Bush Claims Civil Rights Gains

Joseph Curl, Washington Times, December 21, 2008

Declaring Barack Obama’s election a “very hopeful moment for race relations,” President Bush asserts his own administration did much to empower minorities, calling the No Child Left Behind education law “a piece of civil rights legislation” and saying his call to overhaul Social Security was aimed at giving blacks a greater stake in the nation’s future.

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Mr. Bush, who leaves office in exactly 30 days, said he had worked hard throughout his eight years in office to lift minorities, in part by increasing homeownership and expanding opportunities for small businesses. But he said that the Republican Party will have to find new ways to persuade blacks and Hispanics that it is working in their best interests, citing his landmark bipartisan education bill to hold failing schools accountable as a prime example.

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Mr. Bush said Mr. Obama’s election is a “moment of healing for the country,” but added that race relations “is an evolving issue.” Still, the election of the first black president clearly moved the president, who leaned forward in his chair by a fireplace in the Oval Office as he recounted what he saw on the day his successor was chosen.

“I was touched when I saw on television people with tears streaming down their face saying, ‘I never dreamt I would see this day.’ And there was a lot of emotion and a lot of pride in America as an African-American rises to the presidency. And to me this is a very hopeful moment for race relations,” he said.

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Mr. Bush said his ownership society was “aimed at a lot of people,” especially the black community. And while Democrats opposed the creation of personal savings accounts with investments in the stock market—investments that would have been prone to the very financial meltdown that has occurred on Wall Street—Mr. Bush said overhauling Social Security would have benefited minorities.

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Obama’s challenges

While Mr. Bush has been retrospective in those recent interviews, The Times asked him to look forward, especially to the trials and tribulations that will face the incoming president.

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Further out on the radar screen, Mr. Bush said, Mr. Obama will need to deal “with these drug cartels in our own neighborhood.”

“And the front line of the fight will be Mexico.  . . . The drug lords will continue to search for a soft underbelly. And one of the things that future presidents are going to have to make sure of is that they don’t find a safe haven in parts of Central America,” he said.

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