Speaking to U.S. Military Academy graduates at West Point Saturday, President Bush attacked the Democratic version of the civil rights bill that goes before the House of Representatives today by saying, "Regardless of how they dress it up, you can't put a sign on a pig and say it's a horse." In fact you can. But the sign doesn't make the pig a horse.
In this case, the president is as guilty of misleading signage as his opponents. The Democratic version is not as he charges "a quota bill" (pig). It says quotas are an "illegal employment practice" under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, we can see how the president and other conservatives may think it is not a horse (quota-proof), either. The bill's language on quotas says they can't be imposed "regardless of whether such persons meet necessary qualifications to perform the job." That could be read to mean that in a job pool of equally qualified applicants, quotas can be imposed.
We don't read it that way, especially when it is considered in the context of the bill allowing suits for "reverse discrimination." But assuming the president and other Republicans are truly worried, there ought to be a way to rewrite that section of the Democratic bill that still achieves the desired result -- prevention of intentional discrimination -- without the potential for quotas. We think the two sides are close enough to agree.