Some conservatives are concerned with President Bush's New Orleans speech because of the unlimited federal spending it seemed to promise, but I was far more concerned with his arguable vindication of the wrongheaded notion that racial discrimination is responsible for the disproportionate impact of the flooding on blacks.
After all, opening up the federal coffers for a disaster is far less objectionable than so many of the projects presently funded by the government. And, the president is using this as an opportunity to launch market-based ideas, including enterprise zones and private ownership, rather than giveaways with no accountability. Plus, we can always fantasize that the monies expended toward rebuilding the damaged areas might lead to more scrutiny and the eventual scaling back of federal pork and other largesse across the board -- like the prescription drug plan.
But I don't see any silver lining in the president's seeming adoption of the Jesse Jackson school of thought concerning Katrina's racist component. The president said: "As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."
I was more than a little disappointed when I heard him utter these words. I thought to myself, "President Bush is so unwilling to give quarter on other issues, such as his commitment to the war in Iraq and preserving his income tax cuts. Why is he so malleable on the subject of race?"
You will recall that the president railed against affirmative action during the presidential campaign all the way up to the Supreme Court's Grutter case, in which his team filed a brief in support of race-based preferences in a law school admissions policy.
Perhaps he's just not as convinced as he earlier appeared to be about the destructiveness of "remedial" racial preferences or has had a change of heart on the subject. Or, concerning his New Orleans speech, maybe he didn't mean to imply that this "history of racial discrimination" was recent -- within the last generation or so. Surely most would agree the government has taken bold steps to end state-sponsored discrimination.
Either way, his injection of race into the speech is troubling if for no other reason than it gives ammunition and a degree of legitimacy to the race-hustlers' unconscionable ploy to blame delays or inadequacies in the federal response on the administration's alleged racial prejudice against blacks.