Inventing Mr. Lee's Past
At last, the biography of the nation's top civil rights enforcer
has been posted on the Internet.
Bill Lann Lee was appointed Acting Assistant Attorney General for
Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice on December 15, 1997.
Once Senate Democrats, anticipating defeat, blocked the vote on
Mr. Lee's appointment, President Clinton used the congressional
recess to install him. "I can think of no one whose life story
and impeccable credentials make him more suited to enforcing these
laws than Bill Lann Lee," the president said. Mr. Lee's strong
support for race-based preferences and quotas, as well as his background,
apparently persuaded Mr. Clinton to forego advice and consent by
the United States Senate.
Mr. Lee has spent his life fighting "against discrimination
in all forms." Indeed, he seems to have done nothing else,
according to the official biography obtained also directly from
his office. In reality, given his support for race-based quotas,
Mr. Lee most certainly approves of discrimination. The penultimate
paragraph of his biography seeks to explain why.
"Mr. Lee was born and raised in New York City," we read,
"where his parents owned a small laundry. He credits his late
father, who experienced bigotry despite his proud military service
to his country, with providing the inspiration for a career in civil
rights law. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science,
Mr. Lee won a scholarship to Yale University, where he benefitted
from an affirmative action program to include minority students.
Through his hard work, Mr Lee graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum
laude in 1971. Mr. Lee graduated from Columbia University Law School
If affirmative action was the only means by which the owners of
a small Chinese laundry could get their son to Yale, Mr. Lee's commitment
to the program would be understandable in human terms, even though
affirmative action flies in the face of both the Declaration of
Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
But here is the problem.
According to the Equal Opportunity Office of Yale University, the
first attempt at an affirmative action program did not occur until
1973. By that time, Mr. Lee had won a scholarship, graduated magna
cum laude, was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa, and was one year away
from receiving his doctorate at Columbia University Law School-all
in a supposedly bigoted America. Prior to Yale, he attended the
super-elite Bronx High School for Science between 1963 and 1967,
a full ten years before affirmative action was to be introduced.
Mr. Lee's personal experience, then, is one of equal opportunity-long
before that concept was turned into a statutory requirement. Yet
his entire life seems to be a reaction to a sizable chip on his
shoulder. Would the presence of that chip make him a more or less
desirable chief enforcer of civil rights?
Conventional wisdom suggests, and history confirms, that those
who sit in judgment of us are best unencumbered by the notion of
having a score to settle with society or with certain types of individuals.
Thus, had he acquired the chip on his shoulder as a victim of discrimination,
Mr. Lee would be less than desirable for his present position.
But what of a man who invents a chip on his shoulder to justify
his punitive approach toward the very society that has afforded
him maximum opportunity at every turn? As his high school's web
site informs us, "Although many have tried to emulate it, Bronx
Science compares to no other institution." In 1963, Young Bill
Lann Lee entered a high school that was then, and remains now, one
of a kind. He went on to not one, but two Ivy League universities.
How much more privileged can one be? What is Mr. Lee's quarrel with
And would it not be appropriate for a scholarship student to give
something back to society, rather than derive his entire livelihood
from holding society to ransom? Socialists might try to characterize
it as "a life devoted to helping those in need," but realistic
Americans will observe that Mr. Lee's biography reads more like
trading off those in need.
Mr. Lee claims "a long and distinguished history of defending
the rights of all Americans." In reality, he does not seem
to believe that all Americans have the same rights and has yet to
make an effort at least to inform himself about the nature of Americans
by living and working among them. Instead, Mr. Lee joined a growing
class, unthinkable here before the 1960's, that makes a career of
its adversarial position to America. Its members spend their entire
life in "The Movement," having never participated in a
non-political enterprise, trade, or profession. Typically, they
police America based on a disapproval of it, and with the sternness
of a task master toward it. They wield uncanny power, primarily
in our schools and in government departments.
Still, this is the land of opportunities. Mr. Lee could recover
his credibility by earning his keep in a regular job while continuing
his civil rights work pro bono.