A strong civil rights bill

August 15, 1991|By Newsday

DISSIMULATION can be a useful skill for a politician, but the Bush administration overdoes it -- especially on civil rights. Congress can't make the executive branch talk straight on these issues, but it can and should pass a civil rights bill that will mitigate the effects of the administration's indifference and hypocrisy.

Consider three recent events:

* Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin released a report on the "glass ceiling" that prevents women and minorities from reaching the top executive levels at many corporations. But she refused to characterize that as discrimination and saw no need for new laws or regulations.

* The Department of Justice came down on the side of Operation Rescue's street fighters against women attempting to exercise their constitutionally protected right to abortion. The attorney general insisted that it was taking sides only on the legal issue of federal jurisdiction.

* President Bush himself explained that he could not accept a compromise that Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., has been trying to negotiate. Why not? Because his secretary of education said it would interfere with Bush's educational objectives.

Nonsense. The bill would prohibit employers from imposing job qualifications that screen out women or minorities unless those qualifications are clearly related to a person's ability to perform the work involved.

Well, Bush never claimed he wanted to be remembered as the civil rights president, and he won't be. But Congress shouldn't let him get away with this. Education should not be the enemy of a strong civil rights bill.

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