This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "The Man Behind the Duck," July 26, 1997

Educational harassment

The Department of Education announced a federal investigation into whether the University of California's new race-blind admissions policy discriminates against blacks and Hispanics. The policy, the first at a public university to prohibit preferences based on race and ethnicity, takes effect this fall for graduate school admissions. Ward Connerly, a black member of the UC Board of Regents who led the effort to abolish race-based admissions, called the probe "harassment." Education Department officials cite the school system's receipt of federal aid as the basis of their authority to investigate. The UC system has 160,000 students on nine campuses.

Phone home, Mr. Speaker

n the blockbuster summer hit Men in Black, House Speaker Newt Gingrich is depicted in one scene as a space alien. Mr. Gingrich referred jokingly to the news-footage cameo last week when a Capitol Hill newspaper reported a serious effort by disgruntled conservative lawmakers to strip him of his Speakership, saying both were fiction. The next day's news did not prove the Speaker an alien, but it did confirm the depth of the alienation between the once-revered leader and rank-and-file House Republicans: In a surprise move, one of Mr. Gingrich's top deputies resigned his leadership post July 17 over his role in an abortive coup planned July 10 and revealed July 16 by The Hill, a small weekly newspaper that covers Congress. The Washington Post ran a story citing an unnamed congressman as confirming some details of The Hill's reporting. According to these news reports, the story goes like this: Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) planned the coup July 10 during a meeting with conservatives. Mr. DeLay insisted Mr. Gingrich be deposed quickly. Talk then turned to a successor; the consensus favored Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), the GOP conference chairman. Mr. DeLay relayed the news to Mr. Paxon and Dick Armey, the House majority leader. But the coup faltered after Mr. Armey-second in command in the GOP hierarchy-refused to go along. After the news started to break July 16, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Armey met with Mr. DeLay and Mr. Paxon, who that night offered to step down. Mr. Paxon's letter of resignation, accepted with no fanfare the next morning and not made public until after the evening news, complained that the July 10 incident had been "grossly misconstrued" and had rendered him ineffective: "[I]t is clear that I can no longer be an asset to your team in this appointed capacity." White House officials were loving it. Spokesman Mike McCurry wryly said of the leadership struggle, "I categorically deny that anyone is gleefully watching those actions." During the wrangling, however, Mr. Gingrich won a small victory. Gingrich ally Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) won a GOP caucus vote July 16 over Gingrich critic Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to fill a leadership post vacated by Mr. Paxon's wife, Susan Molinari, who is leaving Congress to become a television personality.

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