President Bush got a stiff reprimand from a group he had courted in his effort to make his brand of "compassionate conservatism" appeal to minorities.
The Church of God in Christ, a large African American denomination that Bush counted as an ally in his "faith-based" initiative, issued a pair of statements on Friday excoriating his policies on affirmative action and Iraq.
The evangelical denomination, culturally conservative on issues such as abortion, is the sort of historically Democratic constituency Bush has been seeking to bring into the Republican camp as he tries to broaden the party's appeal to black and Hispanic voters. But the group, which claims 6 million adherents, made clear that its common interests with the president were limited.
In a letter to Bush, Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson and the church's bishops reminded him that they defended his "faith-based" proposals to help religious charities and called for healing after his contested election victory. But, the bishops wrote, "we must confess that we fail to see the rush to war as a rational expression of the compassionate conservatism that you promised to the country at the beginning of your administration."
In a second letter, the bishops said they were "deeply disappointed in the tepid and contradictory actions of your administration" regarding the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court. "Despite the past strong leadership of Republicans such as President Richard Nixon, who implemented robust and vigorous measures in employment, minority contracting, and university admissions to wipe away the effects of past anti-black discrimination, we now observe that since the 1980s, your party has rapidly retreated from the historic Republican ideals of equal opportunity and racial justice."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded: "The president has made it clear that he seeks a peaceful disarmament of the Iraqi regime and that the use of force is a last resort." As for affirmative action, McClellan said: "The president has a proven record of promoting diversity and working to provide equal opportunity to people from all walks of life."
Colorado Considers Halting '04 Primary
Colorado legislators are thinking of eliminating the state's 2004 presidential primary to save the cash-strapped state more than $2 million.
The legislation is to be introduced this week, as part of a spending-reduction package designed to close Colorado's $850 million budget gap. If it succeeds, the measure would end a primary that is barely a decade old. Local politicos had once hoped to coordinate their election with those of as many as 10 other western states, to win more attention from presidential candidates.
That never happened. Colorado newspapers have been writing about the proposed elimination, but state Sen. Dave Owen (R), who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he has heard few complaints about the idea.
"The plus is that I'm known by everybody. The minus is that I'm known by everybody." -- TV talk show host Jerry Springer, telling the Associated Press of his possible U.S. Senate bid from Ohio next year.
Political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.