But Who’s Counting?

Posted: Dec 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Who lost a job: the man who described his staff by saying, “I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.” Or the woman who described her staff by writing, “The Post needs more opinion writers and columnists who are of the female persuasion or are minorities. Overwhelmingly, Post columnists are white guys.”

The answer, of course, is the first man.

James Watt was President Reagan’s Interior Secretary. He stepped down in 1983, shortly after he was quoted celebrating the diversity on his team. The second writer is the ombudsman (should that be ombudswoman?) at The Washington Post. On Dec. 10, Deborah Howell wrote a column describing the skin color and gender of every Post columnist, and bemoaning there were too few blacks and women on its staff.

But there’s really not much difference between the two statements. They both aim to “celebrate diversity,” Howell by demanding a more “diverse” staff, Watt by pointing out how diverse his staff already is.

Watt’s use of the word “cripple” is certainly objectionable in today’s climate. But it’s far less offensive than, say, a Michael Richards stand-up comedy routine. Besides, it’s likely Watt would’ve been pressured to resign even if he’d used the more PC term “wheelchair-bound American.” The Left disliked him for being “James Watt,” not for anything in particular he had to say. He was the ’80s version of John Ashcroft (or AshKKKroft, as columnist Mark Steyn once called him).

The silliest thing about Watt’s quote is usually overlooked. The problem isn’t the language he uses -- it’s the idea that a black or a Jew would bring some intrinsic insight to the Interior Department. Surely white males know as much about land use as minorities.

That’s also what makes Howell’s piece so silly. “Guys rule in sports,” she writes, noting that the paper’s sports pages have “six men to one woman. [Michael] Wilbon is black.” Well, as a co-worker used to put it, “sports is sports.” It’s easy to understand.

In virtually every competition (except golf) the team that scores the most wins. Being black, or a woman, or an Eskimo doesn’t give an observer some special insight into sports. It’s possible that if one has played a game professionally, he might have something useful to say. But those who watch sports on television will be justifiably doubtful of that.

The sole advantage a sports columnist has over a sports viewer is that the columnist can go into the locker room after the game and ask the players and coaches why they did what they did. We all saw the game. What we don’t know is, for example, whether the coach told the players to run a particular play or whether they improvised it.

And note that Howell isn’t pressing here for the paper to hire more ex-athletes, or more ex-CEOs for the business pages or more ex-politicians for the news pages. She simply wants the paper’s hiring decisions to be based on skin color or gender.

That’s supposedly to give the customer what he (she?) wants. “Women and minorities want to see themselves well represented in the news and opinion pages of The Post,” Howell writes. But how do readers know the skin color of the columnist they’re reading? I only found out that sports columnist Mike Wise is a white man when Howell’s column mentioned it. And knowing that now won’t change my opinion about his opinions. Nor should it.

The problem here is the entire push for “diversity” and “tolerance.” Both those concepts have come to mean the exact opposite of what they should.

This being the Christmas season, there’s been plenty of that on display. In the interest of tolerance, a rabbi in Seattle threatens to sue the airport because it put up a Christmas tree. In the interest of tolerance, a parent in Virginia is asked not to wear a Santa suit to school. And anyway, his child’s class is having a “holiday party,” not a “Christmas party.”

This isn’t a matter of religion – trees, parties and Santa suits have nothing to do with the religious side of Christmas. It’s just to note how amazingly intolerant the people pushing tolerance can be.

“The point is not to toss excellent white male columnists; the point is to add more and lively voices to the Post,” Howell concludes. Here’s an idea: Maybe the newspaper that brought us “macacca” could add at least one right-wing voice. I’d get my resume right over.

Except that, as a white male, I’m probably not eligible anyway.