The Final Call Online Edition



WEB POSTED 07-02-2002




White House aims to inflame White voters, Democrat charges

WASHINGTON (NNPA)óThe Bush White House is trying to inflame White voters by reminding them of the potential power of Black representatives if Democrats win control of the House, a Democratic spokeswoman says.

Jennifer Palmieri, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), says White House Political Director Kenneth Mehlman appeared to use a quotation by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in a PowerPoint presentation to West Coast Republicans in order to send a subtle racial message.

In the quote, Rep. Rangel was referring to the Florida voting debacle in Election 2000. The presentation noted, "Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) drew cheers when he hailed Clinton as Ďthe last elected president of the U.S.í and said, ĎIt is our job to say weíre not getting over Florida.í "

If Democrats win control of the House, Rep. Rangel would become chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which makes powerful financial decisions.

"We find it suspicious that they chose to close their presentation with what they view to be an inflammatory quote from an African-American member of Congress who will become a major player in the House if itís Democratic," Ms. Palmieri says. "It belies a larger insensitivity to the African-American community."

Ironically, the PowerPoint presentation on election strategy, given several weeks ago by the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, lays out plans by the Republican Party to "improve" the presidentís outreach among Blacks and "grow" his outreach among women and Hispanic voters in order to help win the election.

A Republican spokesman scoffed at Ms. Palmieriís assertion, but gave no reason for the use of the quote.

"That sounds pretty far-fetched that the Democratic National Committee would be engaged in that kind of divisive speculation. Thatís kind of a heavy accusation to make," says Kevin Sheridan, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee (RNC). "That he canít use a quote from a high-ranking member of Congress without the Democratic Party charging racial insensitivity is just totally, totally inappropriate. … That is a totally, really a bombastic charge to be making."

A White House spokeswoman was concise when asked why the quotation was used.

"Itís clear from Congressman Rangelís statement that the Democrats will work hard in the next presidential election and you can be sure we will work harder," says Mercedes M. Viana.

The document also includes anticipated Democratic strategies as the two parties struggle to gain power in the House and Senate. The Senate has a 50-49 Democratic majority with one independent. The House has a 222-211 Republican majority with two independents.

"Control of Congress will turn on [a] handful of races decided by local issues, candidate quality, money raised, campaign performance, etc.," the GOP document explains. The "Republican Strategy" must be to "Mobilize GOP base, reach out to Hispanics, Unions, [and] African Americans."

The reputation of the Bush administration, even with his 87 percent approval rating, has been poor among Black civil rights organizations. At a strategy meeting, held in May, Black activists said they would be reviving issues that were eclipsed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They include election reforms in the wake of the 2000 fiasco and new legislation on racial profiling, hate crimes, economic justice, education and other civil rights and criminal justice issues.

Pres. Bush apparently is seeking to counter this strategy. He recently announced an initiative to increase homeownership among Blacks and other racial minorities. Also, Angela Sailor, associate director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, is organizing conference calls between the Black press and other media and top White House officials in an effort to spread their message.

Among womenís groups, Republicans face strong opposition from pro-choice advocates.

The Republican document projects that $125.5 million will be spent by Democratic opponents such as the NAACP, Planned Parenthood and the AFL-CIO, based on the amounts the groups spent in Election 2000. It also projects that Democrats will support Bush on the war against terrorism, but question his domestic agenda.

Other than a political need for a Republican Congress, Pres. Bush has much more at stake if the Black vote continues its growth pattern. In an analysis by David A. Bositis, senior research associate for the Joint Center For Political and Economic Studies, the increase in Black voters from the 1996 presidential election and the 2000 election amounted to at least one million. Nine of 10 Black voters supported Democrat Al Gore in 2000.

Republicans think they may pick up Senate seats in Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Iowa and Georgia. They feel Democrats have a chance to pick up seats in Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado, Oregon and Texas, where former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk is in a heated race against Republican Attorney General John Cornyn. Both parties are battling for the Texas seat that will be left open by the retirement of Republican Phil Gramm.

óHazel Trice Edney

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