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'Combat About U.S. Rule of Law'

September 28, 1988

Professional "Reagan-basher" Lincoln Caplan never lets inconvenient facts stand in the way of his rhetoric. In his column "The Candidates in Combat About the U.S. Rule of Law" (Opinion, Sept. 11) his principal thesis is that the Reagan-Bush Administration stubbornly follows its own view of the law and refuses to abide by decisions like that of Judge Leonard Sand in the Yonkers fair housing case. Thus, Caplan writes: "The Reagan right claims that Sand is engaging in 'government by judiciary' (a phrase Meese often used), by trying to force the four candidates to vote for a new local housing law against their will. But, as the Appeals Court and some members of the Supreme Court have stressed, he merely seeks to compel them to do what they agreed to, by consenting to a court-backed decree."

Now for the facts. The Reagan Administration--Ed Meese's and Dick Thornburgh's Justice Department, and this writer's Civil Rights Division--has been prosecuting the city of Yonkers for school and housing discrimination for the last seven years. What Caplan calls the "Reagan right" helped persuade Judge Sand to issue the liability judgment against Yonkers, and the same Reagan right was principally responsible for fashioning a consent decree that committed the city to a comprehensive fair housing plan. And, again, it was the Reagan right that stood alone among the parties to urge and insist on no compromise of Judge Sand's contempt order--including escalating fines and, if need be, jailing recalcitrant councilmen--in order to bring the city and its elected officials into compliance with the agreement they originally endorsed but later reneged on.

Political writers can sometimes provide telling insights by looking at news stories from a different point of view. But Caplan's style of misstating the facts to fit the sermon is unique and worth remembering the next time anyone reads something from his pen.

WM. BRADFORD REYNOLDS

Assistant Atty. General

Civil Rights Division

Washington, D.C.

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