When Commissioners Russell Redenbaugh and Abigail Thernstrom issued a minority report showing, among other things, that the commission had not interviewed a single Floridian who was denied the opportunity to vote, Berry ruled that the minority report could not be considered an official commission document because they had used the services (free) of a scholar named John Lott. It was not permitted, Berry asserted, to use the services of outside analysts -- even for free.
The Civil Rights Commission was established during the Eisenhower administration as a government watchdog to oversee Negro progress as the battles for voting rights, equal education and full citizenship were gearing up. In the 1950s and '60s, white racism truly was the greatest obstacle to black progress.
The world has changed since then. Thernstrom, a conservative commission member, has written (with her husband Stephen) two scholarly and impassioned books about civil rights. The second, called "No Excuses," makes the case that the greatest obstacle to black progress today (and the Thernstroms, unlike the Berrys of this world, are careful to recognize the enormous progress our society has made) is public education.
Yet Berry, who favors the teachers unions and affirmative action, is labeled a civil rights advocate, while Thernstrom is dismissed, as in The Washington Post story about the commission turnover, as a "white conservative."
Berry ruled the Civil Rights Commission like a dictator, bullying her allies and undermining her foes through means fair and foul. When President Bush appointed Kirsanow, Berry refused to seat him until a court ordered her to do so. She stood for the principle that no fact should stand in the way of her moral posturing. She got away with it for way too long.
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