I guess the only way we’ll ever find out how many blacks have worked in the Bush administration is to wait for them to get in trouble someday so we can read the breathless, triumphant stories on the front page of The New York Times about a black Republican scofflaw. It’s amazing that anyone has ever heard of Condoleezza Rice — she’s never even been arrested for jaywalking.

Claude Allen, whom I first heard of this week, was a top adviser to President Bush for more than 4 1/2 years. Soon after Bush was elected in 2000, he made Allen the No. 2 official at the Department of Health and Human Services. Allen later became Bush’s domestic policy adviser, meeting with the president several times a week.

In 2003, Bush nominated Allen to a federal judgeship on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which nomination was then blocked by the party that wouldn’t exist without black votes. Deploying their usual strategy against black Republicans, Democrats raised questions about Allen’s “legal credentials”: Democrat-ese for “He’s black, so he’s probably not very smart.” Allen went to Duke Law School, where he was remembered fondly by law professor Walter Dellinger, later Clinton’s solicitor general.

During the entire time this talented, intelligent, magnificently conservative black man held high positions in the Bush administration, he was mentioned in only 11 articles in The New York Times. (A small part of Times Executive Editor Bill Keller dies every time the paper is forced to mention any black top officials in the Bush administration. It might remind people that the most highly placed black in the Clinton administration was his secretary, Betty Currie.)

But since Allen was accused of stealing from department stores a few weeks ago, the Times has mentioned him in seven articles — including a major front page article on Monday, coverage more appropriate to the first moon landing. This makes Allen the first black alleged thief whose photo has ever appeared in The New York Times.

Allen isn’t even working for the Bush administration anymore. Yet the Times is wallowing in his agony. I’ve never seen people enjoy another person’s private pain so much — at least not since a prosecutor started investigating Rush Limbaugh for taking too many back pain pills.

Let me be the first to say: Congratulations, Mr. Allen! The New York Times really hates you. Welcome to my world. We’re so happy to have you in our club.

I’m not shocked by the information that Claude Allen is not without original sin. But it has to be said: He was pretty close.

Allen emerged from a tough neighborhood in Washington, D.C., to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then Duke Law School. He joined a “mostly white and liberal” fraternity, according to the Times, where he was adored — despite the fact that he didn’t drink, a major demerit at a fraternity — for his ability to get along with anyone. One fraternity brother told the Times that Allen was “always thoughtful and respectful of different opinions” — a trait that would come in handy for a black teetotaler living in a UNC frat house.

He became a born-again Christian at college and — the obvious next step — a Republican after college. These acts are known in the liberal rulebook as “strike two” and “strike three,” respectively. He explained leaving the party of his birth to become a Republican with eloquence: “I realized after the fact that I agree more with the Republican Party platform, that it talked about independence, that it talked about individual responsibility, individual rights, it talked about the ability to guarantee opportunities, not outcomes,” adding, “that was very much what my family stood for.”

He is married with four children, all of whom he home-schools. (Is there such a thing as strike four?) So he was already the moral equivalent to a Ku Klux Klanner in liberal eyes. Wait, no, if he were a former Klanner, he’d be the Democratic senator from West Virginia. Let me rephrase that: He was already a meat-eating, God-fearing, patriotic American in liberal eyes.

Allen also worked for the sainted Jesse Helms, former senator from North Carolina. By now, the average liberal would need yoga and a Barbra Streisand album to calm down. After Helms’ 1984 Democratic opponent, James B. Hunt Jr., ran a TV commercial saying Helms was backed by “right-wing nuts,” Allen reacted by saying that if the Helms campaign was run by similar guttersnipes, they could say Hunt was backed by “queers.”

This week at The New York Times, it was revenge of the queers. I’m sorry it took a tough period in Allen’s life for The New York Times to feature him under a banner headline on its front page, but all in all, I’m glad to finally know about Claude Allen. I’m proud to have this great fellow sinner in our party.



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