On Monday, Virginia's Gov. L. Douglas Wilder sent a letter to President Bush taking issue with the president's veto of the Civil Rights Bill. We reprint the text here. As the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I take very seriously those Jeffersonian ideals that are central to our great republic. A government of, for and by the people must provide equal rights and opportunity for all through its legal system.

I was moved by Jeffersonian ideals when I served as a combat soldier on the front lines of Korea willing to give my life to preserve American freedoms, although I knew that when I returned home these freedoms would still be denied me.

But I realized then that the American people were restless to be free from the grip of prejudice and false political symbolism -- the only purpose of which is to drive a divisive wedge between fellow Americans. This consensus, which grows ever stronger, is what I call America's New Mainstream. This force has moved America from the shame of Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson to where we stand today.

And put simply, without this New Mainstream, I would not be governor of Virginia. To so many, I owe so much.

The question of equality of rights and opportunity for all is a moral one. Consequently, the White House should provide the needed moral leadership on this issue. But the White House has abdicated its responsibility by serving as the leading apologist for the unconscionable actions of Sen. Jesse Helms.

I offer two examples. First, by falsely characterizing the Civil Rights Act of 1990 as a law requiring racial quotas, you laid the groundwork for Sen. Helms to raise the phony issue of racial quotas. Second, after the election, you refused to condemn the Helms campaign's use of intimidation tactics against minority voters -- tactics endorsed by the spokesman of your party.

I know what racial quotas are; I have experienced them firsthand. Mr. President, when you attended Yale University, when you applied for your first job, you encountered no racial quotas. But I did. When Vice President Quayle joined the National Guard, he was not hindered by racial quotas. But I was, and on the front lines of Korea.

In short, for most of my life, with millions of other Americans, I have lived under our government's racial quota laws. You can never know how often millions of other Americans and I have wanted nothing more from government than the removal of its weary yoke.

The Civil Rights Act of 1990 does not require quotas. Indeed, your appointee as chair of the United States Commission on Civil Rights insists that the act is not a quota bill.

Without moral leadership, the Jeffersonian ideals of equality and opportunity will never be achieved. Moreover, this issue -- central to our nation's greatness -- is not a political football to be used by our president to appease the Jesse Helmses of this country.

As I consider these actions, I note your efforts in the area of foreign affairs. You have found the time to develop a coalition to oppose Saddam Hussein. I applaud your efforts. This had to be accomplished, and I am proud that the president of the United States led the way.

But surely those soldiers risking their lives in the Persian Gulf have a right to expect their president to work equally hard to develop a coalition that will support equal rights and freedoms back home. On this issue, America deserves a president who will lead the way.

In the last 25 years, this nation has made great strides toward equality for all. I am sure that you will agree with me that the American people do not want to turn the clock back on that progress.