This is a surprise. I read lots of news, and I know I never heard of it. Kudos to Eleanor Clift for an even-handed column in which she looks at the funeral of Coretta Scott King and then tells us all something we did not know: it was Dubya who got the legislation going (stalled since 1988) for the African American Museum.
Bush deserves credit for sitting through it all despite the awkward moments and remaining good-natured and even eloquent in his eulogy. That evening he welcomed the Harlem Dance Theater to the White House for a special performance, and among the guests was Lonnie Bunch, the director of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. “Hey, Bunch!” Bush said, clapping him on the back, a familiarity Bush earned when he signed legislation creating the museum in December ’03. It had been a long time coming. Georgia Rep. John Lewis first introduced the legislation in 1988, and every year after that, to no avail. Even President Clinton, who’s been called the first black president because of his close ties to the African-American community, couldn’t get enough support in Congress for the museum.
Bush’s museum action pulled off the seemingly impossible. With his re-election campaign looming and needing help to win more of the black vote, he mustered the votes to build the museum on federal land, and to provide $250 million, half what the proposed structure is expected to cost. Sure, there was political self-interest, but Bush is also personally committed. One of the first checks the Smithsonian got for the new African-American museum came from the president and his wife, Laura. Then the newly re-elected Bush directed a portion of the funds that went unspent by his Inaugural committee to the museum. That amounted to a cool $5 million. The African-American museum is still seven years off, but it’s been awarded space on the Mall in Washington off Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, an apt location since the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution secured civil rights for black Americans after slavery.
Wow. Who knew? This is one of those stories that, had President Clinton been involved, would have been a Sunday morning headline all around the country, and every Black History Month would include a notation that the so-called “First Black President” had worked for this endeavor.
But, as usual, Bush did it, so we know nothing about it. No headlines. No coverage. All we hear is that George W. Bush “hates black people,” (Kanye West) or that he is trying to ethnically cleanse New Orleans (Rep. Barney Frank), in order to disempower Democrats (Sen. Hillary Clinton).
Kudos to Eleanor Clift for being unusually “fair and balanced” in this piece. We on the right are grateful!