WASHINGTON — President Reagan predicted Senate confirmation of William Bradford Reynolds, his embattled nominee for associate attorney general, and praised him Saturday as a foe of discrimination beset by critics who "have turned our civil rights laws on their head."
"We have a proud record on civil rights," Reagan said in his weekly radio talk, delivered from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. "The principle that guides us, and the one embodied in the law, is one of non-discrimination."
As he defended policies over which Reynolds has presided as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Reagan criticized those "who, in the name of equality, would have us practice discrimination" through affirmative action programs designed to increase opportunities for minority groups and women.
"They have turned our civil rights laws on their head, claiming they mean exactly the opposite of what they say," Reagan said. "These people tell us the government should enforce discrimination in favor of some groups through hiring quotas under which people lose particular jobs or promotions solely because of their race or sex."
Calling his choice for the Justice Department's No. 3 spot a man of "impeccable" qualifications and character, Reagan said Reynolds is "a brilliant and dedicated lawyer" whose civil rights stand reflects the views of the Administration and the mandate of the last two elections.
Reynolds' performance during his four years as head of the government's civil rights enforcement machinery brought him under stiff questioning, mostly from Democrats, at two days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. But it was at the instance of a Republican, Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. of Maryland, that Reynolds was recalled for another session, tentatively set for Tuesday, after civil rights lawyers questioned the truthfulness of Reynolds' sworn testimony. It is expected, however, that Reynolds will be cleared by the committee, which Republicans control 10 to 8.
In his arguments for Reynolds, Reagan said his Administration was committed to the vision held by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of "a society rid of discrimination and prejudice . . . where people would be judged on the content of their character, not for the color of their skin."
Reagan quoted the late Hubert H. Humphrey, a leading civil rights advocate as a Minnesota senator and as vice president, as saying during Senate debate on the 1964 Civil Rights Act that he would eat the bill's pages if it contained language requiring hiring policies based on quotas.
"Well, I think that if Sen. Humphrey saw how some people today are interpreting that act, he'd get a severe case of indigestion," Reagan said. "The truth is, quotas deny jobs to many who would have gotten them otherwise but who weren't born to a specific race or sex. That's discrimination pure and simple and is exactly what the civil rights laws were designed to stop.
"Quotas also cast in shadow the real achievements of minorities, which makes quotas a double tragedy. In 1980 and 1984, I ran for President and told you I was opposed to quotas. In response to your mandate, our Administration has worked to return the civil rights laws to their original meaning, to prevent discrimination against any and all Americans."