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ďI'm also not very analytical. You know I don't spend a lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things.Ē

- George W. Bush, June 4, 2003

When President Bush sat down for an interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press he single-handedly proved that affirmative action is a bad thing. George W. Bush is the poster child for affirmative action. He attended prep school at Andover Academy because his father was an alumnus. He didnít get good grades at Andover but got into Yale because the Bushes were alumni there as well. His fatherís connections got him into a National Guard unit and helped him avoid serving in Vietnam. When he didnít feel compelled to complete his National Guard duty he just walked away and didnít suffer because of his decision. He then went to Harvard where he earned his MBA. He was admitted to Harvard despite earning only a C average while at Yale.

George W. Bush has participated in a racial preference program his entire life. But after all those years of entitlement and connections to the best America has to offer, George W. Bush has emerged as a man who canít put together more than two coherent sentences and stumbles and pauses when attempting to express very simple ideas.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to use family connections in a nation that proudly refers to itself as the land of opportunity. The old saying doesnít specify how the opportunity should come about. Problems arise when there is an expectation of privilege and no acknowledgement that any responsibility comes along with it.

Ted Kennedy probably would not be a Senator if he had a different last name and had not run for that office when his brother was President. He was also a legacy admission to college, in his case Harvard University. But unlike President Bush, the Senator thinks for himself and does his homework. Apparently he thinks enough to realize that the issue of privilege must be addressed as a matter of public policy. He has sponsored legislation that would force colleges and universities that receive federal aid to disclose the number of students admitted as legacies. It is very clear that he also reads the newspaper, something the President doesnít feel obliged to do. At least that is what the President said in an interview with Fox News.

Brit Hume: How do you get your news?

President Bush: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you've got a beautiful face and everything.

I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. [sic] But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.

It is difficult to concentrate on the issue of the Presidentís willful ignorance when he is also calling Brit Hume beautiful, but this column will only deal with the issue of the Presidentís competence. If the President thought he had erred in saying he doesnít read the newspaper he didnít show it because he confirmed his lack of interest in a subsequent interview with ABC News.

President Bush:  Yes. I get my news from people who don't editorialize. They give me the actual news, and it makes it easier to digest, on a daily basis, the facts.

Diane Sawyer:  Is it just harder to read constant criticism or to read ó

President Bush:  Why even put up with it when you can get the facts elsewhere? I'm a lucky man. I've got, it's not just Condi and Andy, it's all kinds of people in my administration who are charged with different responsibilities, and they come in and say this is what's happening, this isn't what's happening.

The President is correct about one thing. He is very lucky. He is lucky to have been born into a family that has shrewdly mastered the art of making money and positioning itself politically. He is lucky that being a well connected, old-money WASP protected his grandfather, Prescott Bush, after he was fined by the United States government for doing business with Nazi Germany.

If George W. Bush is the result of affirmative action then we have to end it immediately. When President Clinton engaged in tortured triangulating over the same issue he coined the phrase, ďMend it, donít end it.Ē Perhaps Clinton should have been bolder. If affirmative action results in a President who doesnít want to read then mending will not be enough.

Of course, the Bush administration has shown nothing but hostility to affirmative action when it helps anyone other than those who are already privileged. The son of the Skull and Bones Society and an Ivy League fraternity has thrown cold water on the idea of anyone else achieving the American dream unless they pull themselves up by the proverbial boot straps. When the Supreme Court deliberated on affirmative action admissions at the University of Michigan the Bush administration filed a brief calling Michiganís program unconstitutional. Of course the focus was on extra points given to Black and Latino students, but the Bushies knew better than to mention the advantages given to legacy children or residents of Michiganís nearly all white upper peninsula.

America can end the controversy over affirmative action by taking a very simple step. George Bush should admit that he and other members of the establishment elite are in fact not fit for their positions. Before affirmative action it was rare for Blacks and Latinos to attend Ivy League and other top schools. The President is living proof that all of those admitted did not live up to the legend that they were the best and the brightest. A simple acknowledgement that they are not the only ones worthy of consideration will suffice. The President can go on national television and say something along these lines:

ďIt is painfully obvious to everyone that I do not have the skills to be President of the United States. I reached this point because of family connections and sweetheart deals. Only the most qualified people in our society should have the opportunity to reach the position that I have. Henceforth, my administration will now declare that affirmative action is in fact constitutional and also a benefit to America. If affirmative action is guaranteed we will never again risk the presence of a low achieving, disengaged, inarticulate man in the White House. America can and must do better. Thank you and good night.Ē

Margaret Kimberleyís Freedom Rider column appears weekly in .  Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at



February 19 2004
Issue 78

is published every Thursday.

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