It didn't take long for Howard Dean, the new Democratic National Committee chairman, to show his credentials as a graduate of the Trent Lott school of racial sensitivity training.
His remarks, at a meeting with the uniformly Democratic Congressional Black Caucus, that Republicans would need the "hotel staff" if they wanted to fill a room with blacks, tell us a lot about the man. They also tell us a lot about the Democratic Party that has chosen him to lead it out of its abyss.
Dean and his party are frozen in a time warp. Their sense of the social realities of our country and the challenges confronting us haven't changed since 1965.
Surely Chairman Dean knows that our secretary of state is an African-American woman from Alabama. Or that there are now three black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
I wonder if he appreciates that the percentage of black households earning over $75,000 a year has more than quadrupled over the last 40 years. Or that there are now over 1 million blacks in this country with advanced degrees.
Perhaps Dean didn't take notice that 1.5 million blacks voted for George W. Bush in 2004 _ double the black vote that he got in 2000. I think that's enough to fill a room. And, Mr. Dean, most of those 1.5 million black folks who voted for Bush are not hotel staff.
Blacks have moved on and moving on requires open eyes and open minds. If Dean's eyes were open he'd be aware that his 40-year-old stereotypes have little to do with black reality today. He'd also be aware that prescriptions that blacks need and seek today are far different from the conventional wisdom of 40 years ago that more government is the answer for every social problem.
If Dean were paying attention, he'd be watching the reaction that Bill Cosby is getting in his inner-city tour around the nation with a message far different from what blacks are hearing from their Democratic representatives.
Inner-city black parents are getting Cosby's message that taking control of their future starts by looking in the mirror and not by looking to Washington.
Cosby wants blacks to believe in themselves. Dean wants blacks to believe in government.
Dean thinks that if you want to find a black in a hotel you go to the bell stand. There are blacks today who own hotels.
Last month this same black caucus met with President Bush to share its agenda with him. Every issue on the agenda -- whether jobs, crime, education, health care -- was defined by a government spending program.
The president's sop to them was a new inner-city government spending program he announced in the State of the Union address.