BET host grills Clinton on racial profiling
Host asks, "Where is the executive order?"
Political USA.com Staff reports
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(Washington, D.C.) President Clinton in an effort to rally African American voters appeared on Black Entertainment Television Wednesday night for an intimate sit down interview with host Ed Gorton.
The interview covered a wide range of topics, but by far the longest exchange between Clinton and the host had to do with a surprising issue: racial profiling.
The President was asked that if racial profiling is such an important issue to him and such a huge problem, why hasn't he just signed an executive order to deal with the problem.
President Clinton was unsure if he was allowed to use an executive order to curb this problem,
saying, "I don't think I, I don't, I'm not sure I can do that by executive order, there's some doubt about that, if Congress has allocated the money, but it would effect federal law enforcement officials, but let me tell you what are trying to do and why."
Clinton then explained that he asked Janet Reno to study the issue and come back to him with recommendations that could be sold on the state and local levels in the form of legislation, not just federal law enforcement.
He went on to tell a story of two White House employees who were stopped
one night because they were in a car that fit the description of an another car belonging to an individual wanted in a crime. Clinton described the incident as "horrible, horrible."
Gorton was not satisfied and followed up by asking the President if he could understand the frustration of some in the black community who feel that they have a friend in the white house and are saying look, "no more studying, we can tell you what the problem is."
Clinton countered by acknowledging that he knew what the problem was, but that he feels that the real issue is to determine the guidelines for ending racial profiling while still permitting effective law enforcement.
The President then went on to tell another story about a meeting he had with African-American journalist where he asked for those who have been pulled over by police for no apparent reason to raise their hand. Clinton said that every male in the room raised
his hand. He went on to explain the importance of electing a different Congress, saying that then the next President can get comprehensive racial profiling legislation through. The President then expressed the hope that maybe he can get something done before he left office.
Still not satisfied, the BET host continued his line of questioning for the President on racial
profiling: "You say you hope to be able to do something before you leave office. You say you're unclear whether those moneys (federal funds for local law enforcement) can indeed be touched because there is arguments both ways."
The President continued to say he was unclear about the executive order and expressed that he would be quite surprised if he had the executive authority to withhold federal funds from those who have a history of racial profiling. Then the President said he would ask his lawyers and look into it.
When learning of the exchange a Republican strategist exclaimed, "He's been there eight years and he doesn't know what an executive order can and cannot do. President Clinton has no interest in solving this problem. Mr. Clinton wants to keep this issue alive as long as possible to divide the American people for political gain."
Other topics of note discussed in the interview were the fact that sometimes African-Americans feel that the Democratic Party may take them for granted and the reported tension between Clinton and Al Gore's campaign.
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