Civil Rights Commission Releases Negative Evaluation of Bush Administration
The United States Commission on Civil Rights issued a report last week evaluating the accomplishments and setbacks in civil rights’ progress. The Commission examined areas of continued disparities for minority groups such as housing, employment, voting, and education, reporting an overall negative assessment of the Bush Administration’s efforts. The report, entitled “Redefining Rights in America—The Civil Rights Record of the George W. Bush Administration, 2001-2004”, cited the administration’s resistance in making civil rights a priority, in eradicating entrenched discrimination, in protecting the rights of the disadvantaged, and in promoting minority access to Federal Programs as evidence of their assessment.
The report cited the administration’s failure to speak about initiatives, place civil rights advocates in appointed positions, or add spending to the six major civil rights programs. The commission concluded that Bush has “implemented policies that have retreated from long-established civil rights promises.” It cites the Administration’s failure to enact Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in enough time to effect the 2004 elections, the stripping of money from minority and low-performing students in the No Child Left Behind Act, increased tolerance of racial profiling, and inadequate support for affirmative action, housing support, environmental justice and hate crimes as evidence of these shortfalls.
The commission reported that the Administration failed to provide both protections for immigrants and resources and funding for Native Americans. Bush has also opposed legislation that would provide protection for gay individuals, while supporting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which if passed, “would be the first in U.S. history to limit rather than preserve and expand the rights of a group.”
Specifically investigating the Bush Administration’s work for women’s rights, the commission issued mixed reviews. While citing his efforts to secure capital for female small-business owners and entrepreneurs, the President also abolished the Department of Labor’s Equal Pay Initiative, and withdrew distribution of Department of Education guidance on sexual harassment on the Internet and in the workplace. The President also “attempted to redirect Title IX enforcement, but ceased his effort after overwhelming public expressions of support for the law.”
The report was recently published on the Internet after completion of the commission staff’s work, but before commissioners made final challenges and took votes. Republicans on the commission have suspicions that the timing of the release, just before the November elections, has political motivations. According to the New York Times, the commission’s Chairperson Mary Frances Berry, an independent, answered this claim and justified the immediate posting of the report on the web as an attempt to undermine media leaks, not one with political motivation. In fact, the decision to make a preliminary draft open to the public via the Internet was approved by a majority of the commissioners two years ago. The report, a blow to the Bush Administration’s perceived commitment to civil rights, will not be considered by the commissioners until after the election, but will in the meantime remain accessible to the public.