Bush Campaign Lies

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #19: Kerry Flip-Flopped on Affirmative Action 

The ninth of the alleged 'Kerry Flip-Flops', this lie teaches a very important lesson: Beware the ellipsis.

Kerry currently insists that he has a long, distinguished civil rights record, and in particular, he denies having ever opposed affirmative action. The Bush folks claim that Kerry once condemned affirmative action as 'inherently limited and divisive', and offer the following quote, from a 1992 speech Kerry gave, as proof:

"[W]hile praising affirmative action as ‘one kind of progress’ that grew out of civil rights court battles, Kerry said the focus on a rights-based agenda has ‘inadvertently driven most of our focus in this country not to the issue of what is happening to the kids who do not get touched by affirmative action, but … toward an inherently limited and divisive program which is called affirmative action.’ That agenda is limited, he said, because it benefits segments of black and minority populations, but not all. And it is divisive because it creates a ‘perception and a reality of reverse discrimination that has actually engendered racism.’"
Beware the ellipsis.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to find the complete text of this speech, so I don't know what's been elided. I doubt a complete transcript exists, since it appears that this was a speech he gave at Yale, rather than on the floor of the Senate or something. However, Kerry claims that the statement about a 'limited and divisive program' was in reference to a study by the People for the American Way. I tracked down the study ('Democracy's Next Generation II: A Study of American Youth on Race'), but it's not available online (contact PFAW for purchasing info). So it's hard to draw a firm conclusion about whether Kerry was really just discussing the PFAW study, or whether the Bush folks are right and Kerry really did flip-flop.

Or at least that's what I thought until I found this report by FAIR back in 1992, which dissects press coverage of Kerry's Yale speech and concludes

'In the case of Sen. Kerry's comments on affirmative action, however, the spin of some coverage approaches distortion. . . . He also said, "I want to be clear here. I do support affirmative action, not rhetorically but really." The "negative side" of the policy was, for Kerry, the "perception" it engendered in many whites: He cited a poll by People for the American Way that indicated white people believe they are more discriminated against than minorities. Congress, Kerry said, has an obligation "to correct whatever false data or preconceptions have fed the belief that is evidenced in this poll."

Affirmative action, Kerry said, has "made our country a better, fairer place to live," but public misunderstanding of the policy --which Kerry acknowledged has been "exaggerated and exploited by politicians eager to use it" --has created an "obstacle" to interracial communication.'
There you go. Kerry was really criticizing the 'exaggerated and exploited' public misunderstanding of affirmative action which caused some whites to believe that they are more discriminated against than minorities, a belief which in turn engenders racism. FAIR cites a number of publications (though not the same Washington Post article the Bush camp does) as misconstruing Kerry's message as an attack on affirmative action.

If the media can't be bothered to report the facts accurately, why should we expect the Bush folks to correct them?

11:00 PM