- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

For the past two and a half years, Bill Lann Lee has been regularly flouting the law of the land in allegiance to the kind of racial quotas, racial preferences and racial discrimination that the United States Supreme Court deems unconstitutional. But Mr. Lee has not been controversial simply for ignoring the Constitution and being at odds with legal precedent in his capacity as "acting" assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's civil rights division. His very authority as a Justice official has also been shaky, if not downright illegitimate.

After Mr. Lee failed to be confirmed by the Senate in 1997, Bill Clinton granted him a "temporary" appointment two and a half years ago, remember founded upon two things: the president's defiance of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has consistently opposed Mr. Lee for a zealous racialism and disregard of the law, and Mr. Clinton's continued violation of the Federal Vacancies Act, a law designed to curtail a president's power to make appointments without Senate consent. This is no "partisan" loophole, either. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out this week, even Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd has argued that Mr. Lee's appointment is a clear violation of the act.

Of course, given these legal shadings, Mr. Lee may be the perfect Clintonian official. Maybe that's why Mr. Clinton sought to cap Mr. Lee's career as something of a Department desperado by pulling a recess appointment to bump Mr. Lee up from "acting" status to permanent. With Congress out of session, with Mr. Clinton wiling away the hours of the Republican National Convention on a golf course last week, the White House casually announced Mr. Lee's new title. But that doesn't make it right.

Harnessing the colossal resources of the Justice Department, Mr. Lee has spent his tenure scrutinizing the nation, counting races and tallying sexes, all the while bullying and suing schools, towns, fire departments and police forces that don't measure up to his statistical utopia. You might say that Mr. Lee can't see the people for the races (not to mention the ethnicities and the sexes).

Mr. Lee's record is clear, beginning with the Civil Rights Division's (unsuccessful) legal challenge to California's Proposition 209, extending to its sour efforts to eradicate the names "Squaws" and "Braves" from the nation's sports teams and perhaps culminating in a colossal defeat in Torrance, California. There, in 1998, a federal judge (a woman appointed by Jimmy Carter) awarded $1.8 million in legal costs to the town after finding Mr. Lee's anti-discrimination lawsuit against it to have been "frivolous, unreasonable and without foundation."

That's what happens to government officials who refuse to be guided by the law of the land. Worth noting is the fact that when Mr. Lee came before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the fall of 1997, he declared that he would "comply fully with the oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States." He also said that if confirmed, he would "enforce the law as the courts have decided." He has done none of the above. Of course, he wasn't ever confirmed, either. Could be that it all depends on what the meaning of "recess appointment" is.

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