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Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2001 / 16 Teves, 5761

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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The political "snuff job'' on Linda Chavez --
WELL, that was easy, wasn't it? Liberal Democrats float a story that sounds similar (though it isn't) to problems encountered by two of President Clinton's nominees for Attorney General, and voila, the first, but probably not the last, Republican Cabinet nominee bites the dust. So much for the bipartisanship demanded by Democrats.

The forced withdrawal of Linda Chavez as Labor Secretary-designate is a political snuff job. She called it a "search and destroy game'' typical of Washington. Her crime: charity, or what we now call "compassionate conservatism.'' She took in a homeless, battered Guatemalan woman, who turned out to be an illegal immigrant. Liberals don't like that kind of charity unless it comes from government. Individual initiative deprives them of power.

Chavez says that she, not President-elect Bush, decided she would be a "distraction'' and so she decided to withdraw. She says her "mistake'' was in not thinking through how her temporary relationship with the woman, Marta Mercado, would play out. She blamed the shortened "vetting'' season brought on by the Florida vote controversy for the information lapse.

Don't look for this to mollify Democrats who are intent on undermining an administration many of them have already declared illegitimate. If they won't defend Chavez on such a minor point as helping a battered, homeless woman, how will they muster the strength to defend the far more "controversial'' John Ashcroft for Attorney General? Bush blood is in the water and the sharks are circling.

Chavez was criticized by labor unions (more about that in a moment), and some politicians whose goal is to undermine the Bush Administration before it starts. If she had turned to a government program for help, that would have been fine in the eyes of some of her critics. But Chavez gave the Guatemalan woman her own money and time. In the earlier Bush Administration, Chavez might have been called a "point of light.''

At a time when the meaning of the word "is'' has been debated, we are now arguing about the meaning of the word "employment.'' Chavez doesn't like to speak of her charitable acts (there is biblical instruction not to reveal such things, otherwise the heavenly rewards might be spent on earth) but she has a history of quietly aiding people in need, extending back at least as far as the Vietnamese boat people. At her withdrawal speech, several people from different backgrounds whom she has helped stepped forward to praise her. Let's see the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton match that.

The supposed outrage of Big Labor is selective. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney criticized Chavez for helping Mercado. Where was he when the Clinton Administration opened the floodgates to immigrants with the express purpose of putting them on the citizenship fast track and getting them registered as Democrats so they could vote for Clinton-Gore in 1996 Sweeney refused to criticize the administration then, even though some of those immigrants might have been expected to take jobs away from labor union members already here.

Sweeney's predecessor, Lane Kirkland, was uncritical when it was disclosed that President Clinton's first two choices for attorney general, Kimba Wood and Zoe Baird, had failed to pay the required federal taxes for women clearly employed as household help. Dave Kendrick, research director at the National Institute of Labor Relations Research, says he checked AFL-CIO publications from the early months of 1993 and found no union criticism of Wood or Baird.

Yet Sweeney now says, "If these allegations (about Chavez) are true, then I think it's really unfortunate that somebody who has been nominated to be Secretary of Labor has violated the law in an area that has become so important, the area of obeying the nation's immigration laws.''

This wasn't about immigration laws. This was about derailing a principled woman with real convictions which are unpopular with Big Labor. Because the Left doesn't like what she believes, they opt for "search and destroy,'' rather than debate her ideas.

One of President-elect Bush's stronger qualities is that he has stood by people who are loyal to him. It would appear he has made an exception in the case of Linda Chavez.

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