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Parental Guidance
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, April 28, 2000

Question: Last year, in a speech to the NAACP and the Urban League, Vice President Gore vouched for the fact that his father was a big advocate of civil rights while he was in the Senate. However, his father actually voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Do you know how his father stood on the Voting Rights Act of 1965? – Jeff Bowling, Clinton, Ill.
Gore's votes on Vietnam and race ended his career in 1970. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Albert Gore Sr. did vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and joined in the filibuster against the bill. Though he was considered a liberal, a Southerner who voted for such a far-reaching civil rights bill would have been committing political suicide at the time. Of the 26 Southern senators (including the two in West Virginia), 22 voted against the legislation (exceptions: Cooper and Morton, both R-Ky.; Yarborough, D-Tex.; and Randolph, D-W.Va.).

Gore was up for reelection that year, and for a time his bid appeared to be in jeopardy. Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was running strong in Tennessee, and perhaps Gore cast his vote to inoculate himself against a backlash from conservatives. In addition, black voters were miffed over Gore's vote against the '64 bill, and it was feared that they might sit out the election. But Gore's GOP opponent, Dan Kuykendall, was a Goldwater conservative not known for advocating civil rights. The African-American vote contributed mightily to Gore's 54 percent victory that year.

But Gore voted for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which suspended literacy tests and authorized appointing federal voting examiners to help register voters. So by the time he was up for a fourth term in 1970, Gore was in trouble. In a conservative state like Tennessee, his votes against two Southern nominees to the Supreme Court (Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell) and his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War had become albatrosses. He even faced strong opposition within his own party, barely winning a majority in the primary that year against a first-time candidate. In the general election, facing not only Republican nominee Bill Brock but also the strong opposition of President Nixon and Vice President Agnew, Gore was ousted from office.

Washington Post Magazine: Al Gore and the Legacy of Race (April 23)
Post Magazine, Page Two: Gore and the Legacy of Race (April 23)

Question: I am interested in learning more about the politics and financial dealings of former Sen. Prescott Bush (R-Conn.), President Bush's late father and George W. Bush's grandfather. What can you tell me about his political philosophy and political history? – James Cooper, Humble, Tex.
Prescott Bush was far more moderate than his son or grandson. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Prescott Bush was an international financier and Wall Street banker who served 10 years in the Senate (1952-63) as a moderate, patrician Republican. He won a special Senate election in 1952 over Abe Ribicoff, then a Hartford congressman. In 1956, Bush comfortably won reelection over Thomas Dodd, another congressman (and who, like Ribicoff, would later go on to the Senate). He retired in 1962.

Bush, who died in 1972, once said his proudest moment came when he played a leading role in the 1954 censure of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.). He strongly supported civil rights and chaired the 1956 Republican Platform Committee that endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment. In contrast, George Herbert Walker Bush's maiden entry into politics was as a Texas Senate candidate in 1964, running as a strong supporter of Barry Goldwater and a vocal opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (a viewpoint he later came to regret). By many accounts, President Bush was very much his father's son. On the other hand, little of Prescott Bush is apparent in Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who many say really takes after his mother.

Question: How much work behind the scenes is former President Bush doing to help get his son elected? – Milo Burnett, Port Isabel, Texas

Answer: When W. first began taking steps toward running for president, he had complete access to Dad's list of contacts and financial backers, many of whom are responsible for Bush's record-breaking fundraising operation. And of course, the former president campaigned for his son in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But I've been told that the senior Bush, while bursting with pride over his son's campaign, has generally shied away from taking an active role. He advises and speaks to his son all the time, but he lets George W. do the heavy lifting.

Question: Why is it we never hear anything about George W. Bush's brothers, Neil and Marvin, or his sister, Doro? The media was quick to talk about the siblings of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson when they were candidates. – John Saupp

Answer: Plenty has been written and said about the Bush siblings, dating back to 1980, when George H.W. Bush first ran for president. From the Bush perspective, probably too much was written about Neil, who was involved in a Denver savings and loan scandal while his dad was vice president. Neil Bush was a director of the Silverado Savings and Loan Association, which collapsed during the mid-1980s and cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion. He was accused of conflicts of interest but was never charged with criminal wrongdoing, though he did pay a $50,000 fine to the FDIC. Neil reportedly had the political bug until the scandal broke. He currently lives in Houston and is a director in an international consulting company.

Neil, Marvin and Doro all joined their parents and campaigned for their brother in New Hampshire. Another brother, John Bush – better known as Jeb – is governor of Florida. A fifth sibling, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953.

Post Series: The Making of George W. Bush

Question: Can you tell me who appointed the appellate judges who made the recent decision regarding Elian Gonzalez? Do these judges have a history of coming down on the conservative side of issues? – Larry L. Lee, Manassas, Va.

Answer: Judge J. Larry Edmondson, a strong conservative who worked for the Reagan campaign in Atlanta in 1984, was appointed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Reagan in 1986. Joel Dubina, considered to be more moderate, was first tapped by Reagan to preside over a U.S. District Court in Alabama, and was named to the appellate court by President Bush in 1990. Charles Wilson, a former federal prosecutor and also a centrist, was named by President Clinton last year. He is the court's only African-American judge. The three-member panel unanimously ruled in favor of the arguments made by Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives, that immigration law allows a young child to apply for political asylum.

The 11th Circuit Court is considered conservative, but has ruled in favor of civil rights and gay rights in the past.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2000 Ken Rudin

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