Belaboring Chavez

Linda Chavez's withdrawal as Labor secretary designee should not go into the history books without a few asterisks:

* The "politics of personal destruction" is unfortunately still alive and well in Washington, further fueling distrust where trust is needed. This is not the way her nomination should have ended. Indeed, those opposing other nominees will likely feel re-energized in their efforts to create controversies that lead to the thwarting of the confirmation process.

* Nonetheless, Ms. Chavez should have known that sheltering and giving money to an illegal immigrant in her household would raise political if not legal concerns. She should have been more forthcoming.

* It's fair to ask whether this incident would have happened at all if Ms. Chavez had been more pro-labor union. The AFL-CIO and other unions have said they wanted to take issue with her controversial labor positions, such as her stance on the minimum wage, affirmative action, and pay equity - not this particular personal story. Sadly, they and the public won't have an opportunity for that debate.

* This misstep by the incoming Bush administration isn't a big setback. Its policy will still prevail at the Labor Department. Chavez was not rejected openly on the merits of her ideas. Is that kind of debate possible in Washington?

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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