Clinton's Race Initiative Underwhelms

Much-ballyhooed panel on America's racial problems concludes that what the country needs is another panel.

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Perhaps nothing could have saved the President's initiative on race. "From the beginning it was poorly conceived, planned and run," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "But even if the commission had produced profound new insights on race in America, it would have been swamped by the Monica issue." The President's advisory board delivered its report on Friday, offering painfully predictable conclusions: race relations in America may be better now than they were 40 years ago, but they could be better still. Instead of apologizing for slavery, the board recommended, Americans should try and make amends. And establish a permanent panel on race relations.

The initiative's moment, however, has clearly passed. "Even the little good that could have been accomplished by the President using his bully pulpit has been squandered," says Branegan. That doesn't mean that it was not a total loss; the report may help shore up the President's support in a key constituency. "The race initiative maintained Clinton's positive standing in the black community," says Branegan. "And polls show that they've stuck by him throughout the Monica crisis."