The Reagan Years - Rex Lee - Solicitor General - 1983

The Reagan Years - an interview with Rex Lee, Solicitor General in the Reagan Administration - one of the New Conservatives and the one behind many attempted Supreme Court reversals in 1983.

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Granted, every administration comes in with an agenda and the appointed troops to carry that out. The Reagan Administration was no different. But the agenda during the Reagan years appeared to be more bent on dismantling what had already been in place and what had, for the most part worked, in exchange for an almost wholesale desire to turn back the hands of time. Rex Lee, a Reagan appointee to the position of Solicitor General carried a whole bag of reversals with him. As a member of that generation of New Conservatives as well as a Mormon background, it was his job to argue, question and dismantle as much legislation adopted from previous administrations as possible. And of course, all under the guise of compassion . . .of a kind.

Rex Lee: “The mere fact that one administration does reach a different conclusion, with respect to the merits of busing, has nothing to do with that administrations commitment to civil rights. Let me just say this – as Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles put it; most parents, whatever their color and whatever their background, simply don’t want their children being bused across town, back and forth, to school. There are at least two reasons that busing, wholly aside from any racial considerations, simply is not a good idea, educationally. One is that it chews up the prime time that should otherwise be available for school work and for homework. And the second is, that it eliminates the opportunities for parents to be involved in the educational process. Neither of those has anything to do with race.”

Robert Schakne (CBS News): “Your criticism of policies such as busing suggest that the courts, which established those policies were in error. Are you saying in effect that the judges who’ve been making these rulings, many of whom were appointed of course by Democrats, have been too liberal. That there’s a need for change in the composition of the courts?”

Lee: “What we’re really saying Mister Schakne, is this; that a couple of decades of experience have now taught us some things. The courts did the best job that they could with the information they had available to them. They always do, on a case to case basis when the matters come before them. It would be irresponsible government not to call to the court’s attention, on a continuing basis, updated information, new experience, new understanding that we have on the basis of what we’ve learned since those decisions came down.”

No end of fascination, this history of ours.

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