Civil rights problems remain entrenched in American society, the stubborn result of unequal treatment over time. Discrimination in housing, employment, and the voting booth, unequal educational opportunity, and other problems still stand between some Americans and true equality. Presidential leadership is necessary to break down obstacles and realize the promise of civil rights. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Commission) examined the George W. Bush administration s commitment to that end. What follows are the results of the Commission s examination, expressed in terms of:
(1) whether civil rights enforcement is a presidential priority;
(2) federal efforts to eradicate entrenched discrimination;
(3) expanding and protecting rights for disadvantaged groups; and
(4) promoting access to federal programs and services for traditionally underserved populations.
This report finds that President Bush has neither exhibited leadership on pressing civil rights issues, nor taken actions that matched his words. The report reaches this conclusion after analyzing and summarizing numerous documents, including historical literature, reports, scholarly articles, presidential and administration statements, executive orders, policy briefs, documents of Cabinetlevel agencies, federal budgets and other data.
Priority of Civil Rights Through public statements and actions, by establishing a diverse executive branch that affirms civil rights, and by funding enforcement, an administration can express its commitment to equal opportunity. This report finds that President Bush has not defined a clear agenda nor made civil rights a priority.
Statements and Action:
Public statements are a means by which Presidents draw the country s attention to important matters. However, President Bush seldom speaks about civil rights, and when he does, it is to carry out official duties, not to promote initiatives or plans for improving opportunity. Even when he publicly discusses existing barriers to equality and efforts to overcome them, the administration s words and deeds often conflict.
Federal Diversity and Support for Civil Rights:
Although not to the extent of the previous administration, President Bush has assembled a commendably diverse Cabinet and moderately diverse judiciary. However, many of his nominees and appointees do not support civil rights protections. The effect may be eventual weakening of civil rights laws.
Civil Rights Funding:
Requests for funding is one means by which Presidents make their priorities known. In his first three years in office, the net increase in President Bush s requests for civil rights enforcement agencies was less than those of the previous two administrations. After accounting for inflation, the President s requests for the six major civil rights programs (Departments of Education, Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) amount to a loss of spending power for 2004 and 2005.
For a full copy of this report http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/bush/bush04.pdf