- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

Last week was quite a week. The debate over affirmative action continued to rage on the Sunday interview shows as the nation prepared to celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King on Monday. On Tuesday, the Census Bureau confirmed that Hispanics have become the nation's largest minority group. A day later, in their customary fashions, opposing sides acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade abortion decision. As these events unfolded, it was impossible not to observe a host of interconnected trends that helped to explain present-day problems and that projected their deterioration in the future.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, who recently announced that he was running for president, appeared Sunday on "Meet the Press." Mr. Lieberman accused President Bush of "open[ing] a racial divide" and of being "a cold-hearted conservative" for opposing the University of Michigan's race-conscious admissions policies. Host Tim Russert then repeated several statements Mr. Lieberman had made opposing the very type of policies he was now endorsing.
Mr. Russert drew the obvious conclusion. "You have clearly changed your emphasis and your view on affirmative action," he told Mr. Lieberman. "I have not," the senator audaciously replied, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Using rank political calculations to jettison deeply held, morally based views he had proudly embraced for years, Mr. Lieberman calls to mind the similarly shameless, self-serving political arithmetic that led Rep. Dick Gephardt and the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1980s to deep-six their long-held, morally based opposition to abortion.
The next day the King holiday Donna Brazile, the campaign manager of Mr. Lieberman's ill-fated 2000 quest, continued the affirmative-action debate on CNN's "Crossfire." In a telling moment, conservative host Tucker Carlson asked Miss Brazile, the first black American to manage a major party presidential campaign, a straightforward question: "What percentage of black children in this country are born out-of-wedlock?" She replied, "I would think around 35 to 45 percent." "Actually," Mr. Carlson told her, "it's two out of three."
Indeed, according to the data published last month by the National Center for Health Statistics, 68.4 percent of black births in 2001 were to unmarried women. And among the births in 2001 to black women who themselves were born in the United States, 72 percent were out of wedlock.
When Mr. Carlson pressed Miss Brazile to address this familial catastrophe, she incongruously replied, "The number of blacks in prison has increased." Sadly, if Miss Brazile has absolutely no comprehension of the extent of the out-of-wedlock problem, she probably does not know that there is an indisputable correlation between rising proportions of illegitimacy and increasing prison populations.
In 1965, when Dr. King was leading the civil-rights and voting-rights struggles in America, 26.3 percent of black births were out of wedlock. That was the year that Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an unknown academic in the Johnson administration, wrote a comprehensive study for the Labor Department titled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." Mr. Moynihan cautioned that the alarming rise in black illegitimacy threatened to overwhelm the stability of the black community.
As the racist barriers were being dismantled, Mr. Moynihan warned, "At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family." For this he was roundly labeled a "racist" and much worse by his liberal peers.
Now, the black illegitimacy rate hovers around 70 percent. On the 30th anniversary of the Roe decision, it is no comfort whatsoever that only the legalization of abortion, which disproportionately occurs in the minority community, has kept black out-of-wedlock births from approaching, and probably exceeding, 80 percent. The Alan Guttmacher Institute released a report this month revealing that more than 80 percent of women having abortions are unmarried. Abortion rates, moreover, are five times higher among black women than among white women.
Nearly 40 years after Mr. Moynihan's warning and three decades after the Nixon administration officially endorsed affirmative-action policies in 1973 the battle over affirmative action rages unabated. Would this be so if Mr. Moynihan's warning had been heeded and the problem of illegitimacy were addressed? In the wake of volume after volume of academic and government studies certifying the link between illegitimacy and socially dysfunctional behavior, including crime and illiteracy, who can dispute the devastating impact of illegitimacy?
In its page-one retrospective examining the 30 years since Roe, the New York Times reported last week that in the city of Hartford, Conn., "for the last several years more teenagers have given birth than have graduated from high school." Having served in Hartford for nearly two decades in the state Senate and as attorney general, Mr. Lieberman seems well positioned to comment on this social catastrophe.
Meanwhile, as the Hispanic community emerges as the nation's largest minority, it's worth noting that 42.5 percent of Hispanic births in 2001 were to unmarried women. That's 16 percentage points higher than the black percentage when Mr. Moynihan sounded his alarm. We thought Mr. Lieberman and Miss Brazile should know.

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