Mr. Lee on the Job

All Bill Lann Lee's instincts and training may incline him toward vigorous execution of his duties as acting assistant attorney general for civil rights. But those in Congress who blocked his formal nomination may try to tether him.

President Clinton's decision to make an "acting" appointment, instead of an appointment with the full title while Congress is in recess, placated Senate Republicans to a degree. But they vow to watch Mr. Lee closely.

What they'll be looking for, presumably, is any hint he's using his office to champion affirmative action in hiring, contracting, or admissions. Mr. Clinton has implied this won't be his, or Lee's, priority. Rather, they'll aim at tough enforcement of laws barring discrimination and expanding equal opportunity.

But such priorities may be hard to sort out as the legality, and constitutionality, of affirmative action continue to be hotly debated. We suspect Lee will need not only superlative legal skills, but some political deftness too.

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