He’s Something Else
The U.S. Senate rarely rejects presidential nominees for high executive jobs. The theory, a sound one, is that the President is entitled to put together his own team.
The case of William Bradford Reynolds, assistant attorney general in charge of civil rights, is something else. President Reagan wants to promote him to the third-ranking position at the Department of Justice. The Senate cannot confirm his appointment without endorsing, or appearing to endorse, his sorry record in his present job. On this one the Senate should draw the line on presidential privilege.
During Reynolds’ tenure the Justice Department, once an ally of victims of discrimination, has attacked traditional remedies to job bias and school segregation, reduced fair-housing litigation, selectively enforced the voting-rights law and abandoned victories won by predecessors.
In a major reversal of federal policy, Reynolds advocated tax-exempt status for private schools that practice racial discrimination. Denial of those tax benefits had been based on lower-court cases won by federal attorneys. It took the U.S. Supreme Court to set him straight.
Reynolds asked 50 cities, counties and states to renegotiate consent decrees to eliminate hiring quotas. The quotas, which apply primarily to police and fire departments, are remedies for discrimination against minorities and women. Most governments, including Los Angeles, ignored Reynolds, but the point is that he tried.
Reynolds has steadily pressed to weaken federal protections of civil rights. The Administration opposes busing, and Reynolds, as expected, is no friend of school desegregation. He prides himself on a voluntary magnet-school plan, but it is an inadequate attempt at desegregation that puts most of integration’s burden on minority children.
Until a last-minute switch by the Administration, Reynolds opposed extending the Voting Rights Act, arguing that the protections were no longer needed. The law was renewed, but Reynolds has not pressed enforcement. Among other examples, he overruled his staff to let stand a gerrymandered district that would have ensured the election of white candidates in Louisiana. A federal court struck down the gerrymandering.
Reynolds claims that he opposes discrimination, but he has put forth no new remedies to replace those that he works so hard to undermine. His new job, a policy-level position with responsibility for civil litigation, would expand his horizons of mischief. The Senate should not be party to that.