stand up to their ideological opponents, the left will roll over them, and the people will suffer -- and the victims will be mainly poor and black.
The profiling dilemma is characteristic of the challenge the Bush administration -- and Republicans generally -- face on the racial front. If Republicans are to succeed, they must not succumb to the illusion, as they did during the election, that they can fly under the radar and avoid the issue and the Democrats' racial attacks. In the next election, this will not be an option because the political dynamics have changed as a result of the last election. The results show that for Democrats the race issue is not a tactic they can do without. In the last election, Democrats required 92 percent of the black vote, and the inflammatory race-baiting that secured it, just to stay even.
Now Bush has appointed the most diverse Cabinet in American history, moved into the black community with his faith-based initiatives and shown that he is ready to contend with Democrats everywhere for the minority vote. This means that for Democrats -- now more than ever -- the race card represents political survival, which for political animals like the Democrats means life itself.