December 20, 2002
Lott and Hispanics

Remember how Bush and Rove's grand strategy was to woo Hispanic voters to the GOP? Well, so far many of them are not impressed by the President's reaction to L'Affaire Lott:

"It doesn't look good for Senator Lott ... but there is a lot that President Bush can do. The Republicans now control the White House and both houses of Congress. If they are in fact serious about appeals to minorities and their commitment to civil rights, it will show up on their agenda when we come back in January," Cecilia Munoz, vice president for policy for the National Council of La Raza, said Thursday.


"The core issue remains for the president: Regardless of the minorities he puts in the White House, there are people he will still associate with who have certain views that are beyond abhorrent," said U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' civil rights task force.

The most interesting thing in this article is a brief reference to former Texas Commissioner of Health William 'Reyn' Archer, who was appointed to that post in 1997 on the recommendation of Governor George W. Bush. Archer's record is a colorful one. In April 2000, he told NYT reporter Adam Clymer that Texas' Hispanic population "lacked the belief 'that getting pregnant is a bad thing.' Archer is the son of former Congressman Bill Archer and spent time in Daddy Bush's administration as an official in HHS. He was a controversial choice for Health Commissioner because he also has some interesting things to say about women and blacks.

This Austin Chronicle article, written shortly after Archer was finally forced to resign just before the November election (more than six months after his remarks about Hispanics were first published) gives a glimpse into how Bush has operated when confronted with a Lott-like situation in the past:

Later, Archer backed away from some of his statements [about how the birth control pill gave "too much power" to women]. After he was hired by Gov. Bush, his critics in the Texas Legislature agreed to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, those legislators say Archer should have been fired even before he made national headlines in April with his comment that Hispanic communities encourage teenage girls to become pregnant. Archer apologized for those statements, and Bush said he was satisfied. But the governor was finally forced to depose Archer when a former TDH administrator who is black sued him last month for questioning her allegiance to her race.

Emphasis mine. Sound familiar? Note how long it took for Bush to finally abandon Reyn Archer, and that it took a lawsuit to do it. Archer was in a much less visible role than Trent Lott, but by the same token he was more closely connected to him.

Here's some more detail about that lawsuit.

Dr. Demetria Montgomery, who was a top-level administrator in the department before she was fired last month, had secretly tape-recorded a February meeting with Archer, who is white.

On the tape, Archer can be heard making references to "lynching" and suggesting Montgomery used her brain to advance her career and "that's what white people do."


Archer can be heard referring several times to Montgomery's race and said "you are fair (skinned) as a black woman, you get certain privileges in white culture that others don't get for that." Archer also suggested that she had her brains instead of her heart to advance her career and "that's what white people do."

This Salon article gives the context of the "lynching" quote. Remember, Reyn Archer was recommended for his position by George W. Bush. Bush didn't inherit him.

And if you thought the tale of Reyn Archer couldn't get any more sordid, how about this story, in which proposed restrictions on weight-loss products that contain ephedrine (a stimulant that has been linked to health problems) were dropped after Archer met with industry leaders and some $40,000 was funneled to Bush's 1998 reelection campaign. This CNN story has more details.

All of this information was found by a simple Google search. Makes you wonder why the Chron didn't fill in the blanks a bit more.

So getting back to Trent Lott, we see again that the perception of racism puts the Republicans in a bind regarding issues that blacks and Hispanics care about:

As for Bush, [Marisa Demeo, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund] said, "He did part one, which was to condemn the statements, but he hasn't done part two. He hasn't come out and said, `This is what I believe and this is what I'm going to fight for in the next Congress: I'm going to reduce the Hispanic drop-out rate,' for example. What is his commitment to immigration issues, to healthcare, to affirmative action?

"The Republican Party did a lot in 2000 and 2002 to reach out to the Latino community, which is great," she said. "But in order to keep that support and make it grow, a party has to deliver something."


Tatcho Mindiola, director of the University of Houston's Center for Mexican American Studies, said that while most Americans may think of segregation as affecting African-Americans in the South, older Texas Latinos also grew up with segregated schools and lunch counters, and they haven't forgotten.

"Bush's personal popularity seemed to help Republicans begin to move beyond that, at least in Texas," he said. Bush received about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in his last run for governor, a record for Republicans. "But remember, California did not go for him, and in Florida he had help from his brother," Mindiola said. "Republicans tout the (improving) Hispanic vote, but it's probably not long-lasting. Republicans are still very fuzzy on bilingual education. They are adamantly opposed to affirmative action."

As others have noted, Trent Lott can't make the non-racist case against things like affirmative action because he has no credibility on the issue. He won't have any credibility to make the non-racist case against bilingual education, either. The question is whether Bush will lose this credibility as well. If the media start to revisit the Reyn Archer case, maybe he will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 20, 2002 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

The way you set it up reminds me of whenever Newsmax or some other wacky publication has the headline "Black leader criticizes Democrats" and the black leader is always Rev. Patterson or some other staunch conservative.

In a similar vein, I'm not sure that a spokesman for La Raza or MALDEF or a Democratic congressman are good examples of Hispanic disdain for Bush. Not to say Bush's efforts have been necessarily successful or thorough (The whole Reyn thing was a fiasco), but I doubt there is much Bush could do without embracing enough liberal positions to become a defacto Democrat, which was obviously never Bush's intention.

Republicans will always lose Hispanics, it's by how much that they're seeking to address.

Not that this post is about politics, cause I'm not posting about politics... I'm not posting about politics... gotta keep telling myself this.

Posted by: R. Alex on December 20, 2002 10:40 AM

True enough. Of course, it's getting more and more rare for one member of a party to criticize another (unless, of course, there's an ulterior motive). Ideological soulmates still do it, though usually on the grounds that so-and-so isn't ideological enough.

It's still interesting to me that Reyn Archer was brought up but not discussed. Wonder if anyone will recap that episode, or if Lott's sudden departure has succeeded in finally knocking this story off the front page.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 20, 2002 11:21 AM

Not much argument there. I figure everyone is angling for something so I don't take all that much stock in endorsements, except for the unexpected (Bob Bullock for Dubya, Nolan Ryan for John Sharp, and so on), which is almost unheard of on the national level.

Posted by: R. Alex on December 20, 2002 4:35 PM