Jewish World Review Nov. 18, 2004 / 5 Kislev, 5765

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Prez, by ignoring race, makes racial history | Think Nixon going to China. It was historic because it confounded conventional wisdom - and thus soared above suspicion. A staunch anti-Red, Richard Nixon had the nation's support for his bold visit 30 years ago because no one doubted his resolve or sincerity of purpose.

So it is with President Bush and diversity. Against expectation, and without divisive debates over affirmative action and quotas, he has built an extraordinary record of minority appointments to his inner circle. He did it by sneaking them in the front door while everybody was watching.

Condoleezza Rice's nomination yesterday to be secretary of state is the latest and most dramatic example. That she would be the first black woman to hold the post - and that she would succeed Colin Powell, the first black man - is a groundbreaking moment in American racial history. Our original sinners would be shocked.

But we're not, and that, too, takes the breath away. America clearly is ready for a black official to be our representative to the world. And both Powell and Rice are so obviously qualified that it's as though race is not a factor for or against them.

Am I alone in thinking this is absolutely wonderful? That black people can now occupy some of the highest, most powerful offices in America - and nobody says boo about how they got there?

If anybody harbored doubts about Rice's ability, Bush's touchingly eloquent announcement should have put them to rest. He lauded Rice's "commitment to excellence" - a code-worded vow that standards have not been lowered - and said how proud her deceased parents would be. The tears that ever so briefly filled her eyes surely reflected the memories of how far she has come from segregated Alabama.

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That all this has happened under the Party of Lincoln helps the too-white GOP redeem some of its glorious heritage. But Bush shouldn't hold his breath waiting for credit.

Limousine-liberal Democrats and their media poodles, many of whom send their children to near-segregated private schools, have basically ignored the racial triumphs Powell and Rice embody.

Just as they have barely noted that Rod Paige, the departing secretary of education, is the first black to hold that job. Or that Ann Veneman, the departing secretary of agriculture, is the first woman to hold that job. Or that Alberto Gonzales, if confirmed, will be the first Hispanic attorney general. Or that Bush has an Arab-American and two Asian-Americans in his cabinet.

Had a Democratic President made those appointments, the celebratory coverage would invoke Harry Truman's integrating the armed forces or Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson's battle for civil rights.

Talk about your double standards. No matter. Bush isn't looking for applause. And my guess is that his trailblazing days are not finished.

Given William Rehnquist's failing health, Bush likely will get to nominate an associate justice and a chief justice of the Supreme Court. There has been talk that Clarence Thomas might get the top job. I don't see it.

A more likely scenario is that whoever Bush adds to the panel, he would elevate Sandra Day O'Connor to chief justice. She is the one true swing vote on the court and thus the perfect leader to guide its deliberations and jawbone for consensus.

Did I mention she would be the first woman to hold the job?

Michael Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News Comment by clicking here.


11/08/04: Bush won — get used to it
10/29/04: This isn't an election, it's a living nightmare
10/27/04: Why Teresa Heinz Kerry is such a flake
10/14/04: Kerry's scary on terrorism: Unchanged by 9/11, he says, and no real ideas about what to do
10/05/04: The Big Mo still looking for its lover
09/28/04: What we're up against: The war on terror & the war in Iraq are now one and the same
09/14/04: Media bias is doing nation a disservice
08/18/04: Kerry confusion will soon be unforgivable
07/29/04: Why are the wackadoos still dear to Dems' hearts?
07/21/04: Kerry couldn't say no: Hillary waffle was just part of a wimpy week

© 2004, New York Daily News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.