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Bush Calls Affirmative Action Unconstitutional; Georgia Governor Pushes For Popular Vote on Confederate Flag

Aired January 15, 2003 - 16:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Racial politics on display. From the Georgia Statehouse to a Michigan University, to the Bush White house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a watershed moment for the administration. They have to decide whether they're for civil rights and diversity or not.

ANNOUNCER: The president prepares to weigh it on a pivotal affirmative action case before the Supreme Court.

A Confederate flag come back? Georgia's governor says he will push for a popular vote, but will it backfire?

Race, in the presidential race. Where do the Democrats stand on a banner issue in the South?

By the book? We'll get a read on the trend of politicians, moonlighting at authors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In general, throwaways often.


ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. Democrats already are pouncing on the Bush administration's suspected leak into a legal battle over affirmative action.

In this "Newscycle," administration officials say the White House is expected to file a brief by tomorrow opposing the University of Michigan's program. The case will be key in defining the limits to affirmative action in America. Even as some Republicans have been trying to reach out to minority voters.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, the president closer to a decision?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, we just found out the president will actually make a public statement to reporters in about 30 minutes in the Roosevelt room. It is widely anticipated, yes, he'll weigh in on this affirmative action case at the University of Michigan. Is arguably the most important to go before the Supreme Court in a generation.

Now, sources tell us that President Bush met with advisers last night, talked about the considerations. Sources tells us Mr. Bush, who is a staunch opponent of racial quotas, is expected to oppose the University of Michigan's affirmative action program. That is a program that gives preference to blacks and Hispanics for admissions. A White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, earlier today would not talk specifically about what the president's position is, but he did talk about broad terms. How the president feels about quotas.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY.: The president believes that quotas and racial preferences do not serve to lift up our country and to help the average American. Instead they have a tendency to divide people, separate people who are deemed to be worthy of something and have it taken away from them. Not on the basis of merit but on the basis of simply a quota or something that is driven exclusively by race.


MALVEAUX: Judy, this is really a politically sensitive issue for the white house as well. As well as legally complex. Really, President Bush has been pushed in both directions from conservative Republicans and also solicitor Ted Olsen who pushed the president to take a hard line on this position against racial quotas. The statement being that there is no case justifiable, that it's even unconstitutional using race for a consideration of admission.

At the same time, there are political advisers, however, who are quite concerned if the president takes this hard line that hail alienate, turn away some of the minority voters, particularly Hispanic voters the White House has been courting blacks and Hispanics and are quite concerned about that. Especially in light that they're quite sensitive about it, in light of what Senator Trent Lott and his controversial remarks concerning the Strom Thurmond presidential bid of 1948, one that suggested that it was a segregationist platform. As you know, that was the statement that Lott Lost the Republican leadership position from.

The president will make a statement in about 20, 25 minutes and we expect it will be on this matter. We also have been told by sources that it is likely to be somewhat of a compromised position. Very similar to the position that President Bush took when he was governor of Texas. One that forbid affirmative action quotas but at the same time also aloud the top ten percent of all high school students to be admitted to state university, regardless of race -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: OK, thanks, Suzanne. And in fact, I talked earlier with the president of the University of Texas about that plan and we'll hear from him a little later. Perhaps sensing a campaign issue, Democratic presidential hopeful and Michigan alumni Dick Gephardt says he will file his own brief with the Supreme Court supporting the university's affirmative action program. A number of Gephardt colleagues on Capitol Hill are making their cases in the court of public opinion.

Our Jonathan Karl is on the Hill -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Democrats don't know exactly yet what the president will say about the University of Michigan case, but they do know that they're not going to like it.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: This is a watershed moment for the administration. They have to decide whether they're for civil rights and diversity or not. That's the question.


KARL: Democrats are portraying the bush administration decision on the University of Michigan case is a test of whether the Republicans are a party of Abraham Lincoln or Strom Thurmond.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There is no question that the talk is there in terms of civil rights, but the walk is not there. The real issue is when it comes down to it is, are you going to do what is important to advance the cause of a fair and more equitable society?


KARL: The president also faces friendly fire from fellow Republicans who want him to embrace race-based affirmative action. Something he has long opposed. In a letter to the president for moderate -- four moderate Republican senators urged him to support the University of Michigan's policy saying, many Republicans throughout the nation believe that diversity should be recognized as a compelling government interest in the admissions policies of institutions of higher education. Even some Senate conservatives who are still smarting from last month's Trent Lott controversy are treading carefully on this.


SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: I think it is relevant to have race and ethnicity and family income when you're looking at making a diverse student body. I would question the way it's given by the University of Michigan, the S.A.T. score is given away to 12. Race is give an rate of 20. Now, I think having race as a part is very relevant. But would I rate it more than S.A.T. scores? Probably not.


KARL: There are still other conservatives on Capitol Hill and off Capitol Hill who want to see the president come out way strong statement against racial preferences of any kind. Some of these conservatives, like Ward Connelly of California are concerned that the president may put out what they are calling a wishy-washy statement, one that will not take a firm line, may come out specifically against the University of Michigan policy but not follow that with a strong statement against racial preferences of any kind. Some worry the president will come out with something that will be too moderate on this issue.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon, thank you very much.

Now we turn to race and politics in Georgia. After Governor's Sonny Perdue's announcement he will push for a popular vote on the state flag. At issue, should the Confederate flag be the centerpiece of the state banner? And Bruce Burkhardt has more from Atlanta on a vote that threatens to be divisive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will faithfully execute the office of governor of the state of Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The office of governor of the state of Georgia.

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of Georgia's first Republican governor in over 100 years took office, planes circled overhead with ominous messages. It might as well have said "surrender Dorothy." Sonny Perdue is being held to his campaign promise, a statewide voter to decide which flag should represent the state.

JIM PARRISH, FlAG DEMOSTRATOR: We can do it. We stand together as brothers and sisters and overcome those who would destroy our very heritage. Those who are trying to create cultural genocide in the South.

BURKHARDT: Old Governor Roy Barnes has pushed through the Georgia legislature a mesher that adopted a new state flag. One that reduced the confederate symbol to a small icon at the bottom of the flag. Now, proponents of the old state flag are vigorously reminding the new governor, and other politicians that it was there support that got Perdue his job.

CHARLES LUNSFORD, PRES., HERITAGE PRESERVATION ASSN.: Any legislator in the general assembly who acts to prevent the people of Georgia from having a voice will have to deal with him in the next election.

BURKHARDT: Since being elected Perdue has not been very vocal about the flag issue but yesterday still supported the referendum, but a non-binding referendum. GOV. SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: What I want is for the majority of Georgians to speak in a way that sends a clear signal to the citizens of this state that that's their choice.

LUNSFORD: A man of his word, always been that way, and the information I'm getting is that they are proceeding towards doing exactly what he promised.

BURKHARDT: But that promise is running head long into certain realities of Georgia and national politics. Nationally, the Republicans want to make sure if there is a referendum, it's not on the same ballot with George Bush in 2004. Here in Atlanta, Perdue also faces opposition from the business community.

(on camera): If the old flag was adopted again, major sporting events and conventions could pull up stakes and move elsewhere. The NCAA has scheduled four major championship events here in the next five years. Atlanta is also up as a possible Super Bowl site in a few years. Business leaders fear bringing the old flag up out of the basement could mean a lot of empty seats and hotel rooms.

(voice-over): But that matters little to the Guardians of Southern Heritage.

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.


WOODRUFF: That's a story in Georgia. South Carolina has had its own political battle over the confederate battle flag and presidential candidates found themselves caught in the middle. That was true in 2000 and may be true again in 2004, when South Carolina hosts an early and important presidential primary.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): In 2000, then Democratic Governor Jim Hodges took the Confederate flag down from the top of the South Carolina State Capitol. But left it flying on the ground. A compromise that is keeping the issue alive for 2004. Should the flag be removed from the ground as well?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't like it, but it's not up to somebody from out of the state to nation problem. That's an in-state problem.

WOODRUFF: This year Democratic presidential candidates are under intense pressure to come out against the flag and go farther than Dean's, I don't like it, but it's not my business formulation. Especially since African-American voters make up half of all South Carolina Democratic voters. So where do the others stand?

Joe Lieberman said this week, "I believe the flag should come off of the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, because, unfortunately, it has become a symbol of division." Through his spokesman, John Edwards said, he thinks the flag should be removed from the capitol grounds. The same go for Al Sharpton.

Dick Gephardt first refused to take sides. But after the NAACP criticized him, Gephardt said the flag should be removed from the Statehouse ground adding that, "The flag should not fly anywhere in this country."


WOODRUFF: And we should add John Kerry also issued a statement saying that flag should come down from the state grounds in South Carolina. Gephardt's comments about the South Carolina flag apparently prompted action in his home state of Missouri. State officials took down Confederate flags at two historic sites in Missouri, yesterday, under orders from the director of the Department of Natural Resources. The flag will be displayed inside the site's visitor centers instead.

Up next, how a Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action may affect other universities.

Also ahead a look back at the political (UNINTELLIGIBLE) led to racial preference programs.

And, just days away from the president's next State of the Union Address, which Democrat will deliver that party's response? That answer may surprise you.

This is INSIDE POLITICS. The place for campaign news.


WOODRUFF: We learned this afternoon the governor of the state of Washington, Gary Locke, will give the Democratic party response to President Bush's State of the Union Address. Locke is the first Asian-American governor in the continental U.S. He's also chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association. It has been eight years since a politician outside of Congress has delivered the response. The president's State of the Union Address, and the Democrats' response are both scheduled for Tuesday Night, January 28. Of course, you can counter on CNN for live coverage.

Coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, the debate over affirmative action.

Also ahead, they may be big, but are they safe? SUVs are in our "Consumer Spotlight."


WOODRUFF: We expect President Bush to make an announcement in a few minutes on where the administration will come down on the University of Michigan affirmative action case. In the meantime, leaders of the nation's colleges and universities are keeping a close eye on these developments. A little earlier today I spoke with Dr. Larry Faulkner, president of the University of Texas, President Bush's home state. I began by asking the doctor if the administration would be taking the right step if it decides to authorize the Justice Department to join the case and oppose the Michigan policy.


PRES. LARRY FAULKNER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Well, I think that's a decision the president's going have to make. Of course, the issues that surround the Michigan case are issues that are deeply involved in academic operations, higher educational operations all across the United States. We've been affected by those issues in Texas, California, has been in different ways, the state of Washington in a different way, but at the heart of it is how do we best build institutions that serve all the populations of America?

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you specifically about Texas, because it's reported that the president -- President Bush, likes the system that you now have in place in Texas. You were telling me it came along as a result of a court order, but in essence, any high school student in the top 10 percent of his or her class must be admitted to the university. And you say that's a system that works, but does that give you the diversity that you think is important?

FAULKNER: We have been able to build on that law to produce a university that is as diverse, actually more diverse, than it was in the days before that law was enacted when affirmative action was legal in Texas. The law itself is not enough. You have to build on the law with your -- the way you target your recruiting. The way you handle financial aid and some other things. But you can work with that law to succeed at the undergraduate level. There are limitations at the graduate level.

WOODRUFF: You're saying the law of, it's called access -- affirmative action, is not sufficient to get the kind of...

FAULKNER: Not all by itself, but behavioral things that institutions can do.

WOODRUFF: Give us an example of that.

FAULKNER: Well, we've targeted, for example, a fraction of our scholarship funds to high schools that have historically not sent students in large percentage to the University of Texas at Austin, and we've gone straight to those schools and talked to the top 10 percent of the class. We can tell those students, look you're admitted if you apply. Now, let us talk to you on how we make it financially possible. And have been able to build a stronger flow of students from those schools.

WOODRUFF: And increase diversity?

FAULKNER: We have been, and they have been succeeding.

WOODRUFF: And so when the president -- if the president is to make the case, and again, at this moment we don't know, but if he is to make the case that this affirmative access is a much preferred system then your response would be?

FAULKNER: I think that it's a system that can work in an undergraduate setting. I think that the nation is going to face a whole series of issues in this area over the next several years. And we are going to have to find new methods for addressing the need for representation.

Affirmative action as it's in practice historically, I think, has been absolutely essential in helping to move the nation from where it was to where it is now, which is a much better state. However it is going to create some questions that will have to have some resolution to. That is, which are the minority groups that are going to be in the protected categories? And this question gets more and more complex as the nation becomes more and more interracial and there are more and more groups.

WOODRUFF: And Texas is right at the forefront of all that, because you do have a high population, not only of African-Americans, but also of Hispanics.

FAULKNER: That's correct.

WOODRUFF: All right.


WOODRUFF: And Dr. Faulkner added that they still have work to do in terms of addressing the needs for creating diversity at the graduate school level.

And this reminder, we are waiting now for live comments from President Bush on affirmative action. We'll go live to the White House in just a few minutes when the president speaks.

Plus -- will he or won't he? Did a conversation that bob graham had with Bill Clinton help the senator from Florida decide on making a bid for the White House?


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Time to check your "I.P." I.Q. Under which president was affirmative action first implemented? Was it, A., John F. Kennedy? B., Lyndon Johnson? or, C., Richard Nixon?

The answer coming up on INSIDE POLITICS.


WOODRUFF: We are minutes away from live comments by President Bush. We believe, we expect he will make an announcement on affirmative action. When the president starts speaking, we will go live to the White House. That's coming up.

But first, this "News Alert." (NEWS ALERT)

WOODRUFF: Once again, just minutes away from an announcement at the White House. We expect the president to announce that is he directing the Justice Department to file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the affirmative action case related to admissions policies at the University of Michigan. When the president starts to speak on that, we will bring his comments to you live.

Well, right now, with us, Margaret Carlson of "TIME" magazine and Tucker Carlson of CNN's "CROSSFIRE."

Tucker, if the president does what we're told he's going to do -- oppose the Michigan plan, propose something very different or presumably different, is this a smart, political move for him to make?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CNN "CROSSFIRE": It can be a smart political move if he articulates the principle behind it. If he says, Look, if you apply to the University of Michigan and you've got a perfect SAT score you get 12 points added to your application. It you're a certain skin color, you get 20 points. Almost twice added to your application. That's unfair. What we ought to strive for is a color-blind society.

If he makes that case, and it's a simple case, and a case I think most Americans agree with, then he wins. If it gets confusing, he could lose.

WOODRUFF: All right. Margaret, we know there's something wrong with your audio. You're not able to hear Tucker.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Right. But that gives me the ability to completely ignore him.

WOODRUFF: But you can state your own view on this. Is this smart for the president to come down against the Michigan plan?

M. CARLSON: Well, if you wanted to be consistent with what the Republican Party was doing in the, you know, by, you know, removing Trent Lott and putting in Bill Frist and showing concern for blacks, I don't think he would be doing it.

But, obviously, the Karl Rove and others think that it's all right; that it would alarm the base more if he didn't do it than it would help him get the suburban or swing voters if he didn't do it. So, it was a calculation made.

I was surprised and then I thought that for a while the White House would be very sensitive to these issues, and at least just stay in the middle instead of taking a position.

WOODRUFF: Well, Tucker, we'll hear from the president literally in less than two minutes here. Let's quickly move to the Georgia flag debate. The newly sworn-in governor, Sonny Perdue, is now saying he will let Georgia voters have a referendum, but it's not going to be binding on the state legislature. They won't have to do what the voters say.

Is Sonny Perdue -- is the Republican Party-- are they going to be able to finesse this is my question?

T. CARLSON: Well, I mean, the national Republican Party, the White House, for instance, is terrified of this issue. Just -- and I'll correct Margaret -- as they're terrified, as Karl Rover is concerned, anyway, about affirmative action. I don't think Karl Rove supports filing a friend of the court brief on this case. And I don't think the White House supports putting this matter in Georgia up for referendum because it looks bad.

But the fact is, every one should keep in mind, there is a Confederate battle flag currently on the Georgia flag. It was left there by the Democratic governor. This isn't, maybe, the biggest issue in the world at end of the day. And people ought to remember that.

WOODRUFF: Much smaller, much smaller.

T. CARLSON: That's right.

WOODRUFF: And the other one is much larger.

Margaret, what about this, in terms of politics, purely politics -- I'm sorry, Margaret.

I'm told the president is now at the podium. And we are expecting his statement on the administration's position on affirmative action in higher education.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... student diversity in public universities.

I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity, in higher education, but the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race.

So tomorrow my administration will file a brief with the court arguing that the University of Michigan's admissions policies, which award students a significant number of extra points based solely on their race and establishes numerical targets for incoming minority students, are unconstitutional.

Our Constitution makes it clear that people of all races must be treated equally under the law.

Yet, we know that our society has not fully achieved that ideal.

Racial prejudice is a reality in America. It hurts many of our citizens. As a nation and as a government and as individuals, we must be vigilant in responding to prejudice where we find it.

Yet as we work to address the wrong of racial prejudice, we must not use means to create another wrong, and thus perpetuate our divisions.

America is a diverse country, racially, economically and ethnically. And our institutions of higher education should reflect our diversity. A college education should teach respect and understanding and goodwill. And these values are strengthened when students live and learn with people from many backgrounds.

Yet quota systems that use race to include or exclude people from higher education and the opportunities it offers are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution.

In the program under review by the Supreme Court, the University of Michigan has established an admissions process based on race. At the undergraduate level, African-American students and some Hispanic students and Native American students receive 20 points out of a maximum of 150, not because of any academic achievement or life experience, but solely because they are African-American, Hispanic or Native American.

To put this in perspective, a perfect SAT score is worth only 12 points in the Michigan system. Students who accumulate 100 points are generally admitted, so those 20 points that are awarded solely based on race are often the decisive factor.

At the Law School some minority students are admitted to meet percentage targets, while other applicants with higher grades and better scores are passed over. This means that students are being selected or rejected based primarily on the color of their skin.

The motivation for such an admissions policy may be very good, but its result is discrimination and that discrimination is wrong.

Some states are using innovative ways to diversify their student bodies. Recent history has proven that diversity can be achieved without using quotas.

Systems in California and Florida and Texas have proven that by guaranteeing admissions to the top students from high schools throughout the state, including low-income neighborhoods, colleges can attain broad racial diversity.

In these states, race-neutral admissions policies have resulted in levels of minority attendance for incoming students that are close to, and in some instances slightly surpass, those under the old race- based approach.

We should not be satisfied with the current numbers of minorities on America's college campuses.

Much progress has been made. Much more is needed. University officials have the responsibility and the obligation to make a serious, effective effort to reach out to students from all walks of life without falling back on unconstitutional quotas. Schools should seek diversity by considering a broad range of factors in admissions, including a student's potential and life experiences.

Our government must work to make college more affordable for students who come from economically disadvantaged homes. And because we're committed to racial justice, we must make sure that America's public schools offer a quality education to every child from every background, which is the central purpose of the education reforms I signed last year.

America's long experience with segregation we have put behind us and the racial discrimination we still struggle to overcome requires a special effort to make real the promise of equal opportunity for all. My administration will continue to actively promote diversity and opportunity in every way that the law permits.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: One question, sir?

QUESTION: Does this overturn Bakke, if it was upheld?

WOODRUFF: President Bush saying at the White House what he was pretty much expected to do. And that is saying that the system at the University of Michigan, which gives preference, gives -- it's something like 20 points to students, to minority students, to give them a boost in seeking admission, both undergraduate and other advantages they get at the graduate level, he said are unfair and, in his words, constitute a quota, and, therefore, are unconstitutional.

CNN's White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

Suzanne, it was reported the president was heading in this direction. But, as you've been telling us today, this was a very tough decision for the White House.

MALVEAUX: Well, absolutely, Judy.

As, in any major decision that the president has to make, this White House was one that was divided. You had conservative Republicans, as well as Solicitor General Ted Olsen, who were pushing the president to take a real hard-line stance with this, saying that, under no condition, that using race was justifiable, even unconstitutional, in using this as a factor for admissions.

At the same time, you had political advisers who were really quite wary of this, thinking that this would have quite a backlash, fearing it would have a backlash with minority voters, specifically Hispanics. The White House has been courting Hispanics for a 2004 presidential bid. And, as we've seen earlier today, already the Congressional Black Caucus and some from the Democratic leadership are speaking out against this. And this is obviously a risk that the White House is willing to take -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Suzanne, thanks very much.

And I want to go quickly back to Margaret Carlson and Tucker Carlson, who we left just before we heard from the president.

Margaret, to you first.

This is pretty much what we expected the president to say. Where does it leave the White House, though, when it comes to looking sensitive or not on matters of race and affirmative action?

M. CARLSON: Well, he said the right things. And affirmative action is not a good -- is an imperfect program, except when you think of all the other ways that people have tried to make student bodies diverse.

Affirmative access-plus works, but not just affirmative access. And, remember, the University of Michigan program was an attempt to get around quotas by having this point system. And now the White House is saying, well, even that is a quota system, so we have to scrap that as well.

And a lot of people get into universities solely based on whether they're a quarterback or the child of an alum and in so many other ways. And affirmative action is one way to try to compensate for those quotas.

WOODRUFF: What about that, Tucker?

T. CARLSON: Well, look, I thought the president's remarks were much stronger than expected. I think the White House has been under -- well, there's been an enormous internal debate on the quest to get Hispanics to join the Republican Party, etcetera, in 2004. So, they were hesitant, I think, to come out with a statement this strong.

I think it appeals to the fundamental fairness of people. Look, there was a poll last year on this question. Should universities take race into account to help specific racial groups? And everybody, white, black, Republican, Democratic, asked by this poll said, no, that's unfair. I think 87 percent of black Americans asked that question said, no, that's unfair. So, if you argue the principle, I think you win. I think Bush did. I was sort of surprised by it. Good for him.

WOODRUFF: We're going to have to leave it there.

Tucker Carlson, Margaret Carlson, great to see you both.

M. CARLSON: Thanks, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much.

And when we return: Long before President Bush courted African- Americans, his predecessors grappled with racial politics and racial preferences. Jeff Greenfield will take us back.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF (voice-over): Time to check your "I.P. I.Q.": Under which president was affirmative action first implemented? Was it, A, John F. Kennedy; B, Lyndon Johnson;, or, C, Richard Nixon? The answer: C, Richard Nixon, who turned the theory of minority preference into reality through the Philadelphia Plan, which, for the first time, imposed racial goals and timetables on government contractors.


WOODRUFF: It was President Nixon who put the power of the government behind what today are often labeled as affirmative action programs. But it was Lyndon Johnson who many say began the idea.

Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, has more on how U.S. presidents have approached the issue.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): In the first years after World War II, American presidents began to move against racial discrimination. President Truman desegregated the armed forces by executive order in 1948, then embraced a strong civil rights position at the convention that year.

In 1957, three years after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, President Eisenhower, who privately disagreed with the court's ruling, sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce it. In June of 1963, President Kennedy became the first president to explicitly embrace civil rights as a moral issue, saying -- quote -- "The question is whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated" -- unquote.


LYNDON JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is only an American problem.


GREENFIELD: But it was Lyndon Johnson, who pushed through the civil rights and voting rights laws, who first endorsed the idea of affirmative action when he said, in 1965, "You do not take a person who for years has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race, and say, you are free to compete with the others."

Johnson issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to recruit and promote minorities. But it was left to Republican President Richard Nixon to put real federal clout behind affirmative action. His Philadelphia Plan imposed racial goals and timetables on federal contractors.

President Carter followed that idea in 1978, calling for a -- quote -- "representative bureaucracy, a work force reflective of the nation's diversity" -- unquote. But, on the toughest call of his administration, whether to back the University of California's use of racial preferences in the Bakke case, the administration split the difference, upholding race as a standard, while opposing the school's specific approach.

President Reagan strongly opposed turning what he called the noble idea of racial equality into quotas. He also put the federal government, for a time, on the side of Bob Jones University, arguing it should not lose its tax exemption because it practiced racial discrimination. Later, under pressure, the Reagan administration backed legislation to strike down that policy.

The first President Bush, under pressure from Democratic majorities in Congress, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, but attacked the bill for its -- quote -- "destructive force of quotas" -- unquote.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Equal opportunity for all Americans.


GREENFIELD: And President Clinton, in 1995, strongly supported the idea of affirmative action with a classic Clinton middle-ground approach. If there are problems, he said, mend it, but don't end it.


WOODRUFF: And that's where we come to President Bush's announcement today.

We're checking the headlines now in our "Campaign News Daily": The six Democratic hopefuls with an eye on the White House will share the same stage next Tuesday. The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro- Choice America invited all six Democrats who are creating exploratory committees to speak at a dinner marking the 30th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Five of those six hopefuls are leading among likely Democratic voters in next year's New Hampshire primary. The American Research Group poll finds John Kerry in the lead with 27 percent -- he's from the neighboring state of Massachusetts -- with Howard Dean, from neighboring Vermont, second at 15 percent; 38 percent said they were undecided. Al Sharpton was among five others who received 2 percent or less.

Florida Senator Bob Graham has not made a decision about a presidential run, but he is getting some high-level advice. Graham says he spoke recently with former President Clinton. He won't say what advice Mr. Clinton might have given him.

In the meantime, Alex Penelas, the Democratic mayor of Miami-Dade County, says he might run for Graham's Senate seat if the senator decides to run for president instead of reelection.

And, finally, there's word from Mississippi that Haley Barbour has all but entered this year's race for governor. The former RNC chairman has mailed letters to potential donors advising them that he does plan to enter the race.

Still ahead: Georgia's political battle over the battle flag. Is a nonbinding referendum the answer? I'll talk with a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.


WOODRUFF: During his campaign, the new Georgia governor, Sonny Perdue, pledged to let Georgians vote on their new state flag. The new banner was approved without a public vote and features a drastically reduced version of the Confederate battle flag that had once dominated the official state banner. Yesterday, Governor Perdue proposed a nonbinding referendum to settle the issue.

With me now from Atlanta is Dan Coleman. He is a spokesman for the Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Mr. Coleman, why was it so important to you in the first place to have any kind of a referendum now on this?

DAN COLEMAN, SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS: Well, the people of Georgia were never able to express an opinion and express their desire on what the flag that represents the people of Georgia should look like.

This change that was made in 2001 was just basically shoved down the people's throat by just a very few people. And we believe that the people of this state should have some expression of what they want to represent them.

WOODRUFF: Now, Governor Perdue is saying he'll go ahead with the referendum, but he doesn't want it to be binding on the state legislature. Does it make sense to have it if it's not going to have any effect in law?

COLEMAN: Well, yes, I think so.

I think that members of the legislature are very responsive to what their constituents want, both in Georgia and nationwide. I would not like to be a legislator and go back home and tell my constituency that I didn't want to give them the opportunity to have their opinion expressed. And I wouldn't want to go back and tell them that I voted against their wishes.

WOODRUFF: So, you're saying you expect that they will abide by whatever the referendum's results are?

COLEMAN: I expect that that's most likely, yes.

WOODRUFF: Do you think that this would pass, the idea of going back to the Georgia flag where the Confederate symbol was predominant on the flag?

COLEMAN: On a referendum basis? WOODRUFF: Yes.

COLEMAN: I believe so. I think that there's wide respect and honor.

The flag, the '56 flag, as we call it -- we call it the veterans flag -- this is -- the St. Andrew's cross on that flag is a Christian symbol. And it was a symbol that was adopted by the Confederate soldiers. It was never a government flag. We are Sons of Confederate Veterans. And we honor our ancestors who fought under that flag. And to change it and take that off would be to dishonor the veterans.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Coleman, what do you say to those in the Georgia business community who are worried about what -- if the flag were to revert back to what it was, what that would do to commerce in the state? They're worried about sporting events, groups not holding their conventions in Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia. What do you say to them?

COLEMAN: I would tell them to look to South Carolina, where they've had the boycott, supposed boycott, for two years. And they're having their best tourism events ever. Their industry is up. Look to Mississippi, where the voters there voted 2-1 one to keep their Confederate battle flag on their state flag. And since then, their economy has prospered.

Georgia has experienced great prosperity in the last 50 years or so, and the most growth that this state has ever had. And it all came underneath the flag that's just been replaced. There's no reason to believe that that growth can't continue under the same flag.

WOODRUFF: So, going back to the old flag you don't think will make any difference?

COLEMAN: Well, might -- it may make a difference of whether or not we get a ball game here. But I don't think that's the major concern of most of the citizens of this state.

The real problem is not just with this one flag. It's that it's become politically correct now to attack Southern culture. No other culture can be attacked without people jumping on them and claiming discrimination, impartiality and bigotry. But somehow now, you can attack anything, any symbols of the South, whether it's the flag or even the word Confederate and Dixie.

The word Dixie now, much less the song, has become politically incorrect, for some reason. That was Abraham Lincoln's favorite song and it was written by a Northerner. Why is that suddenly something that is politically incorrect now? And I can tell you the reason for it is, in 1991, an organization


COLEMAN: ... trouble, decided to declare war on all things Southern. WOODRUFF: We're going to have to jump in, but we want to thank you for your point of view, Dan Coleman, with the Sons of Confederate Veterans. We thank you very much for talking with us.

COLEMAN: Thank you very much, Ms. Woodruff. Good day.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


WOODRUFF: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Judy Woodruff. Thank you for joining us.


Governor Pushes For Popular Vote on Confederate Flag>

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