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Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2001 / 14 Teves 5761

Philip Terzian

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Washed in the blood -- ONE OF THE QUIET IRONIES of the new Bush cabinet is the way it will redefine the term "diversity."

In strictly racial/ethnic terms -- which is the way most "diversity" proponents judge these things -- the Bush cabinet is the most diverse in American history. Moreover, it is considerably more diverse than any of Bill Clinton's cabinets, all of which were deliberately chosen to "look like America." George W. Bush will preside over a cabinet of 15 department heads which contains just five (non-Hispanic) white males. There is one Asian-American, who is also a registered Democrat, four women, including a Hispanic woman, two blacks, and an American of Arab ancestry.

The irony lies in the meaning of diversity. "Diversity," as a political term, has come to mean not just racial/ethnic variety, which most people welcome, but ideological uniformity, as well as ill-disguised hostility to white males. When Prof. Derrick Bell quit the Harvard Law School faculty some years ago to protest its failure to hire a black female, he was asked whether the appointment of a black female conservative would assuage his disappointment. Of course not, he replied. In promoting what Bell called diversity, Harvard was really expected to endorse conformity, in the form of a female equivalent of Derrick Bell.

The poor corporate types who have been pressured into hiring diversity consultants, or sponsoring conferences on diversity in the workplace, scarcely know what hit them. The presumption of "diversity" is not to open employment to all qualified applicants -- which any sensible employer would wish to do -- but to penalize certain kinds of applicants (white males, in particular) and advance a left-wing political agenda. Most business executives are too bsy worrying about profits, or satisfying shareholders' appetites, to see what has happened under their noses: Corporate America is now in the thrall of racial, ethnic and gender politics, where people are judged not by the content of their character (as Martin Luther King once said) but the color of their skin.

The Bush cabinet now challenges these dangerous presumptions. While it is racially and ethnically "diverse," it is also strikingly center-right in nature. Indeed, it could be argued that it is the most conservative cabinet in Washington since the days of Ronald Reagan. There are notable exceptions, of course: Colin Powell, Christine Todd Whitman and Donald Evans might very well describe themselves as Rockefeller Republicans, and Norman Mineta is a Bill Clinton holdover. But no one would place John Ashcroft, Gale Norton, Spencer Abraham or Donald Rumsfeld -- not to mention Dick Cheney and George W. Bush -- in the left wing of their party. Linda Chavez, the only Hispanic woman in the group, and a onetime unionist, is firmly on the right-wing end of the cabinet. Paul O'Neill, a white male business executive out of Central Casting, probably thinks Linda Chavez is too conservative.

All of which demonstrates two essential points.

First, in any setting, corporate, political or academic, "diversity" should mean more than race, sex and ethnicity. The way people think is of greater significance than the accident of their birth, and biology is by no means political destiny. There may well be an electoral gender gap between Democrats and Republicans, but it is not quite the chasm that feminists claim. Women are no more inclined to think exactly the same way about economics, religion, defense, abortion or environmental issues than men -- even men of Polish, or Brazilian, descent.

The other point is that, in the realm of ideas, principle trumps biology, and nearly every time. One of the more insidious arguments of the diversity police is that political conservatism is a white male bastion. Tis has never been the case, and the new Bush cabinet merely emphasizes the fact. In a liberal democracy, it is ideas and values, not race and blood, that draw minds together in common cause. This is true on the Right as well as on the Left. What Rodney Paige has in common with Tommy Thompson is not something measured by eugenics, or the Nuremburg laws, but by principle: Their commitment to certain intrinsic values, regardless of who their parents might have been.

Exactly eight years ago, there was much celebration about the nature of the bloodlines in the first Clinton cabinet: What a refreshing contrast, it was said, with the Bush administration. Well, now the other shoe has dropped. The new Bush administration is not only more conservative than the last, but considerably more "diverse" along racial/ethnic lines. To be sure, there won't be any celebration this time: This is not the kind of "diversity" the left wing appreciates. But the message it delivers, and the lesson it draws, speaks louder than any celebration of "diversity."

JWR contributor Philip Terzian is associate editor of The Providence Journal. Comment by clicking here.


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