The success of former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke as a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Louisiana and the possibility of losing an important battle with the U.S. Senate forced President Bush to support a civil rights bill in Congress, civil rights leader Julian Bond told a gathering of Maryland NAACP leaders yesterday.
"He didn't want to 'Duke' it out with the opposition," the former Georgia state senator told his audience at the 51st Annual Convention of state branches and youth groups of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The president, Mr. Bond said, had counted the votes in the Senate and then changed his mind, especially after the embarrassing rise to power of Mr. Duke under the Republican banner.
A former Klan leader who defeated an incumbent Republican governor and is running against a Democrat in Louisiana's runoff election, Mr. Duke actually helped the NAACP win support for the civil rights bill, Mr. Bond said after the speech.
Rather than being the enemy of the White House that Mr. Bush has attempted to label him, Mr. Duke "is an extension of the racially divisive policies of the White House," Mr. Bond told the gathering.
Now a lecturer at the University of Virginia and visiting professor at American University and Harvard University, Mr. Bond attacked Mr. Bush's record on civil rights. He took aim at Mr. Bush's characterization of the civil rights bill, which would make it easier for victims of discrimination in the workplace to win lawsuits and collect damages, as a "quota bill."
"The issue was never quotas, it was quotients -- the intelligence quotients of those who fell for that line," Mr. Bond said.
Although the civil rights bill was slightly weakened as a compromise the president worked out with congressional leaders, Mr. Bush agreed to support the bill with only minor changes, Mr. Bond said.
Mr. Bond criticized the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Mr. Thomas was denied the NAACP's endorsement because he opposed civil rights policies such as affirmative action. Mr. Bond called him "a man who most Americans would not select to represent them on People's Court."
A few dozen women raised their hands when Mr. Bond asked who had dealt with unsolicited sexual advances from men, but their hands went down when he asked who had reported the incidents. Three men raised their hands when he asked who "knew in their hearts" that they were guilty of sexual harassment.
But Anita Hill, who accused Mr. Thomas, was never the issue, Mr. Bond said. "It didn't have anything to do with who [Thomas] was; it was what we knew he had done" in the area of civil rights.