- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mutiny at EEOC?

Our story begins when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) extended an invitation to the president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, Roger Clegg, to be part of a panel discussion originally scheduled for yesterday to strike a balance between diversity and affirmative action.

Per the commission’s request, Mr. Clegg, the former No. 2 official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Reagan and the first President Bush, on Thursday submitted his written statement to the EEOC. But the very next day, the center now states, Mr. Clegg was informed that the commission’s chairwoman, Cari M. Dominguez, decided to withdraw his invitation.

Mr. Clegg, the center says, learned from an unnamed source that career staff at the EEOC threatened “mutiny” if he were to participate; not to mention that several “establishment civil rights groups” had called to object to his testimony (now posted at www.ceousa.org.)

On Tuesday, the EEOC posted notice that the panel meeting was “cancelled.” When reached yesterday, EEOC spokesman Charles Robbins told Inside the Beltway that the notice instead should have stated that the meeting was “postponed, not cancelled.”

Mr. Robbins also made clear that Miss Dominguez never personally spoke to Mr. Clegg, either to “invite or uninvite” him.

“Those are not accurate attributions to the chair,” he said of the charges, “nor did she direct anybody to say that.”

As for postponing the testimony, Mr. Robbins explained that the EEOC “needed more preparation,” and he drew attention to four similar meetings postponed since the start of 2005.

“We weren’t ready,” he said.

Mr. Clegg doesn’t buy it. In an interview with Inside the Beltway yesterday, he said: “I think the unpleasant truth is that there are a lot of companies [and universities] out there that are engaging in illegal discrimination in the name of diversity, and the career staff at the EEOC doesn’t want to enforce the laws against them.

“Unfortunately, the political appointees over there are unwilling to confront the career staff. And I think part of that is they don’t want bad publicity, part is because they are under pressure from outside civil rights groups, and part is they have their own ambitions to go on to their next job — all things that make it unpleasant to rain on the parade on affirmative action.”

The five-year term of Miss Dominguez, who President Bush nominated to be chairwoman of the EEOC’s five-member commission, expires July 1.

Mixing it up

Don’t ask us why country music singer Kenny Chesney was guest performer at the White House for President Bush’s official black-tie dinner for Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

The Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 2004, whose marriage one year ago this month to actress Renee Zellweger lasted only four months (she purported “fraud,” without providing details), was sporting a large broad-brimmed black cowboy hat and an open blue shirt.

One of the first songs Mr. Chesney performed in the formal East Room setting is “one the biggest songs we’ve ever had,” he told the audience, “There Goes My Life.”

“Call me cynical,” wrote Mark Silva, the White House pool reporter and correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, “but judging by the looks on the faces of many in the audience, I’m guessing that most do not have this on their IPods.”

Sure enough, in the audience were the Marriotts, the Murdochs, the Eisenhowers — you get the picture.

“I grew up in East Tennessee, and it’s good to see [Sen.] Lamar Alexander here,” Mr. Chesney said, when beginning another song about beer and being drunk.

“Some say it’s a backward place,” he sang. “But I make it a point to say, ‘That’s where I come from.’ ”

Any movement yet, Mr. Silva?

“The Marriotts are not swaying back and forth. Nobody is. The next one has a bit of rockabilly in it. Still no swaying,” he wrote. “Wait, I see some feet tapping beneath the gowns. Several feet. But guess who’s getting sleepy?

“Bush walks up to the stage: As much as we’re happy to have the Howards here, it’s great to have Chesney here, he says. He asks if this is Kenny’s high school band, and Kenny says they’ve been together a long time. ‘At least you went to high school,’ Bush says with a laugh and starts to leave. He is out by 10:11 [p.m.]”

Give it time

“I feel so loved.”

— Opening words of White House spokesman Tony Snow at his first formal White House news briefing this week.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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