Keeping up with Bob Jones
On February 2nd, Republican presidential front-runner George W. Bush made a campaign speech before students at South Carolina's Bob Jones University. Bob Jones' bylaws forbade interracial dating until they were recently repealed. However, its president stands by his claim that Catholicism is a heretical cult. Since his visit, Bush has been near-slanderously slammed as a bigot and a racist by liberal headhunters in the media. Attacks have even been made in The Observer, twice by Gary Caruso on Feb. 15 and 29 and most recently by Jim Kwiatt on March 9.
The attacks come off as a bit overblown. Bob Jones' racism and anti-Catholicism became public knowledge only after Bush's stop; therefore, it's a pretty safe bet that neither Bush nor whoever scheduled the stop for him knew about the university's beliefs until after the resulting brouhaha. Bush's apology afterwards to anyone who might have been offended testifies to that. Ignorance is no excuse, however.
I think of it this way: suppose Bush came to Notre Dame instead of Bob Jones. With our administration's discriminatory policies towards gays and lesbians, would we be labeling Bush a homophobe if he stumped here? Probably not, because despite the administration's attitudes, the vast majority of students aren't homophobic. Bush only explicated his views to non-racist students; he didn't condone bigoted beliefs in front of their racist administration.
I don't pretend to believe or intend to prove here that the Bob Jones stop was anything but an act of political stupidity. However, inferring from this isolated instance that Bush is anti-Catholic or racist is at best a far-fetched stretch. The anti-Catholic charge is easily (though only partially) countered by the facts that G.W.'s brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, is a recent convert to the Church, and that Bush's constituency, the state of Texas, has millions of Hispanic Catholics.
The attack that Bush is a racist is a small part of a massive attempt by many on the left to define all Republicans as racists. Last year, Vice President and Democratic presidential front-runner Al Gore played the race card before a crowd comprised mostly of African-Americans by emphatically exclaiming that Republicans "don't want to count you in the census!" which is blatantly false.
In the Gore/Bradley debate at Harlem's Apollo Theater on February 22nd, Gore went on to state that the "real enemy" was "the right-wing extremist Confederate flag waving Republicans," a shameless attempt to dress all Republicans in white sheets and hoods.
Some critics have even gone so far as to state that by stopping at Bob Jones, Bush was actively pandering to the "racist vote" with no evidence of that. But pesky things like evidence haven't stopped liberal pundits from maligning Bush, then using that as a springboard to attack all Republicans: "Wave goodbye to that fantasy of a more inclusive Republican Party,"crowed The New York Times‚ Bob Herbert after the Bob Jones incident.
The attacks on George W. Bush were and still are motivated by political gain and not an effort for racial or religious good feeling. The problem is, underneath the vicious swipes is a heinous bargain between the Democratic presidential contenders and a demagogue who is partially responsible for the racial tension in New York and elsewhere, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Among Sharpton's greatest hits are a false accusation of Steven Pagones, a white prosecuting attorney, of kidnapping and raping a black teenager in 1987 (he was found guilty of defamation and fined $65,000, but he has yet to apologize) and helping to incite a riot in Brooklyn's Crown Heights district in 1991. All of this is in addition to a 15-year career of anti-Semitism. Sharpton was allowed the honor of asking the first question at the Harlem debate. Bradley and Gore practically pushed each other out of the way to appease Sharpton, and try to score votes from those people who support him.
On Feb. 2, George W. Bush made the political lapse of speaking at a racist institution. This mistake was seized upon by political Rumplestiltskins who attempted to make political hay of the situation and spin it into gold. With all evidence pointing to the fact that Bush's stop at Bob Jones was just an oversight, they attempted to paint Bush as either a racist or someone who actively courts the votes of racists.
However, 20 days later, Bill Bradley and Al Gore directly and openly pursued the support of Al Sharpton, whose public career of racism and bigotry dwarfs anyone associated with Bob Jones. But yet the prevailing message is to beware of a phantom Bush/Bob Jones alliance. What voters should truly be wary of are those people who attempt to malign George W. Bush while their own candidates are truly guilty of allying with an intolerant bigot, Al Sharpton.
Mike Marchand is an off-campus junior English major who wrote this column the Monday after spring break when his truck broke down on the way back from Wisconsin. His column appears every other Monday and his e-mail address is Marchand.email@example.com.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, March 27, 2000