Chester Arthur was a most unlikely reformer.
A crucial cog in the political machine of the Empire State's Sen. Roscoe Conkling, he was named by President Grant to the powerful and lucrative post of collector of customs for the Port of New York.
Arthur was removed in 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes, who wanted to clean up the federal patronage system. But when James Garfield of Ohio was nominated to succeed Hayes, he sought to unite his party by picking the Stalwart Arthur as running mate.
Six months into the new administration, a deranged office-seeker shot Garfield. Arthur was president. And in a dramatic turnabout, he became the president forever associated with civil service reform, converting the U.S. government into a meritocracy where individuals were hired based upon examinations and advanced based upon merit.
In our time, however, Arthur's achievement has been undone, as a racial spoils system in federal hiring and promotions has been imposed by Democratic presidents, unresisted by Republicans who rarely exhibit the courage to stand up for their principles when the subject is race.
A week ago, an item buried in The Washington Post reported that Obama had "issued an executive order requiring government agencies to develop plans for improving federal workforce diversity."
Obama, wrote Isaac Arnsdorf, is targeting "a problem that has been on the administration's radar. Whites still hold more than 81 percent of senior pay-level positions." [Obama orders improved workforce-diversity effort, August 18, 2011]
Now, as white folks are two-thirds of the U.S. population, and perhaps three-fourths of those in the 45 to 65 age group who would normally be at senior federal positions, why is this "a problem"?
As no one has contended otherwise, we have to assume that the men and women who hold these top positions got there because of the longevity of their service and the superiority of their skills.
Why is the color of their skin a "problem" for Barack Obama?
As reported here previously, African-Americans are hardly underrepresented in the U.S. government.
Though only 12 percent to 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks hold 18 percent of all federal jobs. African-Americans are 25 percent of the employees at Treasury and Veterans Affairs, 31 percent of State Department employees, 37 percent of the Department of Education, 38 percent of Housing and Urban Development. They are 42 percent of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., 55 percent of the Government Printing Office, 82 percent of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.
According to The Washington Post, blacks hold 44 percent of the jobs at Fannie Mae and 50 percent of the jobs at Freddie Mac.
The EEOC, where African-Americans are overrepresented by 300 percent, has been asked to oversee the new "government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce."
I'm not making this up.
Perhaps, while he is battling for a greater diversity of sacrifice and rewards up there on Martha's Vineyard, our president might reflect on another example of the overrepresentation of white males — in the caskets coming home to Dover.
In the first five years of the Iraq war, Asian-Americans were 1 percent of our fallen heroes, Latinos 11 percent, African-Americans 10 percent. White Americans were 75 percent of the dead, and from photos of the fallen in newspapers since, the ratios appear to hold.
Does this overrepresentation of white men in the body bags and caskets coming home bother our commander in chief, who wants fewer white men at the top level of his executive branch?
"Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" says the Lord in Matthew's Gospel.
Has Obama taken a close look at his hypocritical party on Capitol Hill? Though African-Americans are fully 25 percent of all Democratic voters, in a Senate Democratic Caucus of 53 members, there is not a single black man or black woman.
Well, regretfully, we are told, none was elected
But if liberals believe in affirmative action, why don't Democratic senators practice as well as preach it? Why don't they lead by example rather than by exhortation?
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have been around for decades. Why do they not agree to flip a coin, have one resign, and have Gov. Jerry Brown appoint Rep. Barbara Lee, head of the Black Caucus, to the U.S. Senate?
Why does not Barbara Mikulski, who has been there forever, not stand down and let Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley appoint Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore to the Senate? Let Chuck Schumer go forth and do likewise, show us what a heroic liberal is, and let Gov. Andrew Cuomo name an African-American to replace him in the Senate.
Senate liberals applaud affirmative action programs that deny white students and white federal workers admissions and promotions they have earned by their labors. But when, ever, has one of these liberals voluntarily made the sacrifice that he demands be imposed upon others?