I'm not talking about the political downside to Republicans in the president's remarks, but the way others will use those remarks to further divide and alienate the races against each other.
After close to $7 trillion has been spent on the war on poverty, how can anyone seriously argue that liberal solutions have any remote prospect of eradicating poverty or its often-disproportionate effects on blacks?
Isn't it time we consider other possible contributing causes, such as cultural ones? It's hardly an original idea that illegitimacy leads to poverty, and there are very high rates of illegitimacy among blacks in New Orleans. Is that because of too little federal attention or money dedicated to programs designed to lift up the poor? Or too much?
As long as liberals own the vocabulary of compassion in this country, I suppose many are too afraid of being branded racist for saying that simply throwing money at poverty is not going to make a dint in it. Even less likely are they to say that other factors may be contributing to black poverty as well -- including the perpetuation of the sinister and patronizing idea that blacks simply can't lift themselves up without the white man's largesse.
I happen to believe that promoting permanent victimhood and dependency is what is racist, not according all races equal respect and dignity. It is difficult to quantify the cumulative destructive impact of all the reckless, knee-jerk charges of white racism leveled by race-exploiters of both races who have something to gain by their accusations and by fanning the flames of racial tensions. When sanctimonious white guys in positions of authority, like Ted Kennedy, jump on this infernal bandwagon, it can't help but reinforce fears in blacks of white racism.
I am disappointed that President Bush's words could be construed as an admission that racism played a role either in the federal response or in current federal law or policy. But I am encouraged that his policy proposals cut the other way -- toward helping the poor lift themselves up through entrepreneurial and investment opportunities.