PRESIDENT GEORGE Bush a closet liberal? That has to be the biggest political shocker in modern times. But it appears to be true.
Despite everything he has said, it's now clear that Bush believes in racial quotas and affirmative action, which are almost obscene words to most of his fellow Republicans.
It has to be assumed he believes in these measures because he has just practiced affirmative action and observed a racial quota.
As you surely know, he has nominated Clarence Thomas, 43, to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court.
Why Clarence Thomas? Does he possess the finest legal mind in the land, the keenest intellect, the broadest vision? Is he the best qualified lawyer in the United States to sit on our highest court? So far, nobody has accused him of these qualities.
He's been a federal appellate judge for a little more than one year. In sports terms, he's just finishing his rookie season.
Also in sports terms, he hasn't been rookie of the year. Those who follow the courts say he has written no significant opinions.
A distinguished legal career? A reputation as a great trial lawyer, a renowned law professor, a brilliant state judge? Not really. His major career accomplishment was being a bureaucrat in the Reagan administration.
As one acquaintance put it: "He may not be the brightest bulb on the bench, but he's not the dimmest."
Not the brightest and not the dimmest. Sort of somewhere between. It's not what you would want on your tombstone.
So why did Bush choose Thomas?
The only apparent reason is that Thomas is black. Marshall, who is retiring, is black, and Bush decided to replace one black man with another black man.
If that isn't following a quota, I don't know what it would be called. A coincidence maybe? Forget it.
And since Thomas' career hasn't been nearly as distinguished as countless judges and other lawyers who are available, his appointment could be considered affirmative action, at least by Republican standards.
Ask any Republican why he objects to affirmative action hiring programs, educational admission policies and other measures that are designed to help minorities and he'll probably say: "Because the best qualified person might be passed over, and that isn't fair."
Even Thomas dislikes quotas and affirmative action programs. In fact, that's what he is best known for.
He is that rare creature, a conservative, Republican black man.
And when he was in the Reagan administration, he achieved a certain degree of fame for his stern opposition to affirmative action policies that were designed to help blacks, Hispanics, women and others who had been the victims of discrimination.
His attitude was that nobody should be given favorable or unfavorable treatment because of race, sex or ethnic background.
In other words, may the best man or woman win.
Now he is the beneficiary of a quota mindset and an affirmative action appointment.
Before he goes on the Supreme Court he's going to be grilled by members of the Senate, which must approve the appointment. That should be entertaining.
A senator might ask: "Judge Thomas, you are on record as opposing affirmative action programs that give a member of any group an advantage. Now, do you believe that you would have been nominated for the Supreme Court if you were blond and blue-eyed?"
Or: "Judge Thomas, based on your disdain for affirmative action programs and quotas, wouldn't you have been justified in telling President Bush that you could not, in good conscience, accept this nomination because people would be saying that you don't practice what you preach?"
And maybe: "Judge Thomas, doesn't this situation make you feel just a little bit foolish?"
But Thomas could snap back: "Look, senator, it happens that I was born a poor black child in Georgia and I managed to get myself a good education and become a lawyer. Maybe not one of the best known legal minds in America, but I'm pretty good.
"If I had been born in some upper-class suburbs with wealthy parents, hell, I might have wound up in a big, fancy law firm, made a big legal name for myself and you would be sitting there thinking what a fine choice I am.
"But the fact is, by the accident of birth and the history of racism in this country, I did about as well as I could under the circumstances. So, yes, I think I am qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice."
Which might be true. But if he says something like that, then it would mean that he believes in affirmative action and quotas.
Of course, he might just say: "Hey, guys, those things I used to say, I was just kidding."
And why not? It appears President Bush was kidding us, too -- the liberal scamp.