Bush: A different kind of Republican

Marie Cocco has come out of the closet. On national TV, no less. In a post-Philadelphia, pre-Los Angeles appearance on the Cable News Network gabfest, "Reliable Sources," the New York Newsday columnist all but acknowledged that she hates Republicans.

And that she hates black Republicans even more.

Cocco related that, "I didn't speak to a single black journalist who was there (in Philadelphia) who really approved or was persuaded by the sort of minstrel show, frankly, that they thought was going on at the convention."

Well, which black journalists exactly did she speak to? She sure didn't exchange words with me.

And to whom exactly was Cocco referring as "minstrels"?

Colin Powell? Condoleezza Rice?

Gen. Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, happens to be one of the most revered figures in this country, black, white, yellow or brown. Rice is merely one of the nation's best and brightest foreign policy experts -- of any hue.

To suggest, as Cocco has, that Powell and Rice and the other black speakers featured at the GOP convention in Philadelphia are "minstrels" simply because they choose to associate with Republicans is nothing short of racist.

For implicit in Cocco's remark is the bigoted suggestion that all 35 million or so black folks in this country ought to think alike; ought to be members of the same political party.

But the black population is not monolithic. There are some black Americans -- like Powell, like Rice -- who appreciate their heritage, who love their people, but who happen to believe there is a place for blacks in the party of George W. Bush.

And while the vast majority of black registered voters are almost certain to cast their ballots for the Democratic ticket come November, Bush has nonetheless made some inroads.

Indeed, in a post-Philadelphia CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll -- which Cocco found quite disturbing, no doubt -- 52 percent of blacks said Bush had leadership and personal qualities to be president; 54 percent said they approve of Bush as a person; 37 percent said Bush, if elected, would work hard to represent black interests.

Clearly, Bush is perceived differently among the mass of black Americans than Republican presidential nominees past (including the Texas governor's father).

That is attributable, in part, to Bush's effort to reach out to the black community, as evidenced by his recent appearance at the NAACP's national convention (at which he became first Republican presidential nominee to address the nation's leading civil rights organization in 16 years).

It is also attributable to the GOP standard-bearer's message of inclusion, as eloquently set forth in his acceptance speech in Philadelphia.

"We will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country." said Bush. "To every man and woman, a chance to succeed. To every child, a chance to learn. To every family, a chance to live with dignity and hope."

And what would a Bush presidency mean for blacks, particularly the most needful?

On education: "When a school district receives federal funds to teach poor children," he declared, "we expect them to learn. And if they don't, parents should get the money to make a different choice."

On tax policy: "Those in greatest need should receive the greatest help," said Bush. "So we will lower the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and double the child tax credit.

On health care: "We will give low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve."

And on housing: "We will transform today's housing rental program to help hundreds of thousands of low-income families find stability and dignity in a home of their own."

Clearly, Bush is, as he characterizes himself, "a different kind of Republican." And he just may be the man to bring blacks back into the Grand Old Party, after a half-century-long estrangement.

That's not to say that the Texas governor has black voters rushing into the Republican fold. But at least he doesn't have a fearful black electorate mobilizing to prevent him from winning the White House.

And that is what has Cocco and other Democratic Party loyalists so concerned. They fret that black voters, the most reliably Democratic voting bloc, may start to defect to the party of Bush.

So they insinuate that any black who abandons the Democratic plantation is a traitor to his or her race; must be some sort of minstrel, frankly.

What particularly rankles is the hypocrisy of Cocco and her ilk. How swift they were, for instance, to condemn the hateful remarks that the ousted president of the NAACP's Dallas chapter made about Joseph Lieberman, merely because of his religious faith. Yet, these supposedly enlightened folks think nothing whatsoever about uttering no less hateful remarks about blacks like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, merely because they happen to be Republicans.

(Joseph Perkins is a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune.)


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