President Bush has been saying for some time that he hoped Congress would not send him a bad civil rights bill he would have to veto. No sir, he sure didn't want to veto a civil rights bill. Please don't send me a bad bill I will have to veto, send me a good one. Now Congress has passed a good bill, and he still says he will veto it. We wonder if that wasn't his desire from the start.
We took the president at face value for a long time, but now we're not so sure. In retrospect his appeals sound something like B'rer Rabbit's when he was beseeching B'rer Fox not to throw him in the briar patch. The president may well have wanted to veto a civil rights bill all along. If so, that could only be for crass political purposes -- an appeal to right-wing voters in the South of the sort that thronged to David Duke in Louisiana's Senate race.
We hope we are mistaken. But consider the handling of the civil rights bill.
The bill basically undoes recent Supreme Court rulings regarding affirmative action, job set-asides and related employment matters. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and some on the White House staff were opposed to the legislation from the start. Mr. Thornburgh said in April that he would recommend a presidential veto if the bill was not changed. It was promptly changed, to the point that in May the president's spokesman called the differences "minimal."