- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

With yesterday's abrupt withdrawal by Labor Secretary-designate Linda Chavez, the politics of personal destruction continues apace. Despite all the talk about the need for bipartisanship and cooperation, character assassination remains an effective weapon in the nation's capital. And so it was used once again.

By twisting a genuine act of compassion into a premeditated violation of immigration and labor laws a supposed violation, it is clear, that yielded no discernible benefit to Mrs. Chavez the Democratic Party and its allied interest groups achieved what is at most only a temporary victory yesterday. By chasing Mrs. Chavez from the Bush administration, Big Labor managed to get their pound of flesh. Over the long run, however, it will be seen as a small victory in a much larger war, which is being decided in favor of the principle of equal opportunity as opposed to equal results that Mrs. Chavez has long espoused.

In attacking Mrs. Chavez, the liberal interest groups and the Democratic Party also wounded President-elect George W. Bush, who, of course, was their intended target. Surely, nobody knows this better than Mr. Bush. The president-elect must now find a replacement nominee for secretary of labor who will pursue his policies with the steadfast determination that Mrs. Chavez certainly would have employed. For union members, these policies include fighting for "paycheck-protection" legislation to prevent Big Labor bosses from funneling millions of dollars in mandatory union dues into political causes that millions of union members oppose. For all workers, this should include a rational regulatory system that promotes worker safety without detracting from economic growth, which generates the rising standard of living workers deserve.

The preference of this editorial page would have been for Mrs. Chavez to fight for the job she was nominated to perform. If Senate Democrats wanted to wage that fight over whether Mrs. Chavez should have checked in 1991 for the green card of an abused Guatemalan refugee in dire need of help before welcoming her into her home, that would have been a fight worth having. As Abigail Thernstrom, a like-minded friend of Mrs. Chavez, remarked to the New York Times this week, "Democrats are the first ones to say if a woman shows up at a shelter for battered women, people shouldn't ask to see their green cards." In defending her various well-documented decisions over several decades to extend a compassionate, helpful hand to people in need, Mrs. Chavez said yesterday, "I don't check green cards."

While Mrs. Chavez insisted at yesterday's news conference that she was withdrawing on her own initiative, other accounts indicate that she was encouraged to step aside by the Bush-Cheney transition team. Throwing in the towel at the first sign of a bruise is not the way political fights are won. Unless Mr. Bush wants to signal weakness before his term even begins, he must now put forth an equally qualified, comparably committed nominee for this important post.

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