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Jewish World Review March 12, 1999 /24 Adar 5759

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas
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Bill Lan Lee: Flouting the law

( HAVING FLOUTED MARITAL, civil and criminal laws, President Clinton apparently believes it is a much smaller deal to renominate a man to head the Justice Department's civil rights division who illegally has held the post for more than a year in violation of long-standing federal law limiting "acting'' officials to 120 days.

Though the Senate refused to confirm Bill Lan Lee in 1997 because of his support of racial preferences, the president has renominated him to the post. This blatantly political act is part of an administration strategy to again portray Republicans as anti-civil rights. It's not enough that Clinton and fellow liberal Democrats enjoy stereotyping Republicans as the party of "the rich'' who are against Social Security and Medicare simply because they oppose open-ended spending by the White House and all legitimate proposals to reform and save the programs.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has suggested he might not hold hearings on the Lee renomination because the Senate has already considered his qualifications and found him unsatisfactory. It is to be hoped that Hatch holds his ground.

The law on quotas and preferences has been settled. The government may not discriminate in favor of or against people on the basis of race or color except in very limited and exceptional circumstances. During his tenure at the Justice Department, Lee has effectively ignored the law. Instead, he has ruled ex cathedra, as liberal Supreme Court justices have done, with little regard for the Constitution.

Some examples: In testimony before Hatch's committee in December 1997, Lee refused to agree to halt the Civil Rights Division's challenge to California's Proposition 209, which bans imposed racial preferences, even though the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had rebuffed the challenge. Seeing no conflict with his promise to the committee to "comply fully with the oath to protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States,'' Lee became his own judge when he raised concerns about the will of a majority of California voters. Lee said that Proposition 209 is "a distortion of the decision-making process in the state of California'' and added, "I expect that the administration will remain constant in its position.''

About Supreme Court decisions, Lee has declared that rather than setting precedents to condemn racial preferences in nearly all circumstances, he regards them as an "affirmation of affirmative action on a limited and measured basis.'' But Lee's decisions have been anything but limited and measured. The Civil Rights Division has failed to dismantle any of the hundreds of racial classifications that permeate the federal government. It continues to promote race and sex classifications in contracting, employment, voting and education.

In 1995 the Supreme Court ruled that all racial classifications -- whether imposed by federal, state or local governments -- are subject to the strictest constitutional scrutiny. But throughout last year Lee continued to defend them as part of the administration's efforts to preserve a vast array of race and gender preferences in federal contracting.

The Civil Rights Division filed briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit defending the constitutionality of contracting preferences on the basis of race and sex in Houston Contractors Association vs. Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. Lee also filed a brief in the Sixth Circuit in Safeco Insurance Co. of America vs. City of White House, Tenn., defending an Environmental Protection Agency regulation requiring contractors to "assure that small, minority and women's businesses are used when possible as sources of supplies, construction and services.'' The division argued that the regulation is "outreach'' and "does not require race-conscious decision-making affecting any individual.'' Sure, like that Buddhist temple fund-raiser was "outreach'' by Vice President Al Gore.

Not only should Lee not receive a Senate hearing, there ought to be a challenge to his remaining on the job at all. Here is a case not even requiring courage that the Senate Republicans and Democrats who still believe in the law ought to address.


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4/8/98: Judge Wright's wrong reasoning on sexual harassment
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3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

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