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Journalist strikes back

Books | Will wonders ever cease? Reporter criticizes affirmative action

Issue: "Tipping the Scales," Oct. 5, 1996

Since members of the liberal media have long been beating the drums for affirmative action, it is only appropriate that a leading journalist now criticize the practice. With Backfire, ABC News correspondent Bob Zelnick delivers a devastating critique of today's racial spoils system.

Mr. Zelnick begins his book with refreshing bluntness. "When the University of California at Berkeley routinely admits African-American students with lower grades and SAT scores 200 points lower than Chinese Americans who are rejected, there is nothing fancy or esoteric about what the university is doing: It is discriminating against Chinese Americans on the basis of race." Favoritism towards minority contractors, special congressional districts for black politicians, and preferential promotions for minority firefighters are similarly acts of discrimination, pure and simple.

The practical consequences of state-sanctioned discrimination are bad enough, but the violation of basic principle is even more important. As Mr. Zelnick puts it, "There is no moral virtue in supporting a policy that corrupts the values it purports to serve." Backfire deserves wide attention.

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Also powerfully critical of American society is Slouching Towards Gomorrah. Judge Robert Bork sees a nation headed for ruin--like the Bible's Gomorrah. He points to social pathologies that are increasingly difficult to miss.

The cause? Mr. Bork charges that "the enemy within is modern liberalism, a corrosive agent carrying a very different mood and agenda than that of classical or traditional liberalism." Mr. Bork sees two strands of thought coming together in modern liberalism-- "radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than of opportunities) and radical individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification)."

Regrettably, he can offer no easy solution. Rather, he urges Americans to retake the culture, step by step. And he emphasizes that "government must be kept at a distance," leaving "to private institutions the task of redeeming the culture."

As Mr. Bork observes, only a few years ago the Clintons' behavior would have been considered disqualifying for public office. A wonderfully written, light-hearted look at the duo's peccadilloes comes from The Unshredded Files of Hillary and Bill Clinton. It includes Hillary's second- grade essay on what she would do if Queen of the World ("Because I am smarter than everyone, I say what we're doing to do, and no arguing or talking back or

taking votes."), a brochure for the Whitewater development ("A tropical vacation paradise where Arkansas says Aloha!"), and assorted memos involving the CIA, Les Aspin, FBI, Roger Clinton, various aides and friends, and so on. The sad thing, of course, is that the faux documents are funny precisely because they so accurately capture the Clintons' character.

Any voter who desires to make up his or her own mind about politics should pick up The State of Americans. In it eight Cornell University faculty members present figures on crime, demographics, education, poverty, and values. Statistics have long been subject to abuse--torture them long enough, it is said, and they will confess to anything. But The State of Americans eschews an obvious ideological ax and will help readers learn more about current controversies.

For the history buff there is Neal Petersen's edited volume of intelligence chief Allen Dulles' World War II reports, From Hitler's Doorstep. Mr. Petersen adds explanatory notes to the dispatches, which track the course of the war and the looming confrontation with the Soviet Union. It makes for a great read.

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