In 1993, President Clinton nominated Lani Guinier to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Guinier was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania law school (she later moved on to Harvard), and a friend of the Clintons going back to their law school days. She had attended their wedding.
However, Guinier’s nomination led to scrutiny of her scholarly work and that scrutiny led to charges that she was too radical. For example, she appeared to support “race-conscious districting,” i.e., shaping electoral districts to ensure a black majority, and a minority veto in legislative bodies. She was also accused of supporting racial quotas in employment.
Bill Clinton said he wasn’t aware of Guinier’s positions on voting when he nominated her. One should always be skeptical of Clinton’s utterances. However, in this case he might have been telling the truth. The theories Guinier was pushing by the 1990s weren’t current when the two were in law school in the early 1970s, and I doubt that Clinton kept up with cutting-edge election law theories thereafter.
In any event, it became clear that Guinier’s view were too far outside the mainstream for a majority of Senators. In fact, some Democratic Senators, including Ted Kennedy, David Pryor, and Carol Moseley Braun (an African-American) urged Clinton to withdraw the nomination.
Clinton did so, in an emotional statement to the press. He insisted that he would have fought for Guinier’s confirmation even in the face of stiff opposition, had he agreed with her writings. However, he said that, on reading the ones in question after the controversy developed, he did not agree with some of her positions on voting. Clinton stated:
The problem is that this battle will be waged based on [Guinier’s] academic writings. And I cannot fight a battle that I know is divisive, that is an uphill battle, that is distracting to the country if I do not believe in the ground of the battle. This has nothing to do with the political center. This has to do with my center.
I have to tell you that, had I read them before I nominated her, I would not have done so.
However, the Clinton White House forcefully denied that Guinier favored race-based quotas in employment
Twenty-eight years later, Joe Biden has nominated Kristen Clarke for the same job. She is a far worse choice than Guinier was. Biden should follow Clinton’s example and pull the Clarke nomination.
Clarke openly favors making employment decisions based on race, in order to guarantee “diversity” — a position that, to my knowledge, Guinier hadn’t taken at the time of her nomination. And unlike Guinier, Clarke has insisted that Blacks are superior to Whites. She also invited an openly anti-Semitic professor to speak at Harvard and defended his ravings as based on “indisputable facts.”
Guinier, whose mother was Jewish, never did this. I very much doubt she would have been a friend of Bill Clinton at school if she had.
Moreover, Guinier was a good-faith advocate for the positions she held. Her advocacy appeared in scholarly writings, not in broadsides. To my knowledge, she did not viciously attack those who took positions with which she disagreed.
Clarke is very different. She’s no academic. She’s a far-left activist who has trashed the likes of Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch with false allegations, and has lied about the Trump Civil Rights Division’s record.
This will be the subject of my next post in this series.
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