WHAT'S THE price of playing politics with people's civil rights? For America's workers, it comes to two years of lost protection. It was two years ago that the Supreme Court issued a series of rulings stripping minorities and women of legal safeguards against job discrimination -- safeguards they'd taken for granted since 1971. It was two years ago that a majority of the lawmakers on Capitol Hill agreed that those safeguards should be restored.
But it wasn't until last Thursday that the Republican president and the Democratic leaders of the Senate came up with compromise legislation they all could live with.
Why did it take so long? Because neither side could resist trying to put the other in the worst possible light. Bush and his operatives played to white fears of reverse discrimination by claiming the Democrats were trying to foist off a "quota bill" on the nation. For their part, the Democrats repeatedly championed measures Bush had threatened to veto, posturing as crusaders taking on a Republican president hostile to civil rights.