WASHINGTON -- Fearing the fallout of a major political battle, President Clinton Thursday withdrew his embattled nomination of Lani Guinier to head the Justice Department's civil rights division.
Clinton, appearing on national television to announce his decision, said he had not read Guinier's writing before he nominated her. 'In fairness to her, I wish I had. Had I read them before I nominated her, I would not have done so.'
He said that some of her writings 'clearly lend themselves to views' he does not share on civil rights.
'Had I known the intense controversy this nomination would inspire, I would not have asked her to go through this ordeal,' Clinton said.
Even so, Clinton, with a hard edge in his voice, said, 'I do not agree to all the attacks on her... she has been subject to vicious attacks.'
The retreat ended days of intense speculation fueled by the White House that Guinier's confirmation was doomed because hearings in the Senate would soil relations with key lawmakers and jeopardize passage of Clinton's budget, which awaits Senate action.
In the end, the White House, in its renewed attempt to preach centrist politics, determined that Guinier's opponents won the public relations contest and the fight by successfully tagging her with the prejorative 'quota queen' label.
One aide said Clinton called the late Thursday meeting 'to give (Guinier) a real genuine last consultation.'
The official held out the possibility that Guinier could somehow convince Clinton that she should have her day before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was badly bloodied by the fight over the Clarence Thomas hearings for the Supreme Court post two years ago.
'It's her one last chance to make her case. He wants to hear from her,' the official said.
But the late meeting appeared to be more style than substance, with officials saying that in reviewing her writings Clinton himself recognized that Guinier's nomination would fail.
Climaxing a day in which Guinier's supporters tried to salvage her nomination,officials added that Clinton had 'reached the conclusion' that he could not pursue the nomination and expect to win.
'We don't need a floor fight on this,' said one official. 'It is very unlikely she would be confirmed.'