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White House Blames Liberal Programs for Rioting

By James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times


President Bush dispatched a team of federal officials to Los Angeles Monday to assess the city's needs in the wake of three days of rioting, as the White House blamed the upheaval on "the liberal programs of the `60s and `70s."

The president conferred with Cabinet members responsible for domestic issues in the first of what he said would be daily meetings leading up to his visit to Los Angeles at the end of the week. His spokesman said afterwards that as much as $600 million in federal grants and loans is being made available for rebuilding efforts.

"I'm very pleased that it's calmed down out there. We will do everything we can to support the people out there, to make things tranquil and then to help get to the core of the problems," Bush said at a photo session before the Cabinet session.

White House officials, meanwhile, scrapped their original plans for the president's trip, which was to include a speech on trade and visits to Mountain View and Fresno, as well as Los Angeles. They held out the possibility that the overnight visit Thursday and Friday would be extended.

A group of high-level White House officials headed to Los Angeles Monday night to beef up the advance team already there, reflecting the high degree of importance Bush is attaching to what had originally been planned as a routine political trip.

White House officials said that Bush is almost certain to visit an area where rioting took place but the specific neighborhood has not been determined.

A Bush campaign official said that the president's schedule for his visit to California is being adjusted to give him as much "face time with the actual folks there" as possible.

While the White House and Bush's re-election campaign organization scrambled to erase any overt political tenor of the trip, the president complained that Congress' refusal to heed his administration's requests are hampering government efforts to deal with urban problems. And White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said that the failure of the Great Society programs undertaken by President Johnson in the 1960s is at the root of these problems.

Calling for "a conservative agenda that creates jobs and housing and home ownership and involvement in the community," Fitzwater criticized liberal programs that "redistribute the wealth or that deal with direct handouts."

"We believe there's a very direct relationship between people's pride in their community and having a job, first of all, having the hope of income and improving their lives ... and being able to own their own property or homes to give them a stake in the community," he said. "We think the social welfare programs of the `60s and `70s ignored that and we're now paying a price."

Among the approaches favored by the administration, he said, are enterprise zones, which give tax advantages to companies establishing operations in inner cities, and the sale of public housing to tenants. During the last three terms of Republican presidents, the government has sought to slow the growth of federal programs offering direct aid to the poor.

Asked if he was blaming Johnson and the Carter administration for the riots, Fitzwater said: "They're still the programs that are in effect and we've been pushing the liberal Democratic Congress to pass these others and we couldn't get them.

"We believe that the liberal programs of the `60s and `70s did not work," Fitzwater said. "If you look at the studies of the family structure and of leadership in the communities and the impact of the welfare programs and so forth, they all tend to reinforce that view."

Under questioning, he did not cite specific studies or individual programs that he said had failed and acknowledged that some -- specifically the Head Start program of early childhood education and welfare programs for mothers and children -- were necessary and successful.

In Sacramento, Calif., Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, said that "the president is clearly disconnected from reality when he would suggest to you that policies of the Great Society some 25 years ago -- which included the opportunity for people to go to college, which included anti-poverty efforts, which included economic development, business development -- somehow contributed and is responsible for these riots. I think the president is just flat wrong."

Bush met early Monday morning with Attorney General William P. Barr, Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald Atwood, and Adm. David Jeremiah, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for a report on the situation in Los Angeles.

Fitzwater added that Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, had said that under the disaster declaration signed by Bush Saturday, about $100 million will be available in assistance for individuals as well as $200 million for wider government-run repair work. In addition, Small Business Administration loans will reach $300 million to $400 million, he said.

But, Fitzwater said, "these are all soft numbers .... Nobody knows this for sure."