- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2001

In nominating the highly accomplished Elaine Chao yesterday to be secretary of labor, President-elect George W. Bush sent his political foes the message they needed to hear loudly and clearly: The Republican bench of qualified conservative nominees is sufficiently deep that it can and will absorb and eventually overcome any political onslaught that Sen. Ted Kennedy and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney can unleash.

Having emptied their quiver of arrows in their assault upon Mrs. Chavez, Messrs. Sweeney and Kennedy, confronted with the impeccably credentialed and comparably conservative Mrs. Chao, must now be asking themselves: What have we wrought? Be careful what you wish for, Rose Kennedy must have told Teddy many times, because you just might get it. But, of course, it has been a hallmark of Mr. Kennedy's career that he never "gets it."

It was Mr. Kennedy, it must be noted, who initiated the diabolical assault upon Robert Bork in 1987, giving rise to a new verb, "to bork." Mr. Kennedy "borked" Mrs. Chavez with the help of Mr. Sweeney, whose two top lieutenants AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO political director Gerald McEntee have been under investigation for several years by a federal grand jury for their roles in corrupting a Teamster election. Messrs. Kennedy and Sweeney could not have succeeded without the help of Neil Eggleston, who surprise, surprise represented Mrs. Chavez's former neighbor, a Democratic attorney who reportedly was the source of the press leak that mischaracterized the relationship between Mrs. Chavez and an abused Guatemalan immigrant she welcomed into her home. As columnist Robert Novak noted the other day, Mr. Eggleston, the Democratic lawyer who argued President Clinton's ludicrous executive privilege claims during the Lewinsky scandal, was also an integral part of the process that "cleared" the thoroughly corrupt Arthur Coia, president of the mob-ridden Laborers' International Union of North America. Whoever becomes secretary of labor, to say nothing of attorney general, will undoubtedly have a greater interest than their predecessors in getting to the bottom of the pervasive labor union scandals.

Like Mrs. Chavez, Mrs. Chao serves on the Citizens' Initiative on Race and Ethnicity, a diverse panel that was created as a shadow committee to President Clinton's Initiative on Race. Like Mrs. Chavez, Mrs. Chao is a principled conservative who both celebrates equal opportunity and abhors racial quotas. And like Mrs. Chavez, Mrs. Chao is not afraid to speak her mind. In accepting her appointment to the shadow committee, Mrs. Chao declared, "The president's panel on race and his policies on race are not bringing us together, but are in fact driving us apart. The president's race panel has strategically and systematically excluded all persons who share a viewpoint different from the president's. The very president and the very panel that claims to believe in diversity as the ultimate goal [have], ironically, established a panel which has absolutely no diversity of viewpoint." Back to you, Mr. Kennedy.

Opposing Elaine Chao will not be easy. She immigrated to the United States from Taiwan when she was eight years old. Thankfully unexposed to bilingual education programs, she learned English in the classroom and at the kitchen table with the help of her father, who had arrived here three years earlier. Mrs. Chao and her five sisters all received an Ivy League education. Like President-elect Bush, Mrs. Chao holds an MBA from Harvard, which, as it happens, expelled a young Ted Kennedy for cheating on a freshman Spanish exam. She has been the No. 2 official at the Department of Transportation. She also served as the director of the Peace Corps. Unanimously selected in 1992 among more than 600 candidates by a search committee for United Way of America (UWA), which at the time was enmeshed in financial and ethical scandals, Mrs. Chao spent a hectic four years completely re-establishing UWA's credibility and reputation. She is currently a distinguished fellow and chairman of the Asian Studies Center Advisory Council at the Heritage Foundation. As we said, back to you, Mr. Kennedy.


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