Ron Allen, Wilma Mankiller: Bush too little, too late

"Thirty-nine days before the presidential election in November George W. Bush, facing a hotly-contested race to keep his job, finally got around to inviting a small group of tribal leaders to the oval office: A subtle nod to the fact that the Indian vote can make the critical difference in the outcome of the election in certain key western states.

Proudly proclaiming it an historic moment, the President produced a weak and watered down version of former President Clinton's 1993 Executive Memorandum on the government-to-government relationship, so minimal in scope that a picture of a smiling George Bush surrounded by a handful of tribal leaders had to be inserted in order that the document might fill the entire page.

Having signed this document with ''pomp and circumstance-lite,'' George Bush would now with a straight face have us believe that his administration is committed to tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship. Just in case we missed it, the point was repeated in four of the five paragraphs, sometimes more than once.

The problem is that it was just about the only point made in the entire statement, other than to make clear that the document is not intended to be enforceable and doesn't create any substantive or procedural right. Actually, as it turns out, the legal disclaimer represents 20 percent of the document.

If repeating a phrase enough times were sufficient to make it true, Mr. Bush's memorandum might be of some significance. If it had come four years ago, it might have been more meaningful. If the doors of the White House had not been slammed shut to Indian country four years ago, it might be more believable, but actions speak louder than words and there has been scant little action from the administration since January 2000."

Get the Story:
Indians Against Bush: Too little, too late for Native Americans (Indian Country Today 10/15)