Thursday, September 15, 2005

Secretary Rice on Bush and Blacks

An interesting exchange here on Bill O'Reilly's show, The Factor:

O'REILLY: It's going to be fascinating to see how history unfolds on this. Now, 60 percent of black Americans, according to a new poll out today, say that race had something to do with the rescue effort in New Orleans, all right? Now you don't believe that...

RICE: No, I don't believe that.

O'REILLY: Right, obviously you don't. And I don't believe that either. But you know who Damon Wayans is?

RICE: I do.

O'REILLY: A very popular black actor and comedian. Comes out and blasts Bush. Kills him. All right. About Iraq and about a whole bunch of other things. I think that influences popular opinion in the African-American community against the president. Am I wrong?

RICE: Well, I do think that there is a lot being said out there that is being said without people questioning the assumptions. I think there is a lot being said out there that is just patently not true, particularly if you know this president. But it's also an emotional time and people say all kinds of things.

I happen to know this president. And I know how much he cares about equality in America. I know how much he cares that minority kids get a fair shake in the educational system. Many years ago I heard him say that he was concerned about the soft bigotry of low expectations and that he was going to do something about the fact that minority kids were in third grade not yet even reading at a third grade level. That's what he cares about. Because the president knows that we have had a history in which race has been sometimes a barrier to opportunity.

O'REILLY: But he doesn't directly address remarks to the African- American community. For example, last night on "Talking Points Memo" here on this program, I laid out on the screen how much more the Bush administration has spent on poverty entitlements, which directly influence poor African- Americans, than the Clinton administration. We had it on the screen. And it's indisputable.

But you don't hear Mr. Bush go out into Harlem or South Central and say here's what we're doing for you. Why don't we hear that?

RICE: This is a president who is going to do what he thinks is right.

O'REILLY: But why don't we hear that?

RICE: Well, he does talk about the need for minority home ownership. He has put enormous amounts of money into community colleges and historically black colleges.

I would hope, Bill, that people who report on issues would...

O'REILLY: You know they're going to hose you.

RICE: I would hope so.

O'REILLY: You know this is the most anti — the press is the most anti Bush press I've ever seen in any administration, perhaps with the exception of Nixon.

RICE: Well let me have my hopes that people are going to report this fairly. But let me just say right here that this is a president who has not only cared about minority empowerment, not only cared about equal opportunity for minorities, but he's done more than any president I can think of in recent years.

O'REILLY: He's certainly spent more money. I don't know if it's done...

RICE: For instance, standards for — so that school children are actually reading at the grade levels they're supposed to be at.

O'REILLY: No Child Left Behind.

RICE: No Child Left Behind. And I was asked a couple days ago, "Well, what do you say to foreigners who say, well, you have a race problem?" And I say, "Well, yes, indeed. We have long had a race problem. Everybody knows that."

But you can not lecture about race when you look at the United States. It has the most diverse cabinet in the world, the most diverse foreign service in the world, the most diverse business community in the world, the most diverse journalistic community in the world. This country has made enormous strides in race relations, and we've done it the right way.

O'REILLY: One more question on this. Does it hurt your feelings that most black Americans don't like the president?


O'REILLY: Do you take it personally?

RICE: I don't take anything personally, no. No. But I do like to have an opportunity to talk to people about what this president has meant for the empowerment of black Americans.

O'REILLY: Does it hurt your feelings when some anti-Bush people say that you're a shill for him and sold out your race?

RICE: Oh, come on. Why would I worry about something like that? Bill, the fact of the matter is, I've been black all my life. Nobody needs to help me how to be black.