The fact that the Bush Administration has put its stamp of approval on certain types of race conscious admissions policies is being lost (predictably enough) in the general media cacophony. The civil rights establishment pretty much assured that this would happen when it started blasting the Administration’s briefs before it knew what the briefs would say. But now some conservative writers are committing (for whatever reason) the same error. Here, Deroy Murdock in the Washington Times applauds the briefs as an attack on the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Yet the Administration has endorsed “top ten percent” plans under which anyone who finishes in the top ten percent of his or her high school class becomes entitlted to admission at any public college or university in the state. Thus, blacks and hispanics who attend schools schools with little or no white presence are effectively relieved of having to compete against whites in the admissions process. Arguably, this is an example of the soft bigotry Murdock describes. Today’s Washington Times also includes this piece by Tom Bray about the Michigan cases. Like Murdock, Bray makes no mention of the Administration’s endorsement of using race conscious standards to attain racial diversity. Instead, he starts his piece by describing liberal attacks on the briefs, thus making it a “given” that the Administration has done the right thing.
It appears, then, that the Administration will receive no credit from minorities for having failed color-blind admissions. By the same token, it will probably lose no points with the majority of Americans who favor color-blindness. In sum, the short-term political fall-out will be the same as if the Administration had filed the briefs we hoped it would. The question, then, is why it didn’t file such briefs. I don’t know the answer. One possibility is that Bush believes in the position the Adminstration took. A second is that Administration policy was driven by a strategy of cultivating hispanic voters. The center-piece of that strategy may be the appointment of Bush’s hispanic White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to the Supreme Court. If Gonzales is nominated, the Michigan briefs will be at the center of the confirmation process. Having filed the briefs it did, the Administration will be positioned to point out the “nuances” in its position that are being overlooked now. In that way, Bush will receive more credit among hispanics for the nomination than he would have obtained had the Justice Department filed a strong brief against race-conscious admissions.
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