NAACP Head Blasts Both Bushes on Affirmative Action

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The leader of the NAACP (search) criticized President Bush and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, for challenging race-conscious admissions in colleges and vowed to work to unseat the president in 2004.

Speaking at the 94th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, executive director Julian Bond (search) praised the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the use of race as a factor in university admissions policies.

Bond said the decision "gave legal sanction to what we knew to be morally, socially, and educationally correct." He urged states that have abandoned affirmative action policies to "come back into the Union."

The court ruled against the use of a point-based system for enrollment decisions, which was used at the University of Michigan (search). The Bush administration filed one of the briefs opposing the policy.

"The court struck down the points but upheld the principle," Bond said Sunday. "Since the opponents kept telling us that this was all about principle, I'd say we won!"

Bond said he believed affirmative action policies will continue to be challenged. He also promised the civil rights group would be watching states that no longer use affirmative action policies, including Florida, to monitor their commitment to achieving diversity.

Bond criticized the Florida governor for his One Florida program (search), under which state universities can no longer consider race or gender in admissions decisions. High school students are instead guaranteed admission if they are in the top 20 percent of their graduating class.

Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for the governor, said minority enrollment and student achievement are rising under the One Florida program.

"The results speak for themselves," DiPietre said. "Under the governor's leadership and One Florida, minority students in colleges and universities are far outpacing their counterparts in other states."

Bond also voiced his disappointment that neither President Bush nor his brother attended the 2002 NAACP conference in Texas or the 2003 meeting. He also said the group intended "to uproot the bigger 'Bush' in 2004."

White House spokesman Taylor Gross said Sunday that President Bush has been clear in his position regarding affirmative action. The White House had sided with white applicants rejected at the Michigan schools without endorsing an outright end to affirmative action, and called for alternatives to racial quotas by using race-neutral approaches.

Bond's statements about the 2004 election also drew a response: "It's hard to imagine someone wanting the president to attend this event making comments of this nature," Gross said.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Saturday the president's busy schedule prevents him from accepting all the invitations he receives. The governor was unable to attend because of a legislative session in Tallahassee, DiPietre said.

Sens. Bob Graham, John Edwards and John Kerry, all Democratic hopefuls for the White House, were scheduled to attend the convention, along with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Democratic candidates who are not expected by NAACP officials to attend a forum scheduled for Monday include Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and U.S. Reps. Richard Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich.