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Jewish World Review Jan. 18, 2000 / 23 Teves 5761

Evan Gahr

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Bush and other GOP converts to racial politics are profoundly misguided -- THE LONG MARCH of the bean counters is fraught with peril--especially for the conservatives who have lately jumped aboard the diversity bandwagon. First, George W. Bush took incredible pains to insure that the opening night of the GOP convention looked a bit like "Showtime at the Apollo." Now, he has made "diversity" a key consideration for the formation of a new administration.

At best, President-elect Bush and other GOP converts to racial politics are profoundly misguided. If their recent shenanigans are a cynical attempt to beat the left at its own game, they have failed miserably. Despite his campaign's outreach effort blacks again voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in record numbers. Now the Congressional Black Caucus and even "civil rights groups" are trying to discredit his presidency by saying victory in Florida came at the expense of "disenfranchised" minorities. Six civil rights groups even filed a federal lawsuit January 10 accusing Florida of racial discrimination.

The lawsuit came the day after Linda Chavez withdrew from consideration as Labor Secretary after vehement opposition from liberal groups. The search and secure mission that felled Chavez as Secretary of Labor hardly seemed bothered that she could have been the first Hispanic woman to hold that post.

Meanwhile, will embattled Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft have any better luck in trying to beat the left at its his own game? Liberals have imputed insensitivity and outright bigotry to Ashcroft because he had the audacity to oppose Ronnie White's elevation to the federal bench. Ashcroft objected to White's ruling against the death penalty for a man who killed law enforcement officials. The RNC this week took pains to emphasize all the black judges Ashcroft has favored and even that his wife teaches at Howard University Law School. This proves next to nothing, unless like Democrats, you view the world through the prism of race.

The wiser strategy would have been to attack the insidious premise of the anti-Ashcroft campaign; namely that anyone who opposes a black judge is racist. Or at the very least, follow this premise to its logical conclusions, many of which could prove quite discomfiting for Democrats. Does the new standard mean that all those Democrats who opposed Clarence Thomas were racist? Is it permissible to oppose white judges who oppose cold blooded killers? These are rude questions violate liberal etiquette. But trying to play by the left's rules is problematic.

Bush has hardly gained good will with liberal critics by desperately trying to select a cabinet that "looks like America." Gee, where have we heard that phrase before? Oh yes, President Clinton did the same thing in 1992. Aren't Republicans the party of equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none? By harping on diversity, and a particular kind of diversity of course, the Bush administration can only embolden quota-mongers. Yes, the men and women he finally selected seem eminently qualified-or at least more qualified than Janet Reno. Yet, the obsession over diversity sends a clear message: : skin color matters. If it matters for the Bush cabinet, then how can the Bush administration stand up to Jesse Jackson or would accord privileges based on race and ethnicity? Or Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell, who with little fanfare has taken it upon himself to "diversify" the Foreign Service.

Meanwhile, liberal Jews are kvetching that George Bush's cabinet has no members of their tribe. The Jewish Forward, which endorsed PLO sympathizer Hillary Clinton for United States Senate, even took the new administration to task. "Mr. Bush reached out to blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans . . .because he wanted to send a message. He chose not to include Jews in that message."

The National Jewish Democratic Council upbraided the President-elect in a press release titled " Mr. Bush's Cabinet Looks Like America - But Without the Jews."

"I am struck not only by the sharp contrast between the historic number of top Jewish decision-makers in the Clinton Administration and the paucity of Jews in President-elect Bush's circles," said National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira Forman. "It seems to me that the only explanation for this discrepancy - is that President-elect Bush's cabinet is comprised of a close circle of friends and trusted advisors, and Jews just aren't well-represented in that grouping."

Great. Would Foreman rather have Bush brag that "some of my best friends are Jews?" And incidentally, White House press secretary-designate Ari Fleischer is Jewish. But it's probably best not to dignify Foreman's charge with a detailed rebuttal.

Of course, to the victor goes the spoils. Nearly 80% of Jews voted for Al Gore. Yes, the Bush people did select cabinet officials and top White House staffers from ethnic minority groups which tend to support Democrats. But those groups such as blacks and Hispanics have been officially declared "underprivileged," which means they accrue all sorts of special privileges. The reality is that Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, don't figure in the country's diversity fetish. The left constantly yammers about the hundreds of years of "white male skin privilege." But they forget that some white males, namely Jews, did in fact suffer discrimination, barred from blue chip law firms, college English Departments and so forth.

Today, those barriers have mostly fallen, but anyone who plays the number game should note that Jews are a tiny minority. Eric Rozenman executive editor of the B'nai B'rith International Jewish Monthly and former editor of the Washington Jewish Week notes that "if Bush wants a cabinet that looks like America there is not much room for Jews" who comprise just 2 percent of the population. "You want a cabinet that looks like America, with Jews in it? Then we'd better start having more Jews."

Of course, the NJDC sides with a party that favors abortion on abortion on demand and would probably endorse fourth trimester abortion if NARAL so demanded. So it might feel uncomfortable urging Jews to be fruitful and multiply.

Diversity, it seems, is an awfully hard game for anybody on the right, or left, to master.

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


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02/03/00: The red and the Black: The Left-wing Extremist in Bill Bradley’s Camp
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© 2001, Evan Gahr adapted from The American Enterprise.