Jewish World Review March 12, 1999 /24 Adar 5759
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
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
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