“Adegbile’s Denied Confirmation Is Affront To Our Principles”: A Handful Of Democrats Help Launch The Explosives
Last week, the floor of the U.S. Senate was the scene of a bipartisan travesty, an affront to the principles of the Constitution, an assault on the notion of American exceptionalism. With the help of several Democrats, Republicans refused to confirm Debo P. Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.
The GOP’s resistance was expected since its senators oppose every nominee the president puts forward. But this time, Adegbile’s new job was torpedoed because a handful of Democrats stepped forward to help launch the explosives. They found objections in Adegbile’s résumé, despite his impeccable credentials, sterling reputation and years of advocacy in the causes associated with civil rights.
Indeed, it is precisely that advocacy that led to the assault on his qualifications. His alleged misstep? Adegbile, a lawyer, was tangentially involved in filing a court challenge on behalf of a former Black Panther named Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Adegbile was litigation director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it filed a brief contesting the jury-sentencing instructions, an argument which resulted in commutation of Abu-Jamal’s sentence from death to life in prison in 2012.
That process is embedded in decades of case law. Defense attorneys are supposed to vigorously represent accused criminals — no matter the crimes with which they have been charged, no matter their guilt or innocence, no matter how radical their demeanor or vile their behavior — especially in capital cases.
Among the people who ought to understand that is Pennsylvania’s senior Democratic senator, Bob Casey. If he had any decency, any gumption, any courage, Casey would have helped to smooth Adegbile’s path.
He would have noted that American justice rests on the idea that each person stands equally before the bar, a credo that cannot be upheld without defense attorneys for the accused. The senator might have pointed out that in the U.S. armed forces, even the most heinous criminals are represented by competent defense counsel. And he might have reminded Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police that Adegbile did not spare Abu-Jamal’s life. A federal court did so because it agreed that instructions to the jury were unconstitutional.
Instead, Casey led the Democratic opposition. He explained his refusal to support the nominee with this statement:
“I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime. (But) it is important … citizens … have full confidence in their public representatives — both elected and appointed. The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the city of Philadelphia.”
That statement is confusing, contradictory and just plain dumb. Casey will ignore the system of law because of the awful grief borne by Maureen Faulkner? I cannot begin to imagine what her family has endured since her husband was gunned down shortly before his 26th birthday, but we don’t allow the anguish of families to dictate justice. If we did, they could serve as jurors, judges and executioners. But that wouldn’t be any different from a lynch mob, would it?
Similarly, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) explained his stick-in-the eye to Adegbile by speaking of the pain endured by the Faulkner family, even while acknowledging that “an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client.” That wasn’t as outlandish as the rhetoric from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who claimed that Adegbile was “seeking to glorify an unrepentant cop-killer,” but it was a non sequitur.
In this shameful episode, the person who best represented American values was Adegbile, the son of a Nigerian father and an Irish immigrant mother. He clearly puts more faith in the fundamental principles of his homeland than the 52 senators who voted against him.
By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, March 8, 2014
“Something Very Twisted Instead”: Straightforward? Not The Best Description Of Chris Christie, Or His Pal Karl Rove
When Karl Rove praises a politician’s “straightforward” approach to an erupting scandal, it seems wise to expect that something very twisted will instead emerge in due course – and to consider his real objectives.
In this instance, the former Bush White House political boss – and current Republican SuperPAC godfather – was discussing Chris Christie’s response to “Bridgegate,” as the events surrounding the vengeful closure of part of the George Washington Bridge by the New Jersey governor’s aides is now known.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Rove said that Christie “did himself a lot of good” during the famous two-hour press conference on the scandal, when he sorrowfully announced the firing of a deputy chief of staff and a top state party official, for “lying” to him about the bridge affair.
“I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some Tea Party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility,” said Rove. Pandering to the Fox audience, he went on to contrast the righteous Christie with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Barack Obama, and to note that the IRS and Benghazi “scandals” hadn’t gotten nearly enough attention compared with Bridgegate.
While Rove sticks a halo on the man his old boss Dubya used to call “Big Boy,” everyone else might want to wait for the documents and testimony forthcoming from investigations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, in both houses of the New Jersey legislature, in the Department of Justice and in the United States Senate.
Observers dazzled by Christie’s press conference performance should perhaps ask themselves how his top aides managed to pursue this scheme – evidently in revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee, the New Jersey commuter town so badly damaged by the closing of traffic lanes – under his nose.
They might ask why the governor continued to believe, as he says he did, that the controversial action resulted from a “traffic safety study” for almost a month after the Port Authority’s top executive and two other PA officials testified last December 9 that no such study ever existed.
They might further ask about the curious photograph published by the Wall Street Journal on January 14, showing Christie yukking it up in public with David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who ordered the lane closures at the behest of Bridget Anne Kelly, last September 11 — three days into the traffic crisis in Fort Lee.
And they might then ask why Christie insisted — at the endless press conference where his candor so impressed Rove — that he has had “no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election.”
Christie’s description of his supposedly distant relationship with Wildstein is only one among many of his claims of innocence that contradict either the public record or common sense — or both. While awaiting additional information from Wildstein and other potentially immunized defendants, however, it may be worth considering the history that links Christie to Rove – and why the Republican strategist is so enamored of the New Jersey governor.
Their relationship was first exposed during the Bush administration’s U.S. Attorneys scandal, when investigations of the gross political abuse of the Justice Department by the Bush White House clearly implicated Rove. Among the U.S. Attorneys cited as dubious political appointees was Christie, whose law partner, a top Bush fundraiser and Republican operative, had forwarded his résumé to Rove. Later, while still in the U.S. Attorney’s office – where he stage-managed a blatantly political election-year probe of Democratic senator Robert Menendez – Christie consulted with Rove about running for governor.
Christie is exactly the sort of presidential hopeful that a notorious bully like Rove prefers: a blustering loudmouth with a common touch; an experienced fundraiser who knows how to find the money; a Wall Street conservative capable of stirring up the base without scaring the independents. Without Christie as the GOP’s 2016 frontrunner, Rove has no plausible alternative to Tea Party hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz – and may see his own power, already waning, finally eclipsed.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 16, 2014
On the Internet, a troll purposely inflames anyone he can to attract attention to himself, in hopes of wasting everyone’s time and energy. In the Republican Party, a troll does the same thing and he becomes a hero of the far right and a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced on Monday that he had hired Paul Teller as his deputy chief of staff.
Teller — a favorite of outside conservative groups like Club for Growth — was swiftly fired from his position as executive director of the far-right Republican Study Committee in December after leaking conversations between House members.
Cruz’s new hire immediately won praise from Red State’s Erick Erickson, a leader in the movement to push the Republican Party further to the right by demanding continued standoffs in Congress and supporting primary challenges to incumbents, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) joined McConnell in speaking out against outside conservative groups in December, after several opposed the budget deal Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) negotiated with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). By hiring Teller, Cruz cements his allegiance with the groups who championed his effort to shut down the government over Obamacare, which he was able to pull off with the help of the House GOP’s so-called “suicide caucus,” many of whom are members of the Republican Study Committee.
Cruz’s willingness to spurn his party’s leaders represents just one trick in his impressive arsenal of trolling tactics.
The Harvard-educated lawyer, who argued in front of the Supreme Court nine times, recently published a 10,000-word article in the Harvard Law Review that speaks to one of the darkest fantasies of the Tea Party movement: How the United Nations is coming to take our golf courses.
The Daily Beast‘s Ben Jacobs points out that Cruz is artfully speaking to the fear of a world government, a fringe idea that’s surprisingly widespread among the Republican base. If he spoke about his concerns about the UN on network television, he would be deemed “wacky” or “wackier.” So instead, he’s presenting them in one of the most prestigious law journals in the world.
The senator’s immense intellect gives him the ability to frame his extremism in acceptable venues. And it also enables him to make convenient arguments against the president that serve his agenda but crumble under scrutiny.
In an attempt to brand Obama as “imperial,” Cruz attacked the president for ignoring federal law in effectively allowing Colorado and Washington state to legalize marijuana.
This critique raised the hackles of Jacob Sullum at Reason.com, who points out that the federal government has virtually never prosecuted personal marijuana use. The Department of Justice has retained the right to crack down at any time, something the senator decided not to point out. But for now, the DOJ has decided to use its “limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way” — as it always has.
But since Cruz lumped his concerns about marijuana legalization in with a screed against Obamacare, he knows that few in the audience he’s trying to reach will parse out what he’s saying.
The shutdown that the senator championed has led to new lows in popularity for the Republican Party.
However, a big chunk of the GOP’s unfavorable rating comes from the party’s base.
In a recent YouGov/Economist tracking poll, 37 percent of Republicans viewed the members of their own party unfavorably, compared to 10 percent of Democrats. Many Republicans believe the party actually gave up too soon in the government shutdown standoff. They want constant, unwavering opposition and charges of lawlessness against the president.
Essentially, they want the party to be made up entirely of Ted Cruzes.
We’ve been telling you about the remarkable descent of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) from Republican savior to Tea Party troll.
But Rubio’s problem is that compared to Cruz, he’ll always be a squish. He’s dabbled in bipartisanship and proposed “amnesty” for “illegals.” Even if the junior senator from Florida ultimately votes against his own bill, he’ll still be the kind of Republican Ted Cruz lives to crush, even if the senators agree on almost every conceivable issue.
This isn’t because Rubio is not intent on being disruptive or contentious or a “walking press release announcing a no vote.” It’s because he’ll always be in the shadow of a true master of the form.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, January 14, 2014
Pro-tip: When you win a big court case giving you the go-ahead to suppress voter turnout for your political opponents, don’t gloat about it.
That is surely one of the lessons in the remarkable news that the U.S. Department of Justice is challenging new voting-rights laws in Texas and elsewhere even after the Supreme Court ruling that eviscerated the part of the Voting Rights Act that the feds had relied on for decades to challenge voting restrictions. What made the ruling especially galling was the celebration that followed from Republicans in states, including Texas, who immediately vowed to proceed with voting restrictions that had been challenged under the now-undermined part of the VRA.
The alacrity with which Texas, North Carolina and other states have rushed to take advantage of the ruling seriously weakened the sober conservative argument, from Chief Justice John Roberts and others, that Southern states no longer needed to be singled out for special scrutiny because they had long since left their discriminatory ways behind. And it all but invited Attorney General Eric Holder to take this new step, to announce that his department would still do everything in its power to ensure fairness at the polls.
This will of course be decried as executive overreach and an assault on checks and balances, but the case for declaring it such would be much easier to make if Texas and other states hadn’t been so gleeful in their rush to capitalize on the ruling. Texas takes the cake for the speed of its response, but North Carolina surely takes the prize for sheer brazenness: The legislation making its way through Raleigh is so extreme that it earned even a tut-tut from arch-conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore. The legislation will not only add a strict Voter ID requirement by the polls, but reduce early voting days from 17 to 10 (early voting has been used disproportionately by African-Americans in the state), prohibit counties from extending polling hours in extraordinary circumstances, like unusually long lines, and eliminate provisional ballots for voters who show up at the wrong precinct, among other changes. A separate bill seeks to give a tax penalty to parents whose dependent children register to vote somewhere in the state other than where the parents reside, a nifty way to discourage voting by college students.
What impact would the changes have? My colleague Nate Cohn, who has generally warned against over-reaction on voter suppression measures, ran the numbers and found that the Voter ID provision alone could swing enough votes to win the state for Republicans in a close statewide election—and that’s not accounting for the early voting cutbacks and other changes. The New York Times has declared North Carolina “first in voter suppression,” a judgment quoted approvingly by election-law expert Rick Hasen, also not one prone to overstatement.
Holder is now, essentially, using the giddy brazenness of the voting-restriction push in these states to justify federal challenges even in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. Under the “pre-clearance” provision in Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act that was eviscerated by the ruling, a whole swath of states and municipalities, mostly in the South, had to submit voting law changes to the feds for approval as a matter of course. Holder is now threatening to use a different part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 3, which allows the federal government to demand pre-clearance rights by “bail-in.” As the Times puts it, if “the department can show that given jurisdictions have committed constitutional violations, federal courts may impose federal oversight on those places in a piecemeal fashion.” In other words, if the states’ recent track record on voting rights is sufficiently egregious, they may still need federal approval.
That is not to say, though, that the Supreme Court ruling was not enormously consequential. It will be much harder for the federal government to press its case by the Section 3 route. And whether the DOJ decides to make the effort to move against states will depend even more on which party holds the White House. As South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley boasted when I saw her on the stump in Greenville with Mitt Romney in early 2012, whereas the Obama administration had challenged her state’s stringent new Voter ID law, “President Romney [will say] that’s our right.”
By: Alec MacGillis, Senior Editor, The New Republic, July 26, 2013
“Public Ninth Amendment Fund?”: Ohio PAC, “We’re Buying George Zimmerman A New Gun And We Need Your Help”
The Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio-based political action committee, has issued a startling statement in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial: “We’re buying ZIMMERMAN a NEW GUN – We need your help.”
The PAC is in fact not just buying Zimmerman a new gun, but asking the public for donations — “$100 … $50 … $25 … even just $10” – to fund the replacement of his “firearm, holster, and other gear.”
The statement even reminds readers that Zimmerman – who stood trial for the fatal shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida – has “no current source of income.”
And last week, conservative author Brad Thor used Twitter to say that he would buy Zimmerman a new gun and “as much ammunition as he wants.”
The offers come after both Thor and the pro-gun group expressed their disagreement with the Department of Justice’s decision to put a hold on all evidence in the case, including the gun that he used to kill Martin, until it can determine whether or not to charge Zimmerman with violating Martin’s civil rights.
The Buckeye Firearms Foundation has now established what it calls the “Zimmerman Second Amendment Fund,” arguing that the fund is “about more than mere principle. …Gun owners must stand together and refuse to allow an injustice like this to go unanswered.”
The article also adds: “Zimmerman and his family now face daily threats on their lives. More than ever, he has a right to defend himself against those who would seek to do him harm.”
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “Public Ninth Amendment Fund” to protect those of us who have to share the streets with a gun-toting murderer while still being told we have the right to life.
By: Elissa Gomez, The National Memo, July 22, 2013