- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Like Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars,” Phil Kent is warning about the Dark Side. But the “Force,” in this case, is liberalism. “It all started in 1969, a bad year: ‘If it feels good,

do it.’ I’ve seen lives wrecked and the Dark Side never really wants to address some of these demons that have been loosened,” said Mr. Kent, former CEO and president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation.

Mr. Kent resigned his positions at the SLF on June 30 to pursue his work as an author, media spokesman and consultant.

In his new book, “The Dark Side of Liberalism,” Mr. Kent addresses malfeasance on issues ranging from race to the environment to the battle with Islamic terrorists.

“Everyone wants to make a contribution to make this country a little better,” Mr. Kent said in an interview. “All of us want to leave something. This book is my contribution.”

Released in early May, Mr. Kent’s contribution already has sold more than 50,000 copies, according to Harbor House publisher Randall Floyd.

“We are absolutely blown away,” Mr. Floyd said. “It is doing extremely well. It is the best book we have had this late spring [and] early summer.”

Mr. Kent’s job at Atlanta-based SLF — a conservative public interest law firm and policy center — put him in the center of many of the sharpest cultural conflicts, such as the University of Michigan affirmative-action case recently settled by the Supreme Court. The case, involving white students who say they were denied admission because of racial preferences, returned with a mixed decision by the court and will take time before the ramifications of the decision are understood.

“The SLF filed an amicus brief for the plaintiffs in this case, because we believe it is very unfair to award points to minorities,” Mr. Kent said. “It is unconstitutional. There should be a level playing field. As the great Dr. [Martin Luthor] King said, judge on quality of character not color of skin.

Mr. Kent said it is wrong that those who support race-neutral admissions standards have been labeled bigots.

“Haters and bigots are labels a lot of the media will tag on conservatives while those who are really haters and bigots get off,” he said. “When it comes to affirmative action, definitions are very important, defining between legal and illegal affirmative action. Someone can try to call me a racist, but why would a racist be for legal affirmative action? [College admission] should be on education, not on race or gender quotas.”

Mr. Kent, who once worked as press secretary to Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, who died June 26, joined SLF in 2001 after a 25-year career at the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.

“I was a professional journalist and not a lawyer,” he said. “They told me they didn’t want a lawyer [as SLF president] but someone to be the voice and face, and help raise money. Media is part of my job. It’s natural.”

Mr. Kent was a high-profile defender of the Augusta National Golf Club after feminists began protesting the exclusion of women from membership at the country club where the Professional Golf Association’s Master’s tournament is played.

The radicalism of feminists, Mr. Kent said, is exemplified by Martha Burk, who led the protests against Augusta National. He points out that Ms. Burk wrote a 1997 article arguing for compulsory sterilization of men in which she said that “the problem of unwanted pregnancy is largely one of uncontrolled sperm.”

Promoting his book in cable-news and talk-radio appearances, Mr. Kent talks about different aspects of “The Dark Side of Liberalism”:

• Race — “The struggle for racial equality … was hijacked by radical self-promoters like Jesse Jackson,” Mr. Kent writes in his book.

• Taxes — “In short for liberals, the American tax system is a means to control economic activity and to redirect resources to one group from another,” Mr. Kent writes. “No wonder,” he says, that one survey found that 67 percent of U.S. high school seniors thought Karl Marx’s famous phrase, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” was found in the Constitution.

• Terrorism — “Radical Islam is a direct threat to the United States in terms of its aggressive recruitment of disaffected Americans, including prison-population minorities,” Mr. Kent writes. “By preying on the worst fears and darker angels of disaffected Americans, radical Muslims are creating a virtual army of supporters within our borders.”

• Environmentalism — “The environmental movement pushes an agenda that is based on emotional scare tactics rather than solid science.”

• Immigration — “The U.S. has the most generous legal immigration policy in the world. The fact that hundreds of thousands sneak into the U.S. each year undermines the rule of law and threatens our national security. Illegal aliens are lawbreakers and should not be rewarded.”

He challenges both Democrats and Republicans to “follow the rules” on issues like immigration.

“I hit the immigration issue very hard,” he said. “I’m critical of [the Clinton and the present] administrations that have allowed an open-border policy. We must gain control of our borders, tighten border security to stop immigrant and drug smuggling. This should be a prime mission whether we have a Republican or a Democrat president.”

Concerns about terrorism since the September 11 attacks have focused national attention on issues of privacy, immigration and law enforcement on which SLF’s activism has focused.

“Privacy is very important, but with the war on terrorism, profiling is very important … especially at borders and airports,” he said. “Police have profiled for the last 50 to 75 years and the case can be quite effectively made that Islamics [aged] 15 to 40 [whose] country is on the State Department’s watch list [should] be profiled. A lot of them are not U.S. citizens but a lot of them are visa jumpers.”

While Mr. Kent and Mr. Floyd already are planning future books, Mr. Kent said he was apprehensive when the publisher first asked him to write the book.

“I originally did not want to do it,” he said. “Randall explained … that conservative books are hot right now and got me thinking. The book was born about a year ago. And it turns out it was a natural thing, a match made in heaven.”

His message is “conservatives can win,” unlike that of some other “so-called conservative books out there,” he said.

“There are tips how you can work with and through the news media,” Mr. Kent said. “Granted there have been some setbacks, but there have been some victories. I try to be optimistic, not one of those gloom and doom conservatives.”

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