Lani Guinier, Bill Lann Lee, Henry Foster, Ron Brown, Hazel O'Leary, Joycelyn Elders, Alexis M. Herman and now Daryl L. Jones. The Senate Armed Services Committee's rejection of Jones as Air Force secretary follows a pattern that is disgracefully familiar. President Clinton appoints an African American or minority candidate to a Cabinet post, and the Republican political vigilantes immediately start in. They do everything possible to torpedo the appointment in Senate committee hearings or better yet get Clinton to withdraw the nomination. If the person is lucky enough to be confirmed, they dig up all the dirt they can find on the appointee, magnify it into a major crime, try to enlist the media in the smear campaign and hope that the pressure will force the hapless official to resign or Clinton to fire him or her.
The relentless attacks on Clinton's minority appointees combine the time-tested blend of sneaky racial and blatant political mean-spiritedness. The Jones appointment was certainly a classic example of this. In the past, appointments such as Air Force secretary generated no controversy and were routinely approved. Jones' military experience and education were never an issue. He is an Air Force Academy graduate, lawyer and former Air National Guard pilot who flew F-4 fighter planes. The allegations against him were that he was a lousy flyer, collected extra pay for flight time he didn't earn, sought to sell Amway products to enlisted Air Force personnel, improperly lobbied on behalf of a financial company seeking a bond deal on the Miami Airport and then gave conflicting responses when questioned.