Taking aim at the Rev. Jesse Jackson is almost too easy. First there was the revelation of the once-and-future moral crusader's illicit sexual liaison and love child, then there was his lengthy four-day retirement from public life in remorse for the incident.

It's easy but worth doing. Not to pile on Jackson for a sin that has beset so many other people in leadership positions, but because Jackson's cheap repentance reveals what has become the moral bankruptcy of much of the civil rights establishment. And that revelation is especially important at a time when a new administration in Washington means there's a possibility of reaching out to new black leaders who really do care about the plight of black Americans.

Jesse Jackson has done the very thing that has proven most devastating to the black community he claims to lead. He has fathered a child out of wedlock. Yes, he says he will be an emotional support to his daughter, and he'll certainly be a financial one. But the fact remains, he has abandoned his child to what has been a particularly pernicious problem in black America — single-motherdom.

In other words, as columnist Marjorie Williams of the Washington Post put it in addressing this issue, "It's the Child, Stupid."

But Jackson took only four days to "examine" and "repent" of his actions before jumping back into public life with the board of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition firmly behind him. (It helped to have the mainstream press largely give him a pass on the scandal.) In so doing Jackson and his backers sent a dangerous signal, particularly to young black men and women, that what he did is no big deal.

Yet for these folks, putting ego and desire for power ahead of what is good for those who look to them for leadership is an old story. Jackson and fellow far-left black "leaders" like U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Al Sharpton and others regularly spew racial hatred, divisiveness and victimology.

I can't pretend to speak for black Americans or to understand their history of discrimination. But I can speak for the decent white Americans of today, by far the overwhelming majority of us, who would love nothing more than to see blacks prosper and succeed, both economically and in a thriving family and community life. Who, far from being prejudiced, wholly desire an end to racial animosity. Who really do want to see men and women judged not ". . . by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

And there is ample evidence that there are millions of black Americans who want exactly that — their voices just aren't as loud as Jackson's and his cronies.

But today President Bush has a great opportunity to change that by using the White House to help raise up and give legitimacy to new black voices. That means meeting with, carefully listening to, and being advised by men and women who seek genuine racial unity. Many such names are already known — Robert Woodson of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, economics professor Glenn Loury, author Shelby Steele, and intellectual Thomas Sowell.

But there are also lesser-known but outstanding black servants like Herb Lusk, a former running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pastor of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia with its 2,000 members.

Lusk is a Christian man of great compassion who eschews the divisiveness of the establishment black leadership. He even broke with its orthodoxy to support George W. Bush for president. But, he says, the vast majority of his parishioners did not, though they overwhelmingly back major Republican positions like being pro-life.

Surely these are people who've been scared by angry rhetoric — but who could be reached with a genuine message of inclusiveness. Political considerations aside, it is utterly immoral for good people to abandon these Americans to the racial demagoguery so often espoused by today's entrenched black spokesmen.

But, in helping to give a high public profile to the Herb Lusks of America, instead of the Jesse Jacksons, the Bush administration could more effectively reach out to the black community — and ensure that new black voices of good will are finally heard loud and clear.


Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by e-mail at: mailtohart@aol.com .