Jewish World Review Jan. 17, 2002/ 14 Shevat, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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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 fundamentally flawed.

"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 from America.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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