- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

In the aftermath of the Lott affair, it's understandable that some making the political calculations at the White House would want to lessen the Republican exposure on race. A key step in any such effort would be to let Jan. 16 slip by unremarked.

That's because Jan. 16 is the deadline for the Bush administration to weigh in on a Supreme Court case challenging affirmative-action admissions policies at the University of Michigan. The case promises to bring the most definitive verdict on the constitutionality of remedial measures since 1978, and the hope among conservatives is that the Bush administration will add its considerable voice to the case and urge the Supreme Court to reject Michigan's discriminatory policies. But their fear is that the president's advisers may conclude that this is a fight the White House can do without.

While we appreciate the need to finesse sensitive political matters and understand the political expediency that comes with an occasional ideological fudge, this is not such an instance. Steel and mohair subsidies are one thing, but affirmative action like abortion and taxes is a core domestic issue to President Bush's conservative base. Should the White House opt to skirt the Michigan case, it may be surprised at the rigor of opposition that would arise.

Of course, this is more than just constituent politics. In opposing the Michigan admissions formulas and computations, the Bush administration can demonstrate that it opposes all forms of discrimination remedial and otherwise. A new generation of students cannot wait another quarter-century for another chance.

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