Bush Assailed By Aclu

Posted: October 07, 1988

WASHINGTON — By repeatedly denouncing the American Civil Liberties Union, Republican presidential candidate George Bush "is attacking the Bill of Rights itself . . . and all Americans whose protections depend on the Bill of Rights," ACLU executive director Ira Glasser said yesterday.

He accused Bush of aligning himself with "dark forces" of repression and contributing to a renewed climate of fear that could discourage Americans from ''standing up for what this country believes in."

He also criticized the Democratic nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, for failing to make a spirited defense of civil liberties.

"I think, to some extent, the Dukakis strategists and the Bush strategists share a common strategy, which is that it is not a good thing to defend the Bill of Rights," Glasser told a National Press Club audience. "So Bush attacked Dukakis for it and Dukakis tried to hide, I think."


Bush has made the ACLU a major campaign issue, repeatedly assailing Dukakis as "a card-carrying member of the ACLU," and saying that the 68-year-old organization is "way out in deep left field."

In an interview last month, Bush said: "I use the ACLU to differentiate myself from a man who blurs over the fact that he is a card-carrying member of the ACLU. He won't discuss that. . . . I think he won't discuss it because it is basically a very liberal organization."

Dukakis has sought to distance himself from some of the ACLU's highly controversial positions, such as its opposition to tax exemptions for churches and references to God on U.S. currency.

The Bush campaign believes that his attacks appeal to large numbers of voters who consider the ACLU an extremist organization, especially in its defense of the rights of defendants in criminal cases. Bush has also noted that the ACLU and Dukakis agree on opposition to the death penalty.

Glasser said that Bush, in effect, has been telling Americans that "I am not a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I am for the people."


"Which people?" Glasser asked. "The Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated (during World War II) because of their race? The millions of American workers who were repressed and suppressed because they wanted to organize?

"The blacks and other so-called people of color in society who suffered, and suffer still, from discrimination? The 50 percent of our population - women - who were relegated to second-class citizenship for so long? . . .

"If he is against those people," Glasser said, "then it is he, not we, who are out of the mainstream."

The ACLU, which has about 250,000 members, has defended the constitutional rights of individuals and groups across the political spectrum, from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Ku Klux Klan, from anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to Lt. Col. Oliver L. North.

The ACLU lost more than 10,000 members a few years ago when it represented - successfully - American Nazis who were denied a permit to march through Skokie, Ill., a largely Jewish suburb of Chicago.

But Bush's attacks are having the opposite effect, Glasser said. ''Thousands of people across the country . . . have called and asked how to join the ACLU. The numbers are unlike anything we've ever seen before. . . . I was thinking that if he needs a job after Election Day, I might offer George Bush the position of membership director."

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