Both protagonists in a debate on affirmative action invoked the Bush administration to make their cases last night.
Tim Stevens, president of the Pittsburgh branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said President Bush illustrated the continuing need for racial preferences. Conservative columnist and author David Horowitz alluded to two prominent African-American members of Bush's administration -- Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- to dismiss quotas as unnecessary.
"Let's be honest, white privilege exists, persists, and that's what we're doing here," Stevens told an audience at Duquesne University.
"Think of the glass ceiling coming down on your head," he said. "That is the reality. George Bush if he were black would not be president. He was nominated almost before the campaign started because he was the son of a former president. He got into Yale under questionable circumstances. He's the son of a president.
"That may seem oversimplification to some, but if you stick with it, there is a lot of reality in that. Somebody else white might have become president, but it wouldn't have been George Bush."
Responding to Stevens' comments, Horowitz said he had little doubt that had Powell decided in run for president, he would have received the Republican nomination.
"We have just conducted the war in Iraq and we are facing the most dangerous time in America with respect to the war on terror and the people leading our foreign policy and national security policy are African-Americans," he said.
"There is not a scintilla of evidence that the problem of entry into the University of Michigan Law School or any law school or any university has to do with racism in the admission policies."
The latter was a reference to arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court this month in a challenge to the University of Michigan Law School's race-based admissions policies, a case that has drawn national attention.
Continuing on that theme, Horowitz said the goal should not be to defend race preferences when there is no need to.
"There are other schools besides the University of Michigan Law School," he said. "Not everyone gets to attend Harvard. There's no reason why the University of California at Berkeley should not be 100 percent Chinese if they score off the charts on the SAT.
"The issue is what we as a people want to value and what principles we want to defend."
The debate, sponsored by the Duquesne University School of Law Federalist Society Chapter, drew an audience of about 100.