Bush administration tries affirmative action

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on June 25, 2008

The Bush administration got caught using ideological criteria for the hiring of career (not political) lawyers in the Justice Department in the years 2002 and 2006.

Justice Department officials illegally used “political or ideological” factors in elite recruiting programs in recent years, tapping law school graduates with Federalist Society membership or other conservative credentials over more qualified candidates with liberal-sounding résumés, an internal report found Tuesday.

The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s own inspector general and its ethics office, portrays a clumsy effort by senior Justice Department screeners to weed out candidates for career positions whom they considered “leftists,” using Internet search engines to look for incriminating information or evidence of possible liberal bias.

One rejected candidate from Harvard Law School worked for Planned Parenthood. Another wrote opinion pieces critical of the USA Patriot Act and the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. A third applicant worked for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and posted an unflattering cartoon of President Bush on his MySpace page.

This was wrong and shouldn't have happened, but there's a big donkey in the room that isn't addressed in this report. Instead of this being the Justice Department, imagine it was a large university -- or a newspaper. Then imagine we aren't talking about ideology, but race.

If you assume that conservatives are a minority -- and they typically are among the self-selecting group that goes into public service.

So, what was the Bush administration doing? Affirmative action.

What I want to know is the ideological balance of Justice Department lawyers as a whole. After 7 1/2 years of a conservative administration, is the Justice Department excessively conservative? Excessively liberal? Because if we're really concerned about getting balanced opinions on the law out of career lawyers, an overwhelmingly liberal employee pool -- like an overwhelmingly conservative one -- will not serve the executive branch well.

For those who say that lawyers can set aside their biases and do an excellent job on something they personally oppose -- well, journalists say the same thing too. It's not the same.

There's one other part of that story I wanted to note for a different reason.

Another applicant, a student at the top of his class at Harvard who was fluent in Arabic, was relegated to the “questionable” pile because he was a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that advocates civil liberties.

CAIR is also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror-funding case. I'd put this student in the "questionable" pile too.


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June 2008



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