Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, charged yesterday that President Reagan is living in a "dream world" of the wealthy, where he is not exposed to problems of the poor, minorities and the unemployed.
"I don't consider Mr. Reagan personally to be a racist," Hooks said. "But around him there may be some people who are racists."
"I think Mr. Reagan's problem is that he's committed to a course of action that's unreal. For the last 30 years he's been in a dream world of wealth . He is a true believer . . . . I think he actually believes that by giving more to rich people it will make them work harder, whereas the only way to make poor people work is to tax their unemployment benefits."
Hooks made his statements to the annual meeting of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of 165 minority, church, labor and other civil rights groups. The group heard strong words of support yesterday from members of Congress of both parties, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), who promised to push emergency aid programs for the poor and unemployed.
Dole said he would work to channel surplus government food to persons who are hungry. "We have a great agricultural surplus . . . . We literally have food running out our ears in this country--butter, cheese, dairy products," he said.
"I'm going to try to put together legislation--with the administration's help, I hope--to channel the food to the people in need. If we're going to be giving away millions and millions of tons of grain overseas, I don't think we should ignore our domestic programs," Dole said.
Both Dole and Kennedy also promised to work to add a strong enforcement provision to existing laws forbidding housing discrimination.
Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, indicated that he would continue his watchdog function of sitting on bills harmful to civil rights by subjecting them to long deliberations. "Some of those bills need decades of study--if not a hundred years," he said.
Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) charged that in the civil rights area Reagan "has done things that are audacious and that no one thought he could get by with. He's gone into the Supreme Court and he's gone into the Justice Department, and he's turned the clock back.
"What is surprising is that some of the most reactionary men and women in the U.S. Congress are able to go out and get reelected with the support of some of the blacks in this country," he said. "It's time for you to get off your butts and go to work and elect your friends and defeat your enemies . . . . Unless we do a job on our enemies, our enemies are going to do a job on us."