Bush's bogus race card

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 3, 2004 7:01PM (EDT)

There he goes again. President Bush has lashed out at those imaginary naysayers who insist that "people whose skin color may not be the same as ours" (Surely, Bush meant no offense to those Americans who are differently pigmented than he) don't want to be free.

"I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern," Bush said in the Rose Garden on Friday. The president frequently makes comments like this, including during his primetime press conference last month, which we discussed at length here.

The Washington Post headline on Saturday said it all: "Bush Cites Racism in Remarks On Iraq: President's Target Unclear." Unclear indeed. Has anyone, really, who opposed the invasion of Iraq and/or has expressed outrage at the subsequent revelations about this administration's deceptive tactics and bungling of the post-Saddam period, cited concerns about "brown-skinned people's" aversion to self-rule?

Mike Allen of the Washington Post wrote that "White House press secretary Scott McClellan was peppered later with questions about what Bush meant. Bush never says who the people are who think that, and McClellan did not, either. 'There are certainly people out there that reject the idea that certain people can be free,' McClellan said. 'The president disagrees with that assessment. The president believes all people yearn to live in freedom.'"

Actually, many others in the world join with the president in believing non-whites and Muslims can take part in democracy. In fact, the world's largest democracy is India where 125 million Muslims are among the more than 1 billion participating in self-government. And there's Bangladesh, a democracy with a Muslim majority. And let's not even start rattling off all the democracies where people with skin "a different color than white" live and vote. According to Freedom House, 121 of the world's 192 governments, or 63 percent, are electoral democracies, although the range of freedom and openness varies.

Someone should show the president a world map and fill him in. And while they're at it, maybe they can try again to make Bush answer the question: Who are these people who think democracy is for white-skin only? Of course, there is no answer, and the president knows it. He's playing the race card. But he shouldn't get away with it.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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