Columnist, polemicist, and anti-union ideologue, Linda Chavez withdrew her nomination for secretary of labor in Bush II on January 10 when it became public that in the early nineties, she had taken in an abused Guatemalan woman, an illegal immigrant, and housed her for two years-an altruistic act, apparently one of many. We pondered: Right action for wrong reason? Wrong action for right reason? None of the above?

Certainly other Republicans have done as much as Chavez to help others, and Democrats have too. Many churches in the eighties and nineties offered sanctuary to Central Americans fleeing the violence of war and revolution. However, as we recall, the Reagan and Bush I administrations did not regard the sanctuary movement as altruistic, but pursued and prosecuted people who supported sanctuary. Nor were they always decent to their political opponents, recall Lee Atwater, Bush I campaign strategist. To be sure, Democrats retaliated in kind during the nomination of Clarence Thomas.

Thus Chavez’s remarks on her withdrawal were both ironic and sobering. Playing, as she has, the role of both protagonist and victim, she deplored "the politics of personal destruction," and went on to lament the ordeal of the nominating process: "So long as the game in Washington is a game of search and destroy, I think we will have very few people who are willing to do what I did, which was to put myself through this in order to serve." It’s too bad she didn’t break this circle of destructiveness by urging that her act of personal generosity toward the oppressed be reflected in public policy.

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