THE FIGHT against President Clinton's nominee to head the Justice Department's civil rights division has gathered steam with the Supreme Court ruling that the anti-affirmative action measure, Proposition 209, is constitutional. Bill Lann Lee is well qualified for the position, having spent most of his career representing civil rights organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. But those associations are being used against him.
Senate Republicans who have blocked his nomination since July treat Mr. Lee like some antichrist who must not be allowed a position of higher authority. They see the Supreme Court decision as validating the holiness of their mission. Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced Monday he would oppose Mr. Lee, which means the nomination may not pass his panel.
Opponents say Mr. Lee's previous support of affirmative action means he would use the Office of Civil Rights to fight Proposition 209 and similar measures in other states. They ignore Mr. Lee's offer to recuse himself from any involvement in administration decisions regarding Proposition 209. All they care about is leverage to get President Clinton to back down from his support of affirmative action.