Inventing Mr. Lee's Past

Washington Times  2.17.98
Balint Vazsonyi

At last, the biography of the nation's top civil rights enforcer has been posted on the Internet.

Bill Lann Lee was appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice on December 15, 1997. Once Senate Democrats, anticipating defeat, blocked the vote on Mr. Lee's appointment, President Clinton used the congressional recess to install him. "I can think of no one whose life story and impeccable credentials make him more suited to enforcing these laws than Bill Lann Lee," the president said. Mr. Lee's strong support for race-based preferences and quotas, as well as his background, apparently persuaded Mr. Clinton to forego advice and consent by the United States Senate.

Mr. Lee has spent his life fighting "against discrimination in all forms." Indeed, he seems to have done nothing else, according to the official biography obtained also directly from his office. In reality, given his support for race-based quotas, Mr. Lee most certainly approves of discrimination. The penultimate paragraph of his biography seeks to explain why.

"Mr. Lee was born and raised in New York City," we read, "where his parents owned a small laundry. He credits his late father, who experienced bigotry despite his proud military service to his country, with providing the inspiration for a career in civil rights law. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, Mr. Lee won a scholarship to Yale University, where he benefitted from an affirmative action program to include minority students. Through his hard work, Mr Lee graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude in 1971. Mr. Lee graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1974."

If affirmative action was the only means by which the owners of a small Chinese laundry could get their son to Yale, Mr. Lee's commitment to the program would be understandable in human terms, even though affirmative action flies in the face of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

But here is the problem.

According to the Equal Opportunity Office of Yale University, the first attempt at an affirmative action program did not occur until 1973. By that time, Mr. Lee had won a scholarship, graduated magna cum laude, was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa, and was one year away from receiving his doctorate at Columbia University Law School-all in a supposedly bigoted America. Prior to Yale, he attended the super-elite Bronx High School for Science between 1963 and 1967, a full ten years before affirmative action was to be introduced.

Mr. Lee's personal experience, then, is one of equal opportunity-long before that concept was turned into a statutory requirement. Yet his entire life seems to be a reaction to a sizable chip on his shoulder. Would the presence of that chip make him a more or less desirable chief enforcer of civil rights?

Conventional wisdom suggests, and history confirms, that those who sit in judgment of us are best unencumbered by the notion of having a score to settle with society or with certain types of individuals. Thus, had he acquired the chip on his shoulder as a victim of discrimination, Mr. Lee would be less than desirable for his present position.

But what of a man who invents a chip on his shoulder to justify his punitive approach toward the very society that has afforded him maximum opportunity at every turn? As his high school's web site informs us, "Although many have tried to emulate it, Bronx Science compares to no other institution." In 1963, Young Bill Lann Lee entered a high school that was then, and remains now, one of a kind. He went on to not one, but two Ivy League universities. How much more privileged can one be? What is Mr. Lee's quarrel with America?

And would it not be appropriate for a scholarship student to give something back to society, rather than derive his entire livelihood from holding society to ransom? Socialists might try to characterize it as "a life devoted to helping those in need," but realistic Americans will observe that Mr. Lee's biography reads more like trading off those in need.

Mr. Lee claims "a long and distinguished history of defending the rights of all Americans." In reality, he does not seem to believe that all Americans have the same rights and has yet to make an effort at least to inform himself about the nature of Americans by living and working among them. Instead, Mr. Lee joined a growing class, unthinkable here before the 1960's, that makes a career of its adversarial position to America. Its members spend their entire life in "The Movement," having never participated in a non-political enterprise, trade, or profession. Typically, they police America based on a disapproval of it, and with the sternness of a task master toward it. They wield uncanny power, primarily in our schools and in government departments.

Still, this is the land of opportunities. Mr. Lee could recover his credibility by earning his keep in a regular job while continuing his civil rights work pro bono.