Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency

By Richard Himelfarb; Rosanna Perotti | Go to book overview

Discussant: Antonio C.

With my law enforcement background—I was the union president during my twelve-and-a-half-year tenure with the Los Angeles Police Department—I wanted to comment on the drug policies. I’m a little bit stunned that, at every panel that I’ve attended, all the academics seem to attack the Bush administration, and then we’re here trying to justify or tell you what the Bush administration was really about. I don’t know if that format is supposed to get people excited. But I do have to correct one thing that the gentleman talked about using statistics. I’m with the Merit Systems Protection Board, and I am presently a Bush appointee. I’m probably the last Bush appointee. I have a seven-year term and my term was actually up in March, and maybe after this presentation, they [the Clinton administration] will quickly find my successor, because I can serve until March of next year but I don’t give a damn.

The Merit Systems Protection Board is an agency—you all know it as the former Civil Service Commission—that used to make the rules and then interpret them. So Congress decided to divide it up in ’78, and President Carter did that in ’78 or ’79, and we became the Merit Systems Protection Board. OPM made the rules and we interpreted them, so we’re an appellate-level, three-person commission in Washington, D.C. We hear about 1,700 cases a year. You talked about the rise in EEO cases—I’ll tell you why: It’s because it’s encouraged. I’ll tell you what happens, so you won’t wonder what happens, to all those cases: They’re all thrown out, because it’s whatever can stick. The appellants just throw everything in and see if it’ll stick, so they file frivolous EEOC complaints. That’s what happens. And when you can award damages and you can create a cottage industry for attorneys, don’t worry, you’ll get a lot more EEO cases, and that’s what really happens. That’s a sad fact.

It’s nice to be an academic and to be able to talk about theories, but when you’re out there working in the streets, as a street cop or someone that’s processing all these federal cases, you get a different perspective about what really goes on. I’m going to focus my comments on the civil rights area specifically because, as a Mexican-American, number twelve of fourteen brothers and sisters, born in conservative Utah, being a Catholic, pro-union in those days, my mother said, “Well, son, it looks like you’ve got four strikes against you before you start.” Needless to say, I graduated from Point Loma High School in San Diego, but things have changed. And I count as one of my greatest friends, and a great supporter of the Hispanic community, Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, who has done a lot in this area.

But, as a member of a minority, I pay careful attention to what affirmative action, a policy by the government, versus Title VII has done. And that’s where the conflict is, really. Whenever you apply affirmative action policies and programs in the federal government, there’s no way you can get around it: It boils down to quo

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