Clinton Race Initiative Underwhelms

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America prefers to talk about race when it's a burning issue. Even as the White House today admitted that the President's initiative on race had failed to grab the nation's attention after a year, Americans were gripped by a shocking tale of racial murder in Texas -- three white men with suspected Klu Klux Klan links have been charged in the murder of a black man whose head and arm were severed after he was dragged behind a truck.

"President Clinton wanted to fix the roof while the sun was shining, but the public is only concerned about leaks when it's raining," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. White House officials said that while the initiative would continue in some form or other for the duration of Clinton's term, his advisory panel on race will wrap up later this year. "The initiative failed to shape public debate because there was no defined goal in the process," says Branegan. "But incidents like the Texas killing remind America that there's still racial hatred lurking in our system, and that President Clinton wasn't misguided in saying we still have a problem." So whatever happens to the presidential initiative, the nation's conversation on race continues.