George Bush Sr. on Civil Rights
President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)
Michael confided in Jean Becker, Dad's chief of staff who was taking time off to help Dad write "All the Best." In December 1998, Michael was in Dad's office. "Now, don't be mad at Jean," Dad started the conversation. "Don't be mad at Jean, because I asked her. I asked her if you are gay."
Caught totally off guard, Michael sat down and was unable to look at Dad. "I want you to know I don't care," Dad continued. "Barbara and I love you. You are a part of our family, and it doesn't matter to us that you're gay. I am not embarrassed of you and never will be."
[After his nomination as Reagan's V.P.], George berated the press for asking about his past differences with Reagan. "I'm not going to be nickeled and dimed to death about that sort of thing," he said heatedly. To underscore the point, he dropped his support of the Equal Rights Amendment, vehemently changed his position on abortion, modified his stance on school busing, and proclaimed himself in favor of school prayer, all of which proved he was a man witth he sould of a Vice President.
To some, Bush's opposition to the civil rights bill put him in league with segregationists. Like them, George would "hate to see" the Constitution "trampled on in the process of trying to solve Civil Rights problems."
He later expressed regret at running so far to the right in 1964, yet he ran against civil rights again in 1966, and when he did vote for open housing in 1968, he seemed to do so in spite of himself--because black GIs expected it, not because it was the right thing to do.
He wrote in 1968, "I'll vote for the bill on final passage--have political misgivings--also constitutional--it won't solve much. But in my heart I know you're right on the symbolism of open housing."
In addition to his own handicap, Dr. Walker had 2 daughters born with Down Syndrome. His most important influence on George was giving him sensitivity to the needs of the disabled that he might not otherwise have developed. For most of his life George remained insensitive to the imperative of racial justice and had a consistently less than admirable record on civil rights. He did, however, become a champion for the disabled. His admiration for his uncle, who had been crippled at the height of his career, led George to his finest hour as President: on July 26, 1990, he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, only 3 weeks before his Uncle John, then 81, died of complications from an aneurysm.
The Bushes' new home at 5525 Briar Drive in the Broad Oaks housing development of Houston was built to their specifications on 1.2 acres and, although legally unenforceable, carried a restrictive racial covenant that stated: "No part of the property in the said Addition shall ever be sold, leased, or rented to, or occupied by any person other than of the Caucasian race, except in the servants' quarters."
These restrictive covenants, attached to both the properties that the Bushes bought and sold between 1955 and 1966, were common in Texas, although ruled illegal by the US Supreme Court in 1948. As late as 1986, the Justice Department had to force the county clerk in Houston to include a disclaimer on every certified real-estate record that such racial covenants were "invalid and unenforceable under Federal Law."
Campaigning in Texas, George Bush ignored King and vigorously opposed Pres. Kennedy and his civil rights bill at every turn. "I am against the Civil Rights bill on the grounds that it transcends civil rights and violates the constitutional rights of all the people," Bush said. "Job opportunity, education and fair play will help alleviate inequities. Sweeping federal legislation will fail. I am opposed to the public accommodation section. I still favor the problem being handled by moral persuasion at the local level."
Determined to campaign in each of Texas's 247 counties, George inveighed against the civil rights bill at every stop. "I think most Texans share my opposition to this legislation," Bush said.
The night of the VP debate, Oct. 11, 1983, Ferraro presented herself as informed and lucid. When attacked, she kept her temper but responded firmly, even sardonically. At one point during the debate Ferraro chided Bush for lecturing her. "Let me just say, .that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy."
The day after the debate the Vice President referred to the previous evening's debate: "I tried to kick a little ass." Hours later his staff showed up on the press plane wearing buttons that said, "We kicked a little ass."
The Bushes didn't understand how offensive it was to women. "When the debate was over, the women in the press corps stood up and cheered Ferraro," recalled Jeb Bush. Female journalists resented Bush's chauvinistic treatment of Ferraro, which showed them something they had not seen before: his discomfort in accepting women as peers. They started to notice that there were no professional women on Bush's staff who held positions comparable to the men. "All the women were either secretaries or gofer," recalled one woman journalist.
Women reporters also observed there were no women in the Bush family who pursued a career or even held a professional job. As Barbara Bush told reporters: "We're all very happy being kept by our husbands."
Despite Bush's rhetoric about voter outreach, he had vetoed passage of a voter-registration program that could have added millions of minority voters to the election rolls, and now he had vetoed a civil rights act passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. "The White House is declaring open war on civil rights," said Neas.
The President became so angry at Neas that he momentarily forgot his name and startled reporters by blasting him as "that.that white guy who attacked me on this quota bill." Neas was barred from all future bill signings.
After a bitter and anguished struggle, a compromise was finally reached, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 was sent to the President's desk for his signature. On the eve of the bill signing, Boyden Gray again emerged as the hangman. He circulated a presidential order to all federal agencies directing them to comply with provisions that would end a quarter century's worth of affirmative action and hiring guidelines benefiting women and minorities.
The President signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 on November 21, 1991, in a Rose Garden ceremony that was overshadowed by the intent of Boyden Gray's presidential directive.
Dear Jack,I signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 on November 21. It did not include quotas. It did promote the goals of ridding the workplace of discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, and disability.
...Needless to say we don’t feel we are “turning back the clock on civil rights.” Indeed I have stated that I want to sign a civil rights bill. I’ve also said that it is important that we get a bill, and rather than haggle over what some have called tiny differences, why not take a gigantic step forward by going with a bill where we have total agreement, leaving a handful of the knotty unresolved questions to later on.
Isn’t it more important to take a 90% step forward than to take no step at all? Anyway, let’s keep plugging away not letting the extremes on either side of this debate carry the day.
Diary entry March 28th:
Take the NEA for example. When I see Jesus Christ shooting up heroin or floating on a bottle of urine, I figure that there ought not to be one dime of federal funds going into this. And then you think of the alternative that comes to mind-federal censorship-and you worry, “Where will this lead?”
Until the Religious Right got involved because of their concerns on drugs, decline in family, shifting views on homosexuals or divorce, no one gave much of a damn. We might not have agreed with the more liberal activists when they were up in arms, but we said okay, let them do their thing.
Now the Religious Right is up in arms. Most of them (while believing deeply) are not totally intolerant of the views of others. Now they are trying to stand up for things I fundamentally believe in. Where am I wrong?
|Other past presidents on Civil Rights:||George Bush Sr. on other issues:|
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Past Vice Presidents:
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