Jewish World Review Jan. 17, 2002/ 14 Shevat, 5763
An 'A' for effort,
as far as it goes
A man is never entitled to praise for being nice to his
mother, a wise old philosopher prince once told me, but we
can all be pleased when he does the right thing.
That goes for presidents, too.
George W. Bush finally did the
right thing when he told his solicitor
general to file a brief in the
Michigan case, urging the Supreme
Court to uphold the Constitution.
But it's a pity that it took him a
week to decide to do it, and then
only when storm signals were
raised fore and aft signaling that a
lot of his friends, who believed
what he said during the '00
campaign, were going to be mighty
unhappy if he didn't.
The Michigan case, stripped of
context, is a lawsuit by three white
students who said they were kept out of the University of
Michigan Law School because preferential treatment was
given to the applications of minority students, some of whom
received 50 "bonus points" on their application. The bonus
was not to reward the content of either character or
transcript, as the late Martin Luther King could have phrased
it, but to reward color.
But the Michigan case is much bigger than a dispute
between three white students and a state university. George
W. Bush recognized this.
"I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial
diversity in higher education," he said. "But the method used
by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is
"Our Constitution makes it clear that people of all races
must be treated equally under the law. Quota systems that
use race to include or exclude people from higher education
and the opportunities it offers are divisive, unfair and
impossible to square with the Constitution."
The race baiters, eager as always to ignore or abuse the
Constitution, leaped quickly at the opportunity to poke a
sharp stick at a lingering wound. Dick Gephardt, a Michigan
law school graduate who took time out from his presidential
campaign to write a brief of his own in support of quotas,
was particularly ferocious in his reaction. Earlier in the week
he had discovered the Civil War and how it could be used to
inflame public opinion, leaning on the authorities to pull down
the Confederate flag at a battlefield memorial in Missouri
specifically established to commemorate both Union and
Confederate soldiers who died there.
Civil rights groups scrambled to see who could condemn
Mr. Bush loudest. "If President's Bush's stance prevails, it will
mean that campuses across the nation will have a less diverse
student population," said Wade Henderson, executive
director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
Manuel Mirabal, chairman of the National Hispanic
Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 organizations, tried to
frighten Karl Rove, who is desperate to find the right bait to
attract minority voters in '04. "I don't think there's a Latino
organization in the country that sides with what the president
did today," he said.
The White House insisted that politics was the farthest
thing from the president's mind. Everybody understands that
the president's spokesman has to say things like that but
nobody is so na´ve as to believe that anyone takes such
malarkey as serious comment. Politics was the flavor of the
day, as it always is, even when it flavors the right thing.
The president's decision clearly unsettled certain of the
president's political gurus, who regard effusive pandering and
exaggerated servility as the key to peeling blacks and
Hispanics away from the Democrats.
This in turn frightens some of the president's friends, who
are pleased that he did the right thing, even if not for all the
right reasons, and only wish he had gone all the way to drive
a stake through the heart of the very notion of quotas. The
remark of one of the president's men chilled them to the
bone. "What the president has said is," this unidentified
adviser told The Washington Post, "we need to try, if at all
possible, to promote the broadest amount of diversity without
taking race into account." The implication, if anyone needs to
have it spelled out, is that race will be taken into account if
necessary to reach a political, i.e., election-day, goal.
JWR's Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal
Opportunity, which seeks to eliminate quotas and mandated
racial preferences, said she would be disappointed if Mr.
Bush's brief leaves standing the slightest possibility that race is
acceptable to him as a consideration for college admissions.
"If the court leaves any door open on taking race into
account, you'll just have more and more creative attempts
from university administrators to accomplish what they have
been doing for years."
The government must insist that the color of an applicant's
skin must never again be taken into account - that as
laudable as diversity may be, on campus or anywhere else,
the state has no business encouraging nor discouraging it by
mandating the supremacy of one race over another. That's
exactly what we've spent the last 50 years trying to banish
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