Center for Equal Opportunity

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Why Not Just “American American”?

We are supposed to be excited because the Congress has passed, and President Obama has just signed into law, a bill that will get rid of “insulting” words like “Oriental” and “Negro,” changing them to more enlightened terms like “Asian American” and “African American.” 

But wouldn’t it have been better if all references to race has just be taken out of the U.S. Code altogether, since the reason they’re in there these days is principally to advance race-based preferences and decision-making by the federal government?

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The Chronicle of Higher Education — which, like it or not is the periodical of record for college and university issues — recently had a long article about a program designed to increase opportunities for students interested in earning a Ph.D.  The problem was that it made it sound like this program was open only to “underrepresented minority” students (i.e., blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans). 

Now, the Center for Equal Opportunity has long objected to such programs, and has successfully challenged them, so naturally this did not set well with us.  But when we contacted the executive director of the program … well, you can read the rest in my published response to the Chronicle of Higher Education here (which was given the title, “Worth Noting That Program for Riskiest Students Is Open to All Races”):

One might get the impression from your article, 2 Colleges Build Better ‘Bridge’ to Ph.D.s for Minority Students(The Chronicle, May 27), that the program discussed is open only to underrepresented minority students, but it is important for readers to know that this is not the case. According to the program’s executive director: “All students can apply. All races/ethnicities are represented in the program.”

That’s as it should be, and kudos to those running the program for recognizing this. It’s fine to provide special programs tailored to “diamonds in the rough.” But diamonds come in all colors, and there is no persuasive reason to limit these programs to “the riskiest students” who are black, brown, or red but to exclude those who are white or yellow.

The reasons given in the article that might be cited in favor of this kind of limitation — e.g., only some groups are afflicted by “stereotype threat” — are likely to be aggravated if students of particular colors are singled out as particularly in need of special help. Fairness aside, if a program were not just racially preferential but in fact racially exclusive, then it is almost certainly illegal under the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Oh, and the fact that, as the article notes, schools are under pressure from crybully students to set and meet racial quotas is no excuse to engage in racial discrimination — as a matter of law or policy or morality.

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There’s another article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about an “unsparing report” at Yale released last month on the school’s failure to have a politically correct racial, ethnic, and gender mix in its faculty. 

A non-Yale expert is quoted as saying that the findings are consistent with what “she sees across higher education.”  The solution?  “Every college, she said, should collect hiring and retention data down to the departmental level, and hold people accountable for a lack of progress” (my italics).

And we know that that means, don’t we, comrades? 

Certainly the authors of the Yale report do:  “The report makes 19 recommendations, including setting numerical goals for hiring” (again, my italics;  see recommendation #2 on page 5 of the report itself, here).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Not only is hiring by the numbers unfair and divisive, and not only is it bad for students and the university not to hire the most qualified individuals to teach and do research there, but it is illegal

The words “law” and “legal” each appear exactly once in the report, by the way (in a reference to “law students” and in a historical discussion of “legal mandates” during the late 1960s and early 1970s), and there is no citation at all of the relevant federal law prohibiting hiring discrimination.  So apparently this little problem was just ignored. 

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Finally, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently had a meeting with witnesses on promoting “diversity” in the tech industry.  The focus in this area has been on increasing the number of some minority groups (especially African Americans and Latinos), since there are thought to be too high a percentage of whites and, in particular, other minority groups (i.e., Asian Americans); the number of women relative to men is also thought to be too low. 

The EEOC also said that it would accept public comments on the issue, and here’s what the Center for Equal Opportunity sent in:

The Center for Equal Opportunity respectfully submits these three links, which we think are relevant to this meeting:

The bottom line is simple:  Companies in any industry should recruit, hire, and promote the best qualified individuals, without regard to race, ethnicity, or sex, and without a desire to achieve a predetermined racial, ethnic, and gender mix.

Identity Politics: Part Two

My column last week about identity politics in the U.S. caused quite a stir. I received requests for television and radio interviews stretching all the way to Russia. For those who missed it, my thesis was that this year's election is stirring up racial and ethnic animosity on both sides of the partisan divide. Hillary Clinton has remarked that Republican government officials' acts are reminiscent of Jim Crow, while Donald Trump is warning whites that Mexicans and others are stealing their jobs and bringing crime to their neighborhoods. It's a nasty formula to divide Americans, not unite them.

But how is this different from the ethnic appeals that have been a part of American elections going back to the 19th century? It is no secret that the New York City Democratic machine in the 19th and early 20th centuries used political patronage to give jobs, rent money and give other support to immigrants, ensuring that their votes would keep the machine in power for decades. But Republicans, too, made direct appeals to voters based on their ethnic backgrounds. Some 80 percent of Germans in St. Louis, Missouri voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860, in part because of his renunciation of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothings of the era. And more recently, President Richard M. Nixon led a well-orchestrated effort to appeal to Mexican-American voters in 1972, which paid off handsomely when he won about a third of the votes of traditionally Democratic voters.

But today's identity politics are different. They are not made on the basis of positive appeals to voters based on economic self-interest or shared values. It is one thing to say to black voters, "Vote Democratic because we promise a wider range of social programs that will help your communities," and quite another to say, "Vote Democratic because the other side will take away your rights as American citizens." The latter is based entirely on fear and plants the seed of racial mistrust.

And it's the same when Trump plays the Mexican card to appeal to white working-class voters. He could have made the case that wages are stagnating among lower middle-class voters, and could have even argued that immigrants have contributed to the problem. (For the record, most studies show no such correlation, but a few economists argue that low-skilled immigrant workers depress wages for those at the bottom of the income scale, most of whom are immigrants who arrived earlier.)

But that isn't the route Trump chose. Instead he blamed Mexicans: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," he said. "They're sending people that have lots of problems...They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists." He has consistently tried to provoke fear among whites that Mexicans are going to steal their jobs, rape their daughters and even rob and kill them, frequently asking families who have experienced crimes at the hands of illegal immigrants to join him onstage.

This is about as ugly as it gets in politics, and yet Trump has largely been given a pass by the media and his fellow Republicans. It is unimaginable that a candidate could say similar things about blacks or Jews, for example, and get away with it. But Trump hasn't had to stir similar resentment toward those groups. Some of Trump's followers among the white identity movement have done it for him, launching anti-Semitic attacks on Jews who say a critical word about Trump, and making up a fantastically wrong statistic on the number of whites who are victims of crimes committed by blacks, which Trump retweeted.

If the 2016 election turns on racial and ethnic identity, we are headed for dark times in America. Since our founding, America has represented the best hopes of mankind to build a nation not on the ties of blood and soil, but on the principles of liberty and freedom for all.

Americans don't share a common racial, religious or ethnic history, but we are one people because we choose to be. If that comity breaks down and we retreat to our tribal roots, it will be the end of the great American Experiment. It's time for those who believe in one nation, indivisible, to speak out and tell the politicians on both sides of the aisle that we reject identity politics, no matter what partisan flavor they take.

Republicans Must Defeat Trump in November

Donald Trump is now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party. I could not have imagined writing that sentence even a few short weeks ago, and it fills me with despair. How have we come to this point, and how do we move forward?

I have said it often enough, but it bears repeating: I will not vote for Donald Trump for president. There are millions like me. We fully understand the consequences -- another four years of a Democrat in the White House -- even if we do not like them.

Though I can only speak for myself, I think my sentiments are widely shared. I am an American first, a conservative second and a Republican a distant third. If Donald Trump is the face of the Republican Party, I want no part of it.

This goes beyond policy differences. Trump's positions on trade, immigration, health care, entitlements and foreign policy (muddled and confusing as they are) are mostly anathema to me. But it is the man's character, first and foremost, that makes it impossible for me to put aside my differences.

I was fully prepared to support Ted Cruz, whose position on immigration I vehemently disagree with and whose style I found off-putting. But Trump is unfit in every way to be president. He has neither the intellect nor the discipline to learn what is necessary to occupy the office. More importantly, his temperament is all wrong. He's vindictive, mean-spirited, vain and unpredictable. He will never put the interests of the country before his own.

He wraps himself in red, white and blue and slogans of making America great again, but what has he ever done for this country? While young men of his generation were fighting and dying, and, as in the case of John McCain, being tortured for their country, Donald Trump was bedding down as many women as he could despite his fear of contracting a venereal disease. "It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier," he told shock jock Howard Stern, explaining that he made sure the women he had sex with were checked out by his own personal doctor. And this is the man who had the nerve to say John McCain was no hero!

On the very day he tied up the nomination by winning all of Indiana's 57 delegates, Trump was on the campaign stump spreading vicious, unsubstantiated, libelous allegations against Ted Cruz's father, suggesting Rafael Cruz was an associate of John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. He's insulted women, Hispanics, blacks, Jews, even his own supporters. Remember his "I love the poorly educated" line? There is no limit to his depredations.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the GOP, now wants Republicans to fall in line and support Trump. But doing so will doom the Republican Party -- and worse, the country. Thankfully, not all GOP leaders are falling in line, most notably Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Thursday he was not yet ready to endorse Trump.

I don't think Trump can win the election, but I am not nearly as confident as I once was in that prediction. The best way to ensure it doesn't happen is for those of us who think Trump is unfit to be president to withhold support from him. That means not donating to the Republican National Committee as well as leaving the top of the ticket blank when we go into the polling booth in November.

There are plenty of good Republican candidates worthy of support. Give to their campaigns directly -- so long as they don't tie themselves to Trump too closely.

If the Republican Party is to regain its soul, it is important that Donald Trump be defeated resoundingly. This should be a landslide repudiation, not a tepid one. When the votes are tallied in each state, it is important that Trump's totals are lower than the totals of other Republicans on the ticket, not simply to save the Senate and House and other down-ticket Republican candidates but to send a clear message: Hillary Clinton did not defeat Donald Trump; Republicans refused to vote for him.

Identity Politics are Bad for Everyone

Identity politics have become an engrained part of our culture -- and one that threatens to tear us apart.  We no longer embrace the unum in our national motto-E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one-focusing almost entirely on the pluribus.  When Al Gore famously mistranslated the motto, we laughed it off as another of his gaffes on a par with claiming to have invented the internet. But his words may have been more prophetic than ignorant.

"We can build a collective civic space large enough for all our separate identities, that we can be e pluribus unum -- out of one, many," then Vice President Gore said in 1994. Today, it seems all are touting their separate identities to the exclusion of the many: blacks, Hispanics, Asians -- and yes, whites -- with members of each group blaming those of the others for whatever ill befalls them or what challenges they face.

This year's election has poured gasoline on the flames of racial and ethnic mistrust.  Hillary Clinton plays to her constituencies among minority voters and women, stirring fears that the Republican Party would turn back the clock to the Jim Crow era and deny equal pay for women. Donald Trump stokes resentment among whites that Mexicans and others are stealing their jobs and infesting their neighborhoods with crime.  Bernie Sanders plays a Marxist version of the divide and conquer game, using class as the dividing wall.

Each narrative diminishes the individual. We become nothing more than the color of our skin, our ancestry and our sex.  And even the latter is being sliced and diced into ever more exclusive identities based not on sex, but so-called gender: males, females, transgendered, cis-gendered, heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, questioning, etc. And the list will expand, no doubt, as some decide even species is a social construct.

But while it is easy enough to point to Black Lives Matter, feminists, gay rights activists or even the tiny Mexican irredentist movement as the source of the divisions, the infection has spread far beyond.  Sure, liberal college campuses are rife with such divisions, promoted in curricula and by radical faculty, but so, too, are Donald Trump rallies and the right-wing media.

This deeply troubles me, as someone who believed that the whole point of the Civil Rights movement and our anti-discrimination laws was to make such differences meaningless.  The point was to treat each person as an individual; to discriminate against no one on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion, or to grant any special preference on those factors either.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, people frequently asked me, "What are you?"  I was puzzled by the question, but my parents taught me to say, "I'm an American."  My answer often provoked more questions, and it was clear that being American didn't satisfy my interlocutors.  People rarely ask me that directly today, preferring instead to make assumptions that I find amusing.

I get lumped in as "a minority," regularly referred to as "non-white," and assumed to be of Mexican immigrant roots.  When pushed, I smile and point out that the only true immigrants in my family came from Ireland, mostly in the mid-19th Century, that my other ancestors came from England and Spain and were settlers in what is now the United States in the early 17th and 18th Centuries.

When the show "Finding Your Roots" profiled me in 2012, they discovered that 97 percent of my DNA is European, 51 percent of it Northern European -- a fact that would probably shock those who've assumed otherwise, but which I consider utterly irrelevant to who I am: a writer, a mother, a wife and, yes, an American.

What has come to bother me about such questions and misconceptions is that whoever is doing the asking or categorizing isn't seeing me, but the box in which they think I fit.  Today's politics are making matters much worse.  It's "us" against "them," and it occurs on both sides of the aisle.  The left blames "white privilege," while the right proclaims "America first," but isn't keen on having immigrants join "We, the people."

Until we get back to at least striving to become the one out of many that we once aspired to, we are likely to see greater animosity and divisions among the 320 million people who call America home. This is bad for individuals and even worse for our nation.

Euphemism of the Year?

Once upon a time, “juvenile delinquent” was a nice way to say “young criminal.”  As often happens, however, eventually even the euphemism is thought to be too harsh, and so a better one has to be found.  And so one has:  This Obama-administration press release last week talked a lot about “justice-involved youth.” 

Then, to top itself, the administration broadened the euphemism to include criminals of all ages, with Attorney General Lynch referring to “justice-involved individuals.”   

And then, after that, it continued still further in this vein last week, referring to “justice-involved Veterans.”  

After my noting it, the Washington Times picked up on this in an editorial this week, and other conservative sites have now noted it, too.

Law and Loyalty -- Last week the White House also released presidential proclamations for Law Day and Loyalty Day, each observed on May 1.  They are exactly what you would expect from this administration. 

The latter proclamation is not about loyalty at all, and the former is all about one of the Warren Court’s signature decisions, Miranda v. Arizona.  (For a different perspective on the Warren Court’s criminal justice jurisprudence in general, and the Miranda decision in particular, view this clip.)

The Bigger Problem -- In a New York Times op-ed over the weekend, the author asserts that Donald Trump’s “candidacy has brought prejudice into the open, and I’m glad” since it proves that racism is alive and well in America.  My response:

The fact is that there are racists out there, and the fact is that there are people out there who exaggerate the number of racists we have. No serious person thinks that racism has vanished from our country, and only a delusional person denies that the amount of racism in our country has declined dramatically in the past 50 years. The fact that there are some racists does not vindicate the claims of those who would like to believe that we suffer from "systemic racism," just as the fact that we have a black president doesn't prove that there is no longer any racism.

So how do we continue to make progress? We've made discrimination illegal in just about any activity, and racism is not socially acceptable in most circles, and that's all to the good. But the persistence of the racial disparities faced by African Americans is more a result of culture -- and particularly the catastrophic (71 percent) out-of-wedlock birthrate -- than of discrimination, and that has to be acknowledged and addressed, too.

Jayson Blair, Call Your Office  -- From the Washington Post:

"News industry leaders are forever proclaiming that diversity is an organizational priority. Such pronouncements usually come paired with apologies for having failed on this front in the past, along with vague plans to do better.

"New York Times Chief Executive Mark Thompson defied this tradition yesterday in a presentation before a gathering of managers on the business and news sides of the newspaper. He identified three areas toward which diversity efforts must be channeled: recruitment, hiring and promotion.

“Supervisors who fail to meet upper management's requirements in recruiting and hiring minority candidates or who fail to seek out minority candidates for promotions face some stern consequences: They'll be either encouraged to leave or be fired."

I commented:  "It's illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in recruiting, hiring, and promotion. Oh, and it's also unfair, divisive, inefficient, and immoral."  And:  "Oh, and remember Jayson Blair?"

Onion or Not? -- Well, yes, it’s an Onion article that’s titled, “College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea / Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint.”  But you have to admit that it’s hard to distinguish parodies from straight reporting on the higher ed beat.

Thank You Sperry Much -- Many thanks to Paul Sperry, for his recent New York Post op-ed titled, “You're now a racist if you say schools need to be safer.”  In it, he illuminates the Obama administration’s insane application of a “disparate impact” theory to school discipline. 

If a suspension policy does not consider a student’s race, is adopted with no racial intent, and is applied evenhandedly, then it’s not racial discrimination.  Period.  The “disparate impact” approach ignores this and is wrongheaded in all contexts, including this one.

The fact that a school has more suspensions for members of some racial groups than others is not racial discrimination:  It simply reflects the reality that some demographic have more members at some point in time who present discipline problems.  This, in turn, is because of disparities in culture and out-of-wedlock birthrates — again, not because of discrimination.

Finally, kudos to Mr. Sperry for blowing the whistle on those U.S. Senators who would increase the federal funding for this nonsense! 

The Republican Candidates and “Affirmative Action” – Finally, just a brief scorecard on the three remaining Republican candidates and their respective views on racial preferences.  Despite his anti-p.c. reputation, Donald Trump is on record this campaign as saying that he is “fine with affirmative action,” and he criticized Justice Scalia when the late justice raised the “mismatch” point at oral argument in the Fisher v. University of Texas case.  Likewise, last August, there were a number of news stories in which Ohio governor (and presidential hopeful) John Kasich crowed that the state’s minority contracting goal (read “quota”) had at long last been achieved.   But Ted Cruz said earlier this year in this context that the focus should be on merit, not race.  Just saying.

Sorry, No Blacks Allowed

That was the reason given by a St. Louis-area public school system for refusing to allow a black student to attend a school that he would have been allowed to go to had he been any other color. This discrimination was justified by a desire to achieve the right racial mix in public schools. So there you have it: Politically correct diversity trumps individual rights and educational opportunity.  Read all about it here.

More on Race-Based Decision-Making in Education: 

There have been a couple of newspaper pieces in the last week that make the (dubious) case for hiring fewer white teachers:  “Black teachers steer black students to gifted programs” in USA Today, as well as “We need a diverse teaching force” in the Washington Post.  But, just as it is wrong to deny a black student a spot at a school because of his race, so it is wrong to hire teachers with an eye on race. 

The USA Today article says that a new study show that black teachers are more likely to recommend black students for gifted programs than white teachers are.  But of course the possibility is not considered that perhaps it is black teachers who are biased in favor of black students, not white teachers who are biased against them.  In any event, it would not make sense to solve any bias problem by giving less-qualified teachers of one race a preference over more-qualified teachers of another race (that point, which is not only true as a matter of policy but mandatory as a matter of law, goes to the Washington Post piece, too).  The better solution is to demand that all teachers avoid bias and train them to do so.

A Short Bathroom Break: 

As a public service, the Center for Equal Opportunity prints here the relevant text of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments of 1972: 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance ….” 

So the question to bear in mind as you read various news stories these days is whether, if it is permissible to have male and female restrooms (as all agree that it is), the quoted language means — and was meant in 1972 to mean —  that is illegal to define male and female in biological terms.


According to this news story from the Washington Times, Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Adviser, gave a commencement speech last week in which she said “there are too many white people in key government posts, endangering national security because they think alike.” 

Well!  I’m prepared to believe that it is a good thing to have different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences available among our decision-makers and analysts, but there are two obvious problems with looking at this issue the way that Susan Rice does — and these problems have nothing to do with her race or sex, since there is little doubt her view is shared by her current boss (President Obama, who is not female) and her long-time ally (Secretary Clinton, who is not black). 

First, it makes no sense to use skin color as a proxy for a person’s perspective, background, or experience:  Most whites are not rich Ivy Leaguers, and many nonwhites are.  Second, it is very dangerous to lower qualifications in national security positions in order to achieve a predetermined racial and ethnic mix.

No matter.  To quote a news story in the Washington Post, the administration is considering the adoption of some version of “the Rooney Rule” at the Pentagon with regard to “minority candidates for prestigious jobs, such as aide-de-camp and military assistant.” 

The Post article rightly notes that there may be legal problems with this, though.  Here’s my comment on a recent USA Today column, “3 Ways the NFL Can Boost Minority Coaches”:

Most of what the op-ed argues for is the application and expansion of the “Rooney Rule,” which requires that at least one minority be interviewed whenever there is a vacancy in a particular position.  But there’s a big problem with the Rooney Rule:  It’s illegal.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in private employment. The statute covers hiring, of course, and also makes it illegal for an employer to “classify his . . . applicants for employment” in a way that denies equal treatment on the basis of race.

It might be objected that there’s no harm here, since it’s only requiring an additional interview. But suppose the shoe were on the other foot, and the requirement was that at least one white candidate always be interviewed. Would that fly?

And there will be harm. Suppose that a team normally narrows the field to four candidates and then interviews them. If it keeps this rule, then if you’re white candidate number four, you’re out of luck, because now you have to make way for the minority interviewee. Suppose the team decides to interview a fifth candidate instead. Well, the minority coach who was the tenth choice now leapfrogs over white candidates six, seven, eight, and nine — all out of luck because they are the wrong color. And, of course, if the minority candidate is hired, then one of the white finalists — the one who would have gotten the job otherwise — is out of luck, too.

No Rest — Not Even on Mother’s Day — for Social Justice Warriors: 

Even the President’s annual Mother’s Day proclamation has to be used to advance the cause of political correctness.  From the first paragraph:  “Regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status, mothers have always moved our Nation forward and remained steadfast in their pursuit of a better and brighter future for their children.”  From the second paragraph:  “For generations, mothers have led the charge toward a freer, more inclusive country -- embracing the task of ensuring our Nation upholds its highest ideals so that they, and America's daughters, know the same opportunities as America's fathers and sons.”  And then in the third paragraph there’s a tendentious reference to the dubious “gender pay gap.”   

Trump's 'America First' Movement

Indiana's upcoming primary may well determine the fate of not only the GOP presidential nomination but the party itself. Donald Trump's sweeping victories in the five primaries last Tuesday was a sober wake-up call that the party of Ronald Reagan is no more. If Trump wins a majority in Indiana, as well, it will be nearly impossible to stop him from winning the Republican nomination. Already, major "mainstream" Republicans are jumping on his bandwagon, including two House chairmen this week: Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. But Trump's winning the Republican nomination will doom the party as we've known it for much of the past 40 years.

Trump represents a repudiation of the Republican Party's commitment to smaller government, free trade and an internationalist foreign policy. On the latter, Trump gave his first major policy address this week in Washington. Though it was short on specifics, vacuous and self-contradictory, the overall theme of his speech made clear where his instincts lie. He is first and foremost a nationalist, one who would fit in comfortably with Marine Le Pen's National Front in France, the Danish People's Party or the Freedom Party of Austria -- all populist, anti-immigrant, nationalist movements.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to his campaign thus far. His strategy, articulated in every speech from his presidential announcement to his latest rally, has been to appeal to whites who feel left behind economically and overwhelmed culturally and demographically. "Make America Great Again" means keeping foreigners out, reserving American jobs for the American-born, punishing our more "cunning" trading partners -- especially Mexico and China -- building walls and withdrawing from foreign alliances and wars.

This brand of American nationalism is not new. Trump's "America First" slogan is a throwback to the pre-World War II movement against U.S. entry into the war. The America First Committee, whose most famous member was aviator and Adolf Hitler admirer Charles Lindbergh, argued that the United States should build an impregnable defense but stay out of the war in Europe -- a position that was, in the late 1930s, highly popular with the American people. By the time the America First Committee officially formed in September 1940, Nazi Germany had already swallowed Austria, invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and France and launched an air war against Britain.

Most commentators have assumed that Trump's "America First" theme was accidental, that he didn't know its origins. Maybe. He is, after all, the least literate presidential aspirant in recent memory. But it doesn't really matter if he knows what the America First Committee was. Trump's speeches, including the prepared text he read at The National Interest this week, sound eerily similar to, if less articulate than, a speech Lindbergh delivered in New York in April 1941.

Lindbergh claimed, "The America First Committee has been formed to give voice to the people who have no newspaper or newsreel or radio station at their command, to the people who must do the paying and the fighting and the dying if this country enters the war." Lindbergh promised, "There is a policy open to this nation that will lead to success -- a policy that leaves us free to follow our own way of life and to develop our own civilization." He said he spoke for "the citizens who ... had to work too hard at their daily jobs to organize political meetings." He argued: "We must turn our eyes and our faith back to our own country before it is too late. And when we do this, a different vista opens before us."

The America First movement collapsed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The United States joined the war against the Axis, sent troops, ships and planes to Europe, as well as to the Pacific, and defeated Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito.

The United States emerged from the war as a superpower that would lead the economic and political transformation of much of Western Europe and parts of Asia.

Now Donald Trump wants to channel Charles Lindbergh to build walls around a fortress America, whose civilization he promises to protect from "criminals, drug dealers (and) rapists" from Mexico and elsewhere. This is not a recipe to make America great again but its opposite. And if he succeeds in capturing the Republican nomination, he will turn the GOP into a fringe nationalist movement that will polarize American politics unlike anything we have seen before.

Hobson's Choice

Paul Ryan's decision not to quickly endorse presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will inevitably leave a substantial number of Republicans unhappy. He may yet do so, but the person to blame for Ryan's reluctance is Trump.

This week alone the Trump camp has made two disastrous decisions that imperil the GOP. First, Trump surrogate Sarah Palin threatened she'd work to unseat Ryan in his home district, where Ryan faces a primary challenge. Talk about loose cannons and collateral damage. Then Trump announced that he is not going to release his tax returns anytime soon, despite previous pledges to do so.
The latter decision should be a warning to everyone that Trump has something to hide. Mitt Romney mused, "There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: There is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size."

Trump's entire success in this campaign has been to claim he is a self-made billionaire whose business acumen will "Make America Great Again," a phrase he's gone to the trouble to trademark. But his tax returns are probably the nearest we will ever come to knowing how successful he has actually been. Many analysts who've looked into his finances claim he's far less rich than he lets on.
Trump claims he's worth over $10 billion (that's more than a billion higher than he claimed earlier in the campaign), but many experts who have looked at his financial disclosures assume it is far less, some even claiming he may only be worth a billion or two -- not exactly chump change but not the huge fortune Trump brags about.

If Trump is worth what he says, most Americans would assume he pays hefty taxes and his rates exceed those of the throngs who attend his rallies. But that may be the problem Trump is hiding. The folks waiting in line to see their hero might not appreciate it if they find out he pays little or no taxes while he flies around in a private 757-200 and lives in gilded Trump Towers and Mar-a-Lago.
No law requires Trump to release his taxes, but every candidate in recent memory has done so -- and the sooner the better. Frankly, it's amazing that he has not been forced by public opinion and media hounding to do so before virtually locking up the nomination. No doubt he thinks he can stonewall through the election. But that is a very dangerous path for the American public.

What happens if Trump actually gets elected? The vast wealth he claims could present enormous conflicts of interest. Will he put all his holdings in a truly blind trust and turn over complete control of his companies to disinterested parties? He's suggested that his children will run his businesses, as they are doing during the campaign, but that is hardly an ethical decision if he becomes president. How could we ever know that Ivanka or Donald Jr. or Eric weren't taking directions from Dad? Eric recently claimed on "The Kelly File" on Fox News that he and his siblings were his father's most trusted advisers. Would they be kept out of the Oval Office in order to ensure no conflicts arise?

Appointees to high-level offices are vetted far more thoroughly than the presidential candidates. Most turn over extensive financial filings, which are examined by forensic accountants for discrepancies and to insure that they have paid all taxes -- federal, state and local, as well as withholding taxes on employees. The FBI does a thorough search through the nominee's background, going back to childhood; even the nominee's family undergoes scrutiny. On penalty of perjury, nominees must swear that everything they tell investigators is true. Former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros pleaded guilty to lying to FBI officials about payments he'd made to a woman with whom he was having an affair and had to resign his post, as well as pay a fine.

Imagine what such an investigation would turn up on Trump, whose many scandals have been tabloid fodder for decades.

Speaker Ryan is right to say he has to get to know Trump better before jumping on his bandwagon. Would that the voters got to know more about him as well -- but nothing so far in this crazy campaign has suggested it matters to his most ardent supporters.

Toilets and the Politics of Gender

The name Curt Schilling wasn't familiar to me before ESPN decided to fire the sports commentator and former Major League Baseball pitcher for making allegedly "transphobic" comments on Facebook. For the record, I believe an employer has the right to restrict an employee's public speech if the employer believes that it reflects badly on the company. The First Amendment restricts only the power of the government to impose certain limits on free speech, and last I checked, ESPN was a private corporation.

That being said, the Schilling incident raises important questions. Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them -- namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?

Schilling's offense was to comment on a crude, disgusting photograph posted on Facebook showing a supposedly transgender female with this caption: "Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you're a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!" In response, Schilling posted, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don't care what they are, who they sleep with, men's room was designed for the penis, women's not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic."

The incident only amplifies the furor raised when North Carolina enacted a law restricting public restroom and locker room use to individuals based on their birth sex. The state now faces boycotts by entertainers, sports franchises and state governments.

Let's remember that what is at issue here is public behavior, not private, but behavior that also involves an individual's right to privacy in some of the most intimate acts he or she undertakes.

When I go to the gym, do I have the right to expect that I will only see other female bodies showering and dressing and that only other biological females will see me doing those things? If a man is standing at a public urinal, does he have the right to expect that everyone who enters has the same biology? Isn't there an implicit expectation of privacy in these settings?

At my local YMCA, a sign outside the women's dressing room cautions that boys older than 6 are excluded, and I have never seen an adult male take a female child of any age into the men's dressing room. A family dressing room is available, which presumably offers privacy for those who can't meet the parameters. A similar accommodation could be made for transgender individuals, but the LGBT community has rejected this compromise.

No doubt many Americans' aversion to sharing toilet facilities with people of the opposite sex is cultural. The first time I went to Paris as a young woman, I was astounded when I discovered that men and women shared the same bathroom, albeit with stalls that provided maximum privacy. It was awkward for me as an American woman to stand next to a male stranger while washing my hands after answering nature's call. And most American restrooms aren't set up like unisex European facilities, with only stalls or single toilet rooms and full doors.

It doesn't make anyone a bigot not to want to share bathroom and dressing functions with those who are not of the same sex. The LGBT community insists that "gender" is different from sex and that individuals have the right to choose how they wish to identify in terms of gender. But hormone treatments and plastic surgery do not, in fact, change men into women or women into men.

Transgender individuals should be treated with dignity, as all human beings should. They should be accorded the right to call themselves whatever they wish, and politeness requires that the rest of us should accord them the courtesy of complying. But when their right to self-identification comes up against others' right to privacy, we need to find a resolution that accommodates both interests in the public square.

We can honor the needs of a minority -- a very small one indeed -- without trampling the privacy rights of the great majority. A few unisex bathrooms and private dressing rooms in big institutions would solve the problem without much fuss. But this is not about problem-solving; it's about abandoning nature in favor of the politics of gender.