Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, recent winner of the Medal of Honor, will not be able to fulfill his dream of becoming a New York City fireman.
As to why, an analogy might prove useful. Imagine it is 2012 and all-pro safety Troy Polamalu returns to the United States after leading the American football team to a gold medal in the Olympics.
Now a free agent, Polamalu wants only to play out his career as a New York Giant, but due to the Olympics, he has missed the free-agent filing deadline by 12 hours.
The federal judge overseeing the recruiting and hiring for the NFL would like to allow Polamalu an extension, but he is concerned whether extending the free-agent deadline will have an “adverse impact” on the diversity of the New York Giants.
As the judge explains, on the Giants 2011 53-man roster there were no Asian-Americans and only one Hispanic. The fact that Polamalu, a Samoan-American, comes from the most over-represented ethnicity in the NFL doesn’t help.
To encourage more recruits from “under-represented” minorities the judge has ruled that players need only bench press 150 pounds and that a 6.0 in the 40-yard dash would be quite OK, but the numbers have continued to fall short.
Still, wanting to accommodate this American hero, the judge asks the Giants to devise a new recruitment plan pronto for the extended free-agent window. The Giants prove unwilling or unable, and Polamalu rejects a one-person exemption just for himself.
Gloom settles over the metropolis. Giant fans burn owner John Mara in effigy, and the tabloids wail for weeks: “Giants, Courts Fumble Big Time.”
What Sgt. Meyer has faced is even more absurd. And although winning a war is arguably more important than winning the Olympics, there has, alas, been no outcry on his behalf.
There should be. In the way of background, in September 2009 the 21-year-old Meyer repeatedly drove his Humvee into an Afghanistan valley of death and rescued 36 of his fellow fighters.
Two years later, President Barack Obama presented Meyer with the nation’s highest military award. “In Sergeant Dakota Meyer, we see the best of a generation that has served with distinction through a decade of war,” said Obama.
Unfortunately, due to the Orwellian policies that the president’s DOJ promotes, “the best of a generation” will not be able to bring his distinctive qualities to bear on the Fire Department of New York.
The many demands put upon Meyer in the various award ceremonies did, in fact, cause him to miss the filing deadline for FDNY applications by 12 hours.
Working through an organization called Merit Matters and its attorney, Keith Sullivan, Meyer asked the federal judge overseeing FDNY’s court-ordered recruitment plan to extend the application deadline.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis was open to extending it – he had earlier extended the deadline to encourage recruitment at a Harlem festival – but he demanded that the city provide a detailed plan as to how it would notify potential applicants.
When the city responded indifferently, Garufis ruled that an open extension would have a “disparate impact” on targeted minorities and so rejected it. He was, however, willing to make an exception for Meyer.
From the beginning, Meyer made it clear he would not accept a one-person exemption. He proved true to his word. Midnight Tuesday was deadline for him to file, and he chose not to.
“I am appreciative of all the support I received from the people in New York City,” said Meyer. “I will return in four years to take the test and hopefully one day serve the people of that fine city as a firefighter.”
Merit Matters president, FDNY Deputy Chief Paul Mannix, explained that New York is hardly alone in having to decipher these Byzantine race and gender rulings.
He cited as example Dayton, Ohio, which has endured an extensive and expensive battle with the Department of Justice.
As ordered, Dayton hired the best firm in the land and created new tests designed to increase representation among under-represented groups, women included.
Dayton submitted the proposed tests to the DOJ and met with no objection. After the test results came back, however, the DOJ howled.
Wrote DOJ Senior Attorney Barbara Thawley, presumably with a straight face, “The United States has determined that the city’s proposed use of the written examination violates … the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Explained Thawley, “From what I know about the job, it seems very unlikely that an entry level firefighter would have to do much writing.”
The city of Dayton fired back, “All of our firefighters are either EMT or paramedics and do a lot of report writing.”
As Mannix told me, DOJ had also objected to reading tests because orders are given verbally on the scene of the fire. “I’m not making this stuff up,” he said more than once during the course of our conversation.
Dan Biddle, CEO of the company that designed the tests, was likewise “appalled to learn” that the DOJ had declared his tests invalid.
“Given that the only new information introduced after test administration was test scores and passing rates by race,” Biddle wrote, “it is not a difficult leap to conclude that the DOJ’s decision to contradict their prior position is driven solely by test scores and passing rates by race.”
Biddle described the Obama DOJ action as a “direct violation of Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.”
Indeed, two years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that city officials in New Haven, Conn., violated the Constitution when they “rejected the test results solely because the higher scoring candidates were white.”
As we have seen, however, the Constitution means much less to the man in the White House than it does to warriors like Dakota Meyer who have risked their lives defending it.