The Democratic National Committee got itself into a mess last week. News leaked that the DNC was going to lay off 10 workers in order to "retool" for the upcoming presidential election. The trouble came when it was revealed that every person on the layoff list was black.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other prominent black Democrats went through the roof. Donna Brazile, Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager, a leading black Democrat, told The Washington Post, "If the (GOP) were to do this, you know what would happen. You know I would be kicking them where they need to be kicked."
We need not dwell on the obvious truth of Brazile's point. If Republicans disproportionately canned black staffers - let alone fired only blacks - it would be a huge, front-page story. There would be follow-ups to find out if Republicans planned to cancel Christmas and ban puppies as well.
Anyway, the DNC's official story is murky. According to the Post, DNC chief Terry McAuliffe said the DNC Ten would never have been actually fired, and other officials said this was all just a big misunderstanding. Numerous black Democrats told the press they were unsatisfied with McAuliffe's explanations.
Well, a prominent Democratic operative in a position to know tells me the real story. Each department head at the DNC was asked to suggest at least one person under their supervision to be laid off. The list was compiled by a senior consultant and submitted to the chief operating officer at the DNC, Josh Wachs.
It was only when they put the list together that it became clear everyone was black. In other words, each supervisor was asked to fire only a single person on merit. Race wasn't an issue or a problem until the statistics were compiled.
For any number of reasons a blacks-only layoff policy would be almost as disastrous for the Democrats as for the Republicans, in some ways maybe more so. The DNC needs almost 100 percent turnout of the black vote to be competitive in national elections. Firing only minorities opens up the possibility of a class-action lawsuit, which - regardless of the legal merits - would make White House political adviser Karl Rove happier than an 8-year-old girl with a new Christmas pony. And, fairly or not, it certainly undermines the Democratic Party's rhetoric on diversity.
I'd like to stick with this last point. According to almost every single Democrat who draws breath, "Diversity makes us stronger." President Clinton, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Jesse Jackson and so many more have all said that diversity has no costs, only benefits.