I guess it took a well-deserved day off to Paul Krugman for the New York Times to finally allow print column space to its conservative quota hire columnist Ross Douthat (as you may recall, he got the nod when Kristol Mess – both pictured – finally gave up the editorial ghost on the pages of the “Old Gray Lady” last January).
And since it is the habit of individuals of Douthat’s political persuasion to flog “values voter” issues absolutely to death while most of this country focuses on matters of actual substance instead, we are treated today to another rehash of the confirmation hearings last week of Judge Sonia Sotomayor and the perceived impact on race relations in this country (and by the way, Frank Rich’s column yesterday, which started off as a review of the hearings but ended up as an indictment of much of the Repug congressional “Class of ’94,” was one of the best columns he’s ever written).
Thus, buried in Douthat’s column, we find the following…
A system designed to ensure the advancement of minorities will tend toward corruption if it persists for generations, even after the minorities have become a majority. If affirmative action exists in the America of 2028, it will be as a spoils system for the already-successful, a patronage machine for politicians — and a source of permanent grievance among America’s shrinking white population.
You can see this landscape taking shape in academia, where the quest for diversity is already as likely to benefit the children of high-achieving recent immigrants as the descendants of slaves. You can see it in the backroom dealing revealed by Ricci v. DeStefano, where the original decision to deny promotions to white firefighters was heavily influenced by a local African-American “kingmaker” with a direct line to New Haven’s mayor. You can hear it in the resentments gathering on the rightward reaches of the talk-radio dial.
“The resentments gathering on the rightward reaches of the talk-radio dial” are indicative of nothing except whites who apparently need to have their feelings assuaged as their world of monotone politicians pandering to yesterday’s talking points, Faux News humanoids concocting real outrage over imaginary slights from an African American president, and unofficially restricted access to swim clubs and other bastions of suburban comfort collapse around them.
More to the point, though, this article in the New Haven Independent tells us of the Rev. Boise Kimber, the “kingmaker” Douthat is referring to in his column (the article tells us the following)…
At issue in Monday’s Supreme Court decision was whether Kimber is Exhibit A for how crude racial politics trumped merit and fairness in the case of the “New Haven 20.”
Kimber clearly made an impression on the court.
Justices Samuel Alito singled out Kimber in a concurring opinion to Ricci v. DeStefano, the case in which a 5-4 majority ruled that New Haven can’t ignore the results of a fire department promotional exam just because no African-Americans scored high enough.
Alito, in an opinion also signed by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, noted that “even the District Court” (the lower court that ruled on behalf of the city in this case) “admitted that ‘a jury could rationally infer that city officials worked behind the scenes to sabotage the promotional examinations because they knew that, were the exams certified, the Mayor would incur the wrath of [Rev. Boise] Kimber and other influential leaders of New Haven’s African-American community.”
The opinion proceeds to present a three-paragraph attack bio of the good reverend, going back decades over terrain familiar to Kimber’s New Haven critics.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who sided with the city in the case, takes on Alito’s Kimber-bashing in a dissenting opinion. She argues that Alito “exaggerates” Kimber’s influence and his role in “engineering” the outcome.
She notes how Alito “recounts at length the alleged machinations of Rev. Boise Kimber (a local political activist), Mayor John DeStefano, and certain members of the mayor’s staff.”
She then points out that neither Kimber nor the mayor’s staff made the call to disregard the exam results. The mayorally appointed Civil Service Board, “an unelected, politically insulated body,” in Ginsburg’s telling, made that decision.
She calls it “striking that Justice Alito’s concurrence says hardly a word about the CSB itself, perhaps because there is scant evidence that its motivation was anything other than to comply with Title VII’s disparate impact provision.”
And, she points out, the firefighters union — another politically influential group — was just as vocal on the opposite side as Kimber.
“The real issue, then, is not whether the mayor and his staff were politically motivated; it is whether their attempt to score political points was legitimate (i.e., non-discriminatory),” Ginsburg writes. “Were they seeking to exclude white firefighters from promotion (unlikely, as a fair test would undoubtedly result in the addition of white firefighters to the officer ranks), or did they realize, at least belatedly, that their tests could be toppled in a disparate-impact suit?”
(Another glorious moment from “Strip Search Sammy,” former “Concerned Alumni of Princeton” member…)
And by the way, I had an issue with Douthat’s column last Monday, but I was not able to follow up on it because I had to close up shop for a few days. However, I can do so now.
Douthat wrote about the third papal encyclical written by Benedict XVI titled “Caritas in Veritate” (translated to “Charity In Truth”) and among other things, tells us the following…
When a pope criticizes legalized abortion, liberal Catholics nod and say that yes, they agree, it’s a terrible tragedy … but of course they can’t impose their religious values on a secular society. When a pope endorses the redistribution of wealth, conservative Catholics stroke their chins and say that yes, they agree, society needs a safety net … but of course they’re duty-bound to oppose the tyranny of big government.
According to Wikipedia, Douthat is affiliated with the Catholic faith, which to me is odd considering that last sentence. I know of no teaching I have ever encountered or experienced in any way that affirms his claim that I am “duty bound to oppose the tyranny of big government.”
This Wikipedia article tells us, among other things, that Catholic social activism was prominent in the early history of labor unions in this country.
More recent examples of catholic social justice in action is the Campaign for Human Development created in part as an outgrowth of the work of Msgr. Geno Baroni, who founded the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs (NCUEA). NCUEA spawned, funded and trained hundreds of parish, neighborhood and community based organizations, organizers, credit unions, and local programs. Baroni’s Catholic social justice in action included notable proteges, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-OH, currently the longest serving woman in Congress and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD. President Barack Obama’s first community organizing project was funded by the Campaign for Human Development.
So, far from opposing “big government,” I would say that Catholicism was very much a part of it, and for the better; also, this tells us of Father Robert Drinan, a Jesuit priest who served as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Massachusetts (he was the first member of Congress to introduce a resolution of impeachment against Richard Nixon, not for Watergate, but for Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War – Drinan was forced to step down when Pope John Paul II forbade members of the clergy from serving in public office).
Douthat tells us that “‘Caritas in Veritate’ is an invitation to think anew about alliances and litmus tests” for both liberals and conservatives. That is indeed a worthy goal.
It would be worthier still if the columnist himself practiced a bit of that himself before he compelled others to do so instead.