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Bush, Race and the State of the Union

February 4, 2005

During the February 3rd segment of the Abrams Report on MSNBC, part of the discussion focused on President Bush's surprising and vocal support for DNA evidence funding during the State of the Union address.
Abrams and his guests seemed mystified as to why President Bush, a man who presided over more executions than any other contemporaneous governor, would have a "born-again" revelation as to the importance of DNA evidence in securing defendants' rights. As with virtually everything else with this administration, there is a simple, and sadly cynical, explanation for Bush's motivation: racial politics.
In a nutshell, Bush repeatedly used the SOTU to reach out to the African-American community and improve the GOP's miserable performance among black voters. Three initiatives thinly veiled as "compassionate" show this:
1. The Anti-Gang Initiative
The gang initiative, to be headed by First Lady Laura Bush, is designed to use funds from the Faith-Based Initiative to reach African-American communities, especially through black churches. Typical Bush code-speak made this clear to his audience:

"Our government will continue to support faith-based and community groups that bring hope to harsh places."

2. HIV/AIDS Funding for At Risk African-Americans
Regarding AIDS funding, Bush not so subtly spoke to African-Americans:

"And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African-American men and women."

3. DNA Evidence
The greatest reach of all, Bush was sending a message to the
African-American community that he would help address the horrifying rates of black male incarceration and the glaring racial disparities in the application of the death penalty.
For more background, see "State of Denial."
The State of the Union address was not the only occasion where Bush made such overt efforts. In his Janaruy 12th town hall meeting on Social Security, the President claimed that Social Security was inherently unfair to African-Americans, especially men. He also spoke in shockingly inappropriate and condescending terms about how his plan would work:

"Another interesting a personal savings account...which can't be used to bet on the lottery, or a dice game, or the track.
"Secondly, the interesting -- there's a -- African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people."

For more on how W is trying to keep it real with black voters, see "African-Americans and the Bush Social Security Plan."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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