Commentary Magazine


Topic: attorney

Wife of Chinese Political Prisoner Gao Zhisheng Pleads for His Release

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

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Chris Christie’s Troubling Appointment

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has earned legions of fans with his take-no-prisoners style over the last year as he defied the unions and other entrenched interests in his drive to return his state to fiscal sanity. But while Christie has sought to silence the buzz about a possible presidential run, it appears that there might be a better reason to abandon this fantasy than his understandable reluctance: the governor has some explaining to do about his cozying up to an Islamist group in the state both before and after his election.

Christie’s decision to appoint attorney Sohail Mohammed to a state Superior Court judgeship has raised questions not only about his nominee’s record but also about the governor’s own stand. Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.

Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.” Read More

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has earned legions of fans with his take-no-prisoners style over the last year as he defied the unions and other entrenched interests in his drive to return his state to fiscal sanity. But while Christie has sought to silence the buzz about a possible presidential run, it appears that there might be a better reason to abandon this fantasy than his understandable reluctance: the governor has some explaining to do about his cozying up to an Islamist group in the state both before and after his election.

Christie’s decision to appoint attorney Sohail Mohammed to a state Superior Court judgeship has raised questions not only about his nominee’s record but also about the governor’s own stand. Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.

Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.”

Terror researcher Steve Emerson was quoted at the time as calling Christie’s involvement in the case “a disgrace and an act of pure political corruption,” especially since “I know for certain that Christie and the FBI had access to information about Qatanani’s background, involvement with and support of Hamas.”

Why would a man who was otherwise tasked as a U.S. attorney with defending America against such Islamists intervene on behalf of a Hamas supporter? The answer was obvious. Christie was already looking ahead to his race for governor against Corzine in 2009 and wanted the enthusiastic support of the state’s not-insignificant Muslim population. Christie’s record in the Qatanani case is a troubling chapter in his biography, and his willingness to further solidify his friendship with the American Muslim Union with his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to the court shows that his judgment on the issue of support for terrorism is highly questionable. If Christie’s name is mentioned again in the context of a presidential politics or even as a possible nominee for vice president, he is going to have to answer some tough questions about all this.

(Hat tip to Daniel Greenfield’s Sultan Knish blog)

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What Loughner’s Mental State Will Mean for His Trial

As more information trickles out to the media about the private life of Jared Loughner, it’s become apparent how severely unhinged and divorced from reality he was. Charles Krauthammer, a certified psychiatrist, noted yesterday that Loughner fits the textbook description of a paranoid schizophrenic, and he wasn’t the first commentator to reach that conclusion.

But what exactly will Loughner’s mental state mean for his trial? And how much of a chance is there that he’ll get a reduced sentence or not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity?

After John Hinkley was acquitted of shooting President Reagan by reason of insanity, it’s become much more difficult to mount that type of defense. At the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson sheds some light on the three-step process:

First, “you have to have a mental disease or defect—you have to qualify,” [attorney Robert Delahunt Jr.] explained. This is not as simple as it seems, he said, because someone “can be mentally ill and it’s not a disease or defect as diagnosed by experts.” Or, there could be disagreement between experts. There “can be something wrong with this guy, can have an anxiety disorder, one expert will say it is a mental defect, one expert will say it isn’t.” …

If a defendant can get past this first hurdle, the second thing is to prove that the mental defect was relevant to the action — that “it was a big deal in his decision-making; it was a significant influence; it was the predominant impulse governing his behavior, shaping his decisions,” Delahunt said, as opposed being just a “distraction.” …

[Third], it is important to note that the defense need only prove that the defendant was either unable to “conform” to societal standards, or that he or she was unable to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions.” One or the other is sufficient to raise the issue of insanity.

Attorneys Levinson spoke to noted that it’s extremely difficult to prove that a client meets all three requirements. These types of pleas are also problematic because they can imply an admission of guilt.

Of course, admitting guilt may not be a huge risk for Loughner’s defense team. Attorneys who spoke to the Washington Post said that his culpability is probably not going to be much of a question during the trial:

“Guilt is not the issue here. Everyone saw him do it; he was stopped there. There’s just no question,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a Fairfax County death penalty expert who defended Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. “The issue is his mental state, and the sole goal is to avoid the death penalty.”

And since the facts of the case aren’t widely disputed, it’s much more likely that Loughner’s defense team will use his mental illness in order to get a reduced sentence. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke — who opposes capital punishment — is known for helping her mass-murdering clients avoid the death penalty. According to the Post, Clarke will be sure to dig into the obscure details of her client’s life in an attempt to prove he was suffering from an extensive mental illness when he opened fire on the crowded political event. So get used to hearing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior once the trial gets underway.

As more information trickles out to the media about the private life of Jared Loughner, it’s become apparent how severely unhinged and divorced from reality he was. Charles Krauthammer, a certified psychiatrist, noted yesterday that Loughner fits the textbook description of a paranoid schizophrenic, and he wasn’t the first commentator to reach that conclusion.

But what exactly will Loughner’s mental state mean for his trial? And how much of a chance is there that he’ll get a reduced sentence or not-guilty verdict by reason of insanity?

After John Hinkley was acquitted of shooting President Reagan by reason of insanity, it’s become much more difficult to mount that type of defense. At the Daily Caller, Alexis Levinson sheds some light on the three-step process:

First, “you have to have a mental disease or defect—you have to qualify,” [attorney Robert Delahunt Jr.] explained. This is not as simple as it seems, he said, because someone “can be mentally ill and it’s not a disease or defect as diagnosed by experts.” Or, there could be disagreement between experts. There “can be something wrong with this guy, can have an anxiety disorder, one expert will say it is a mental defect, one expert will say it isn’t.” …

If a defendant can get past this first hurdle, the second thing is to prove that the mental defect was relevant to the action — that “it was a big deal in his decision-making; it was a significant influence; it was the predominant impulse governing his behavior, shaping his decisions,” Delahunt said, as opposed being just a “distraction.” …

[Third], it is important to note that the defense need only prove that the defendant was either unable to “conform” to societal standards, or that he or she was unable to “appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions.” One or the other is sufficient to raise the issue of insanity.

Attorneys Levinson spoke to noted that it’s extremely difficult to prove that a client meets all three requirements. These types of pleas are also problematic because they can imply an admission of guilt.

Of course, admitting guilt may not be a huge risk for Loughner’s defense team. Attorneys who spoke to the Washington Post said that his culpability is probably not going to be much of a question during the trial:

“Guilt is not the issue here. Everyone saw him do it; he was stopped there. There’s just no question,” said Jonathan Shapiro, a Fairfax County death penalty expert who defended Washington area sniper John Allen Muhammad. “The issue is his mental state, and the sole goal is to avoid the death penalty.”

And since the facts of the case aren’t widely disputed, it’s much more likely that Loughner’s defense team will use his mental illness in order to get a reduced sentence. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke — who opposes capital punishment — is known for helping her mass-murdering clients avoid the death penalty. According to the Post, Clarke will be sure to dig into the obscure details of her client’s life in an attempt to prove he was suffering from an extensive mental illness when he opened fire on the crowded political event. So get used to hearing about Loughner’s bizarre behavior once the trial gets underway.

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Civil Libertarians and the Arizona Shooting

Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:

“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”

Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.

“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”

The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.

Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.

So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?

Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”

But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”

Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:

“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”

Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.

“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”

The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.

Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.

So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?

Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”

But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”

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SPJ Executive Committee Recommends Renaming Helen Thomas Award

Yesterday, the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee voted in favor of renaming the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. But the decision isn’t yet binding — it still has to be approved by the full board of directors, which will vote on it within the next 10 days:

The recommendation issued Jan. 8 by the national journalists’ group, based on anti-Zionist remarks made by Thomas, will be sent to its board of directors within 10 days. The award will still be given, but without Thomas’ name.

“While we support Helen Thomas’ right to speak her opinion, we condemn her statements in December as offensive and inappropriate,” the executive committee said in making its recommendation.

On Dec. 2, in a speech to an Arab-American group in Dearborn, Mich., Thomas, 90, said that Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street “are owned by the Zionists.”  The remarks raised fresh concerns about the sincerity of an apology for her remarks last summer to a video blogger that Jews “should get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and the United States.

The executive committee’s decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Other institutions have already removed Thomas’s name from awards, so the SPJ can follow suit while avoiding too much controversy. On the other hand, if the organization had voted to keep the name on the award, there’s no way it would have been able to get past this incident quietly. The SPJ executive committee said this pretty unambiguously in its press release:

During robust debate on Saturday, the committee considered positions from those supporting Thomas’ right to free speech and those who considered her remarks unbecoming of an honor given by SPJ. The committee decided while both positions have merit, the best way to return the focus to SPJ’s important work would be to distance itself from the controversy now overshadowing this award.

“Let’s work on what unites us rather than what divides us,” Limor said.

This is an understandable position, and I assume the board of directors will vote in favor of the executive committee’s recommendation.

Of course, Thomas’s new employer doesn’t seem to share the SPJ’s aversion to controversy. The former White House correspondent was recently hired as a columnist by the Falls Church News-Press — an alternative-weekly paper in Northern Virginia — and the editor Nick Benton has vigorously defended his decision. Read More

Yesterday, the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee voted in favor of renaming the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. But the decision isn’t yet binding — it still has to be approved by the full board of directors, which will vote on it within the next 10 days:

The recommendation issued Jan. 8 by the national journalists’ group, based on anti-Zionist remarks made by Thomas, will be sent to its board of directors within 10 days. The award will still be given, but without Thomas’ name.

“While we support Helen Thomas’ right to speak her opinion, we condemn her statements in December as offensive and inappropriate,” the executive committee said in making its recommendation.

On Dec. 2, in a speech to an Arab-American group in Dearborn, Mich., Thomas, 90, said that Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street “are owned by the Zionists.”  The remarks raised fresh concerns about the sincerity of an apology for her remarks last summer to a video blogger that Jews “should get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and the United States.

The executive committee’s decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Other institutions have already removed Thomas’s name from awards, so the SPJ can follow suit while avoiding too much controversy. On the other hand, if the organization had voted to keep the name on the award, there’s no way it would have been able to get past this incident quietly. The SPJ executive committee said this pretty unambiguously in its press release:

During robust debate on Saturday, the committee considered positions from those supporting Thomas’ right to free speech and those who considered her remarks unbecoming of an honor given by SPJ. The committee decided while both positions have merit, the best way to return the focus to SPJ’s important work would be to distance itself from the controversy now overshadowing this award.

“Let’s work on what unites us rather than what divides us,” Limor said.

This is an understandable position, and I assume the board of directors will vote in favor of the executive committee’s recommendation.

Of course, Thomas’s new employer doesn’t seem to share the SPJ’s aversion to controversy. The former White House correspondent was recently hired as a columnist by the Falls Church News-Press — an alternative-weekly paper in Northern Virginia — and the editor Nick Benton has vigorously defended his decision.

“I’ve had no less than eight hours of personal one-on-one conversations with her since that happened,” Benton told the Washington Post. “She’s not bigoted or racist or anti-Semitic. She has her differences about foreign policy but you’re allowed that.”

According to the Post, Benton has been criticized by Jewish leaders in the past for publishing views that some believed bordered on anti-Semitism. “In 2004, his paper touched nerves with an editorial that some Jewish leaders complained suggested a Jewish cabal controlling U.S. foreign policy,” reported the Post.

The Post is likely referring to a 2004 column written by Benton, in which he endorsed the re-election bid of Rep. Jim Moran, who was running against “the well-financed campaign of a political neophyte, Alexandria attorney Andy Rosenberg.” Benton wrote that the election had become “about a cabal of powerful Washington, D.C., based interests backing the Bush administration’s support for rightwing Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s handling of the Middle East conflict trying to upend an outspoken and powerful Democratic opponent.”

It’s not exactly like telling Israeli Jews to go back to Germany, but with those editorial leanings, it sounds like Thomas will feel very much at home at the paper.

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Does the Army’s ‘No-Beard’ Rule Discriminate Against Jews?

A rabbi from Brooklyn is challenging the Army’s “no-beard” policy after his application to become a chaplain was rejected because of military rules against facial hair. The rabbi says the service is discriminating against religious Jews because it has waived the rule for other religions:

Menachem M. Stern’s lawsuit argues the Army is discriminating against him because it has waived the “no-beard” rule for several Sikhs and a Muslim, but not for him. Advocates hope the case, if successful, will pave the way for more bearded rabbis to become chaplains and minister to historically underserved Jewish soldiers.

“While they’re stalling me, they’re taking in other religions, for instance, Sikhs and Muslims with beards and turbans at the same time,” Stern said. “At that point, my question became, ‘Who says yes and who says no?’ It shows how in a great institution such as the Army, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

I can understand a general military rule against beards, but it’s surprising that the rules don’t carry an exception for chaplains, as Stern’s attorney points out:

“Even if the military thinks regular servicemen should be clean-shaven, clearly chaplains who are teaching religion are in a different category,” said Stern’s Washington attorney, Nathan Lewin. “If a rabbi wears a beard and a beard is after all traditionally associated with the Jewish faith, nobody’s going to take it as being some violation of military discipline. It just means the rabbi, like he puts a yarmulke on his head, is wearing a beard because that’s what’s religiously required of him.”

According to the article, there is only one Jewish chaplain with a beard in the Army. His beard was approved before 1986, so it’s apparently not subject to the current rules. The Army has also waived the no-beard rule at least four times over the past two years, for two Sikh officers, a Muslim intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and a Sikh enlisted soldier.

I suppose the Army might have had an urgent need to fill these four positions and granted facial-hair exceptions under those circumstances. And perhaps there isn’t a similar need for Jewish chaplains. Unless the Army is committing a blatant act of religious discrimination, those seem to be the most likely explanations.

A rabbi from Brooklyn is challenging the Army’s “no-beard” policy after his application to become a chaplain was rejected because of military rules against facial hair. The rabbi says the service is discriminating against religious Jews because it has waived the rule for other religions:

Menachem M. Stern’s lawsuit argues the Army is discriminating against him because it has waived the “no-beard” rule for several Sikhs and a Muslim, but not for him. Advocates hope the case, if successful, will pave the way for more bearded rabbis to become chaplains and minister to historically underserved Jewish soldiers.

“While they’re stalling me, they’re taking in other religions, for instance, Sikhs and Muslims with beards and turbans at the same time,” Stern said. “At that point, my question became, ‘Who says yes and who says no?’ It shows how in a great institution such as the Army, the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

I can understand a general military rule against beards, but it’s surprising that the rules don’t carry an exception for chaplains, as Stern’s attorney points out:

“Even if the military thinks regular servicemen should be clean-shaven, clearly chaplains who are teaching religion are in a different category,” said Stern’s Washington attorney, Nathan Lewin. “If a rabbi wears a beard and a beard is after all traditionally associated with the Jewish faith, nobody’s going to take it as being some violation of military discipline. It just means the rabbi, like he puts a yarmulke on his head, is wearing a beard because that’s what’s religiously required of him.”

According to the article, there is only one Jewish chaplain with a beard in the Army. His beard was approved before 1986, so it’s apparently not subject to the current rules. The Army has also waived the no-beard rule at least four times over the past two years, for two Sikh officers, a Muslim intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and a Sikh enlisted soldier.

I suppose the Army might have had an urgent need to fill these four positions and granted facial-hair exceptions under those circumstances. And perhaps there isn’t a similar need for Jewish chaplains. Unless the Army is committing a blatant act of religious discrimination, those seem to be the most likely explanations.

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The Three-Front Political War on ObamaCare

In an interview with Elizabeth Drew, Vin Weber, one of the brightest lights in the GOP, points out that repeal of President Obama’s health-care plan “was a central feature of almost every Republican who ran.”

Weber further observes that “they don’t want to stop fighting about it until the battle is over. The left base loves it even though they think it was inadequate; they, too, think it will take them to a single-payer system. It’s going to be trench warfare, as in World War I.”

Weber goes on to say (according to Drew’s characterization of his comments) that the Republicans’ plan is to

fight the health care bill on three fronts: in Washington, to cripple it by stripping away the funds to implement it; in the state capitols, where governors are resisting implementation on fiscal grounds; and in suits against it by state attorney generals, about twenty thus far, who have challenged in court, on constitutional grounds, the requirement that people buy insurance.

It is quite remarkable that an achievement of this magnitude, which after all is now encoded in law, is the subject of such a fierce, protracted political struggle. The reason is fairly simple, though: the GOP sees opposition to ObamaCare as not only merited on substance but also as a clear political winner — and based on the results of the 2010 midterm elections, that’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw.

In an interview with Elizabeth Drew, Vin Weber, one of the brightest lights in the GOP, points out that repeal of President Obama’s health-care plan “was a central feature of almost every Republican who ran.”

Weber further observes that “they don’t want to stop fighting about it until the battle is over. The left base loves it even though they think it was inadequate; they, too, think it will take them to a single-payer system. It’s going to be trench warfare, as in World War I.”

Weber goes on to say (according to Drew’s characterization of his comments) that the Republicans’ plan is to

fight the health care bill on three fronts: in Washington, to cripple it by stripping away the funds to implement it; in the state capitols, where governors are resisting implementation on fiscal grounds; and in suits against it by state attorney generals, about twenty thus far, who have challenged in court, on constitutional grounds, the requirement that people buy insurance.

It is quite remarkable that an achievement of this magnitude, which after all is now encoded in law, is the subject of such a fierce, protracted political struggle. The reason is fairly simple, though: the GOP sees opposition to ObamaCare as not only merited on substance but also as a clear political winner — and based on the results of the 2010 midterm elections, that’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

More European nations in trouble. “The debt crisis in Europe escalated sharply Friday as investors dumped Spanish and Portuguese bonds in panicked selling, substantially heightening the prospect that one or both countries may need to join troubled Ireland and Greece in soliciting international bailouts.”

More evidence that the IRS is targeting the hawkish pro-Israel group Z Street. Wouldn’t it be front-page news if J Street were asked if it supported Iran sanctions?

More reason to doubt that the Obami have a clue about what to do about North Korea. The State Department’s PJ Crowley tweets “SecClinton talked with Chinese FM Yang today and encouraged Beijing to make clear that North Korea’s behavior is unacceptable.” Is “unacceptable” really the strongest they can do? Or is “unacceptable” (as in “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable”) just diplomat-speak for “We’re sorry to see X happen.”

More criticism of Obama’s approach to Egypt. “The president and his secretary of state have brought up democracy and human rights in private conversations with Egyptian leaders but shied away from them in public. They have failed to make any connection between Mr. Mubarak’s domestic repression and the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid Egypt receives every year, much of it directed to the military. They have not supported efforts in Congress to pass legislation or even nonbinding resolutions linking bilateral relations to political reform.”

More defensiveness from Sarah Palin. Not helpful for a presidential contender. Dead-on for a conservative community organizer.

More nonsense from Tom Friedman. No, Tom, too much texting by American kids is not a bigger problem than North Korean nukes. Another example of not-very-smart liberal punditry.

More problems for Rahm Emanuel. “Through an odd chain of events, Mr. Halpin, a 59-year-old industrial real-estate developer here, has become the face of a movement to force Mr. Emanuel out of the race to become Chicago’s next mayor. A lawsuit filed with the Chicago Board of Election Commissions Friday by a Chicago attorney on behalf of two city residents charges that Mr. Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, is ineligible to run because he lost his Chicago residency when he rented his home to Mr. Halpin in 2009.” Really, wasn’t the entire race an excuse to get off the sinking White House ship?

More evidence that the GM bailout was no success for the taxpayers. The union? Well, that’s another story. “General Motors Co.’s recent stock offering was staged to start paying back the government for its $50 billion bailout, but one group made out much better than the taxpayers or other investors: the company’s union. Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.”

More European nations in trouble. “The debt crisis in Europe escalated sharply Friday as investors dumped Spanish and Portuguese bonds in panicked selling, substantially heightening the prospect that one or both countries may need to join troubled Ireland and Greece in soliciting international bailouts.”

More evidence that the IRS is targeting the hawkish pro-Israel group Z Street. Wouldn’t it be front-page news if J Street were asked if it supported Iran sanctions?

More reason to doubt that the Obami have a clue about what to do about North Korea. The State Department’s PJ Crowley tweets “SecClinton talked with Chinese FM Yang today and encouraged Beijing to make clear that North Korea’s behavior is unacceptable.” Is “unacceptable” really the strongest they can do? Or is “unacceptable” (as in “A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable”) just diplomat-speak for “We’re sorry to see X happen.”

More criticism of Obama’s approach to Egypt. “The president and his secretary of state have brought up democracy and human rights in private conversations with Egyptian leaders but shied away from them in public. They have failed to make any connection between Mr. Mubarak’s domestic repression and the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid Egypt receives every year, much of it directed to the military. They have not supported efforts in Congress to pass legislation or even nonbinding resolutions linking bilateral relations to political reform.”

More defensiveness from Sarah Palin. Not helpful for a presidential contender. Dead-on for a conservative community organizer.

More nonsense from Tom Friedman. No, Tom, too much texting by American kids is not a bigger problem than North Korean nukes. Another example of not-very-smart liberal punditry.

More problems for Rahm Emanuel. “Through an odd chain of events, Mr. Halpin, a 59-year-old industrial real-estate developer here, has become the face of a movement to force Mr. Emanuel out of the race to become Chicago’s next mayor. A lawsuit filed with the Chicago Board of Election Commissions Friday by a Chicago attorney on behalf of two city residents charges that Mr. Emanuel, the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, is ineligible to run because he lost his Chicago residency when he rented his home to Mr. Halpin in 2009.” Really, wasn’t the entire race an excuse to get off the sinking White House ship?

More evidence that the GM bailout was no success for the taxpayers. The union? Well, that’s another story. “General Motors Co.’s recent stock offering was staged to start paying back the government for its $50 billion bailout, but one group made out much better than the taxpayers or other investors: the company’s union. Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.”

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Performance and Politics

Chris Christie’s latest YouTube hit demonstrates the qualities that are defining his public persona and causing many a conservative to wonder whether he is “the guy” to take on Obama. (He insists he isn’t, but the conservative buzz about him has only grown.) In this clip, Christie methodically reels off a list of nonsense bills on which the New Jersey legislature has spent time, all the while ignoring major issues like property-tax relief and pension reform. Yes, what he is saying is important, but it is the how he is saying it that makes him a rising star.

His background as a U.S. attorney certainly comes through: the use of vernacular, the good humor, the methodical pacing. If the GOP wants to deliver some tough medicine in the next few years — on entitlement reform, spending discipline, etc. — they’d better find an appealing messenger and a down-to-earth manner of delivering the message.

Christie may actually mean what he says and may refuse to run. But the other 2012 contenders should take note. If you want to win an election and a mandate, you will need more than a clipboard and PowerPoint presentation. Politics is serious stuff, but it is also about performance. And with the exception of Sarah Palin, there isn’t any Republican contender for 2012 in sight who looks like he is having fun out there. There’s more to politics than a telegenic personality, a good sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic, but none of these qualities hurt. Republican voters should look for a suitably conservative message, but they will inevitably be swayed by the skill and appeal of the messenger himself.

Chris Christie’s latest YouTube hit demonstrates the qualities that are defining his public persona and causing many a conservative to wonder whether he is “the guy” to take on Obama. (He insists he isn’t, but the conservative buzz about him has only grown.) In this clip, Christie methodically reels off a list of nonsense bills on which the New Jersey legislature has spent time, all the while ignoring major issues like property-tax relief and pension reform. Yes, what he is saying is important, but it is the how he is saying it that makes him a rising star.

His background as a U.S. attorney certainly comes through: the use of vernacular, the good humor, the methodical pacing. If the GOP wants to deliver some tough medicine in the next few years — on entitlement reform, spending discipline, etc. — they’d better find an appealing messenger and a down-to-earth manner of delivering the message.

Christie may actually mean what he says and may refuse to run. But the other 2012 contenders should take note. If you want to win an election and a mandate, you will need more than a clipboard and PowerPoint presentation. Politics is serious stuff, but it is also about performance. And with the exception of Sarah Palin, there isn’t any Republican contender for 2012 in sight who looks like he is having fun out there. There’s more to politics than a telegenic personality, a good sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic, but none of these qualities hurt. Republican voters should look for a suitably conservative message, but they will inevitably be swayed by the skill and appeal of the messenger himself.

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Obama Justice Department Rocked

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.” Read More

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.”

Try as Democrats might to ignore the blockbuster evidence, Coates’s testimony was a game changer. Granted, the testimony contained information already revealed in conservative outlets and by former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams. But Coates confirmed these facts and added a wealth of new details. An African American attorney and his mother (who also works for DOJ) were harassed for working on a voting case brought against an African American defendant. Obama’s deputy assistant general for civil rights, Julie Fernandez, repeatedly told attorneys not to enforce Section 8 or bring cases against minority defendants. Coates’s supervisor, who directly ordered the case’s dismissal, told him to stop asking applicants if they could enforce laws in a race-neutral fashion. Coates briefed civil rights chief Thomas Perez on the hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of voting laws — before Perez feigned ignorance of such sentiments in sworn testimony. In sum, Coates’s appearance was the scandal’s tipping point.

Conservative outlets have reported on the case for over a year; mainstream reporters have averted their eyes. After Coates’s performance, the Washington Post’s page-one story proclaimed that the case is “ratcheting up.” Politico had pooh-poohed the story; it now acknowledges that conservatives had it correct all along. (“Coates’ highly-charged testimony before the Civil Rights Commission echoed [conservatives’] allegations, as well as the testimony of J. Christian Adams.”) The testimony was so stunning that the New York Times might have to cover it.

Meanwhile, the DOJ’s spokesman bristled that Coates wasn’t “authorized” to testify and wasn’t an “appropriate” witness. In a transparent coordination with Yaki, DOJ’s spokesman blamed the Bush administration for politicizing the department. But it will be impossible to shrug off or smear Coates. As the Post conceded, Coates’s testimony will “carry greater weight because he worked decades ago as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, has won awards from civil rights groups and lacks the partisan GOP resume of the department’s harshest opponents.”

Moreover, Coates testimony was all the more compelling because he was so circumspect, refusing to testify about internal discussions that the department considers privileged. (He readily agreed to provide more details if the DOJ waived its privilege claim.) He declined to draw inferences unsupported by his own observations. Asked whether Obama appointees’ directive not to enforce Section 8’s anti-fraud provisions was racially motivated, he answered with a litigator’s precision: it might have not been the intent, but the result was to allow bloated voting rolls in heavily minority districts that were Democratic strongholds.

No wonder the administration tried to muzzle Coates. Nevertheless, the department’s stonewalling has failed, and those parroting the administration’s line (“much ado about nothing”) look foolish. Inevitably, more Justice Department witnesses and documents will surface. (Judicial Watch has sued the DOJ, demanding documents evidencing the involvement of the department’s No. 3 man.)

Moreover, after November, Republicans almost certainly will assume chairmanships of key congressional committees. (Staff members from the offices of Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf, who have doggedly pursued the case, listened attentively in the front row on Friday.) A spokesman for Smith released this statement:

A founding principle of this nation is equality under the law. That means it is unacceptable for the Justice Department to determine whether to enforce a law based upon the race of a defendant or victim. And yet, according to testimony by the former chief voting rights attorney for the Department, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. … The Judiciary Committee should immediately open an investigation into allegations of improper practices within the Civil Rights Division and Justice Department officials should be subpoenaed to testify before Congress. There is no excuse for racial discrimination anywhere, but within the halls of the U.S. Department of Justice, it is the height of hypocrisy.

If Obama appointees refuse to testify voluntarily, the new chairmen will issue subpoenas.

It will be interesting to hear Obama officials explain why they failed to investigate accusations of wrongdoing and instead insisted that voting-rights laws be enforced only on behalf of minorities. It will be must-see TV when Perez is grilled on his inaccurate testimony claiming ignorance of hostility to the colorblind enforcement of voting laws. Will attorneys be referred to their state bar for professional misconduct?

This has become another headache for the Obama administration, especially for Eric Holder. Maybe he will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republican chairmen grab their gavels.

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Sestak Throws J Street Under the Bus

Ben Smith reports that after weeks and weeks of defending his signature on the Gaza 54 letter, Joe Sestak has now confessed he was wrong to sign on to the J Street letter bashing Israel for its supposed “collective punishment” of the Palestinians. Smith observes:

Now the highest-profile signatory, Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak, says he regrets signing the letter — a win for the hawks and a blow to J Street’s attempt to create political space on a pro-Israel left of the Middle East conflict.

Sestak says he should have sent his own letter. Goodness knows what would have been in that.

Sestak has now alienated just about everyone on this issue. Just as he reversed course on his $350,000 earmark, here too he tried out one excuse, saw it wasn’t working, and then declared he was so very sorry to have done something he denied was a problem to begin with. Both J Street and truly pro-Israel voters understand that Sestak’s word is meaningless.

Moreover, recall that not only did he protest the ECI ad on this issue; Sestak also tried to have it taken down. His attorney at the time wrote that it was false to assert that Sestak had accused Israel of “collective punishment.” I guess the ad was accurate after all. Maybe he should apologize to ECI as well.

Another thing: Sestak says this was the one action he regretted. So he still thinks keynoting for CAIR and lauding its work was the right thing to do? Or is that apology coming next week?

It’s hard to decide who is in worse shape — Sestak or J Street. Before this, the former was heading for defeat, and this won’t help matters. But J Street’s problem isn’t going to end on Election Day. What lawmaker will now want to sign their Israel-bashing letters after this? The J Street line is politically toxic, and its “support” (a whole $7,500 ad-buy) has proved to be minuscule compared to the grief the group has caused Sestak.

J Street has tried to do two things, as I have pointed out: to be a player in electoral politics and to stake out a leftist position on Israel. It turns out that there is no market for the latter, and hence, the former is a flop.

Ben Smith reports that after weeks and weeks of defending his signature on the Gaza 54 letter, Joe Sestak has now confessed he was wrong to sign on to the J Street letter bashing Israel for its supposed “collective punishment” of the Palestinians. Smith observes:

Now the highest-profile signatory, Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak, says he regrets signing the letter — a win for the hawks and a blow to J Street’s attempt to create political space on a pro-Israel left of the Middle East conflict.

Sestak says he should have sent his own letter. Goodness knows what would have been in that.

Sestak has now alienated just about everyone on this issue. Just as he reversed course on his $350,000 earmark, here too he tried out one excuse, saw it wasn’t working, and then declared he was so very sorry to have done something he denied was a problem to begin with. Both J Street and truly pro-Israel voters understand that Sestak’s word is meaningless.

Moreover, recall that not only did he protest the ECI ad on this issue; Sestak also tried to have it taken down. His attorney at the time wrote that it was false to assert that Sestak had accused Israel of “collective punishment.” I guess the ad was accurate after all. Maybe he should apologize to ECI as well.

Another thing: Sestak says this was the one action he regretted. So he still thinks keynoting for CAIR and lauding its work was the right thing to do? Or is that apology coming next week?

It’s hard to decide who is in worse shape — Sestak or J Street. Before this, the former was heading for defeat, and this won’t help matters. But J Street’s problem isn’t going to end on Election Day. What lawmaker will now want to sign their Israel-bashing letters after this? The J Street line is politically toxic, and its “support” (a whole $7,500 ad-buy) has proved to be minuscule compared to the grief the group has caused Sestak.

J Street has tried to do two things, as I have pointed out: to be a player in electoral politics and to stake out a leftist position on Israel. It turns out that there is no market for the latter, and hence, the former is a flop.

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Pack It Up, Inspector Javert

Not only witty conservative bloggers are calling for Patrick Fitzgerald to hang it up. In the wake of Blago’s largely hung jury, it has dawned on many more that the prosecutor is more persecutor and a menace to the justice system. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of Fitzgerald’s presser two years ago:

Then, the U.S. Attorney spoke of “what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree” and accused Blagojevich of “the most appalling conduct” that would have “Lincoln roll over in his grave.” It was “a truly new low,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the world. … As the former Justice Department lawyer Victoria Toensing noted in these pages at the time, Mr. Fitzgerald violated prosecutorial ethics by speaking “beyond the four corners of the complaint,” to use the criminal law vernacular for the facts at issue, thus possibly tainting the jury pool.

As the WSJ editors point out, this is not an isolated occurrence. There is a pattern at work here — smear and intimidate, throw whatever charges you can at the vilified defendant, and see what the jury will buy:

At a 2005 press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald implied that Mr. Libby had obstructed his investigation into who leaked the former CIA analyst’s name, even though he knew from the start that the real “leaker” was Richard Armitage.

Then there was the railroading of Conrad Black, the conservative newspaper baron who was convicted in 2007 using the infinitely malleable “honest services” fraud law. The Supreme Court junked much of that law earlier this year, leading to Mr. Black’s release from prison. The jury had earlier dismissed nine of the 13 charges Mr. Fitzgerald filed.

Fitzgerald is lacking in the very qualities we must demand of prosecutors: discretion and restraint. The Washington Post editors recognize this in their well-taken objection to Blago’s retrial:

Mr. Fitzgerald is entitled under the law to drag the ex-governor back into court. He has the resources to do so and the motivation: The Blagojevich brand of politics is repugnant, beyond any doubt. It perverts democracy and puts moneyed interests over the common good. But the prosecutor took his shot and lost. He should stand down before crossing another fine line — the one that separates prosecution from persecution.

Because Fitzgerald can’t or won’t recognize the difference between the two, it’s time for him to pack it in, albeit much too late for Scooter Libby and Conrad Black. One final thought: had the extent of Fitzgerald’s abuse of power been clear at the time, would President Bush have withheld a full pardon from Libby? We don’t know, but all this is further evidence of the need to rethink the notion of “special prosecutors,” who by definition are freed from the restraints that prevent ordinary prosecutors from running amok and abusing their power.

Not only witty conservative bloggers are calling for Patrick Fitzgerald to hang it up. In the wake of Blago’s largely hung jury, it has dawned on many more that the prosecutor is more persecutor and a menace to the justice system. The Wall Street Journal reminds us of Fitzgerald’s presser two years ago:

Then, the U.S. Attorney spoke of “what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree” and accused Blagojevich of “the most appalling conduct” that would have “Lincoln roll over in his grave.” It was “a truly new low,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the world. … As the former Justice Department lawyer Victoria Toensing noted in these pages at the time, Mr. Fitzgerald violated prosecutorial ethics by speaking “beyond the four corners of the complaint,” to use the criminal law vernacular for the facts at issue, thus possibly tainting the jury pool.

As the WSJ editors point out, this is not an isolated occurrence. There is a pattern at work here — smear and intimidate, throw whatever charges you can at the vilified defendant, and see what the jury will buy:

At a 2005 press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald implied that Mr. Libby had obstructed his investigation into who leaked the former CIA analyst’s name, even though he knew from the start that the real “leaker” was Richard Armitage.

Then there was the railroading of Conrad Black, the conservative newspaper baron who was convicted in 2007 using the infinitely malleable “honest services” fraud law. The Supreme Court junked much of that law earlier this year, leading to Mr. Black’s release from prison. The jury had earlier dismissed nine of the 13 charges Mr. Fitzgerald filed.

Fitzgerald is lacking in the very qualities we must demand of prosecutors: discretion and restraint. The Washington Post editors recognize this in their well-taken objection to Blago’s retrial:

Mr. Fitzgerald is entitled under the law to drag the ex-governor back into court. He has the resources to do so and the motivation: The Blagojevich brand of politics is repugnant, beyond any doubt. It perverts democracy and puts moneyed interests over the common good. But the prosecutor took his shot and lost. He should stand down before crossing another fine line — the one that separates prosecution from persecution.

Because Fitzgerald can’t or won’t recognize the difference between the two, it’s time for him to pack it in, albeit much too late for Scooter Libby and Conrad Black. One final thought: had the extent of Fitzgerald’s abuse of power been clear at the time, would President Bush have withheld a full pardon from Libby? We don’t know, but all this is further evidence of the need to rethink the notion of “special prosecutors,” who by definition are freed from the restraints that prevent ordinary prosecutors from running amok and abusing their power.

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Obstruction of Justice

On August 6, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent Eric Holder a letter reiterating its request to allow Chris Coates, the former head of the New Black Panther Party trial team, to testify. Coates had, upon his relocation to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, given a goodbye speech detailing the dangers of his colleagues’ aversion to colorblind enforcement of civil rights laws, which is the central focus of the commission’s work. The commission, in an effort to avoid any claim of “privilege,” offered to limit questioning to whether there is a “policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws” and whether the administration is refusing to enforce the portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires local and state governments to clean up the voting rolls to prevent fraud.

On August 11, civil rights department head Thomas Perez, who has been accused of giving misleading testimony to the commission and to Congress, sent a rather preposterous response. He assured the commission that there was no problem, no problem at all, because the Justice Department is committed “to the evenhanded application of the law.” And since Perez has told the commission so, there is no need to allow Coates to testify. (“In light of my clear articulation of our enforcement policy … we do not believe that a Civil Rights Division attorney who has been on detail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina since mid-January 2010 is the appropriate witness to testify.”)

It’s jaw-dropping, really, even for this crew. Coates, who has detailed knowledge of the most explosive allegations, can’t be the right person to testify, because he was shuffled off to South Carolina after his maddening experience on the New Black Panther trial case and a fiery farewell address in which he accused the department of failing to enforce the law in an “evenhanded” manner. So he can’t possibly be the right person to testify.

As this report details, an acrimonious commission meeting took place on Friday in which a minority of the commissioners carried the department’s water and found no problem with the galling stonewall. But a majority of the commissioners found that the Obama administration had been obstructionist and passed a motion that restated the commission’s statutory authority and the attorney general’s refusal to cooperate with the commission’s investigation:

The Commission’s organic statute authorizes it to subpoena witnesses and the production of written material in aid of its mission, and it authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the Commission’s subpoenas in federal court if any person or entity refuses to comply. The Commission’s statute also requires that “All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties,” 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e), but it is equally unclear whether the Commission has recourse to seek judicial enforcement of this command, absent representation from the Department of Justice. … In the NBPP investigation that is the subject of this report, the Department of Justice refused to comply with certain Commission requests for information concerning DOJ’s enforcement actions, and it instructed its employees not to comply with the Commission’s subpoenas for testimony.

The commission also adopted the following:

Congress should consider amendments to the Commission’s statute to address investigations in which the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest in complying fully with the Commission’s requests for information.  Options to address a potential conflict of interest might include the following:

Enactment of a statutory procedure by which the Commission may request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel with authority to represent it in federal court, which request the Attorney General must personally respond to in writing within a specified period of time.

Enactment of a statutory provision to clarify that the Commission may hire its own counsel and proceed independently in federal court if the Attorney General refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request, especially those directed at the Department of Justice, its officers, or its employees.

A conscious decision not to alter the Commission’s statute or a statutory confirmation that the Attorney General and Department of Justice can act against the Commission’s interest without any particular explanation.

The last option would surely be popular with congressional Democrats.

But the real resolution of this will probably come only if Coates and others defy the department’s order to ignore the commission’s subpoenas (not likely if they want to continue working in this administration), or if control of the House and/or Senate flips to GOP control, and Coates, Perez, and others are ordered to appear and give congressional testimony under oath.

On August 6, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sent Eric Holder a letter reiterating its request to allow Chris Coates, the former head of the New Black Panther Party trial team, to testify. Coates had, upon his relocation to the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina, given a goodbye speech detailing the dangers of his colleagues’ aversion to colorblind enforcement of civil rights laws, which is the central focus of the commission’s work. The commission, in an effort to avoid any claim of “privilege,” offered to limit questioning to whether there is a “policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws” and whether the administration is refusing to enforce the portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires local and state governments to clean up the voting rolls to prevent fraud.

On August 11, civil rights department head Thomas Perez, who has been accused of giving misleading testimony to the commission and to Congress, sent a rather preposterous response. He assured the commission that there was no problem, no problem at all, because the Justice Department is committed “to the evenhanded application of the law.” And since Perez has told the commission so, there is no need to allow Coates to testify. (“In light of my clear articulation of our enforcement policy … we do not believe that a Civil Rights Division attorney who has been on detail to the U.S. Attorney’s office in South Carolina since mid-January 2010 is the appropriate witness to testify.”)

It’s jaw-dropping, really, even for this crew. Coates, who has detailed knowledge of the most explosive allegations, can’t be the right person to testify, because he was shuffled off to South Carolina after his maddening experience on the New Black Panther trial case and a fiery farewell address in which he accused the department of failing to enforce the law in an “evenhanded” manner. So he can’t possibly be the right person to testify.

As this report details, an acrimonious commission meeting took place on Friday in which a minority of the commissioners carried the department’s water and found no problem with the galling stonewall. But a majority of the commissioners found that the Obama administration had been obstructionist and passed a motion that restated the commission’s statutory authority and the attorney general’s refusal to cooperate with the commission’s investigation:

The Commission’s organic statute authorizes it to subpoena witnesses and the production of written material in aid of its mission, and it authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the Commission’s subpoenas in federal court if any person or entity refuses to comply. The Commission’s statute also requires that “All Federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the Commission to the end that it may effectively carry out its functions and duties,” 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e), but it is equally unclear whether the Commission has recourse to seek judicial enforcement of this command, absent representation from the Department of Justice. … In the NBPP investigation that is the subject of this report, the Department of Justice refused to comply with certain Commission requests for information concerning DOJ’s enforcement actions, and it instructed its employees not to comply with the Commission’s subpoenas for testimony.

The commission also adopted the following:

Congress should consider amendments to the Commission’s statute to address investigations in which the Attorney General and/or the Department of Justice have a conflict of interest in complying fully with the Commission’s requests for information.  Options to address a potential conflict of interest might include the following:

Enactment of a statutory procedure by which the Commission may request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel with authority to represent it in federal court, which request the Attorney General must personally respond to in writing within a specified period of time.

Enactment of a statutory provision to clarify that the Commission may hire its own counsel and proceed independently in federal court if the Attorney General refuses to enforce a subpoena or other lawful request, especially those directed at the Department of Justice, its officers, or its employees.

A conscious decision not to alter the Commission’s statute or a statutory confirmation that the Attorney General and Department of Justice can act against the Commission’s interest without any particular explanation.

The last option would surely be popular with congressional Democrats.

But the real resolution of this will probably come only if Coates and others defy the department’s order to ignore the commission’s subpoenas (not likely if they want to continue working in this administration), or if control of the House and/or Senate flips to GOP control, and Coates, Perez, and others are ordered to appear and give congressional testimony under oath.

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Please, Mr. Attorney General, Stop Obstructing Justice

From the onset of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department has refused to allow percipient witnesses, including the trial team, to testify. Eric Holder has prevented those accused of quashing the voter-intimidation case and those who complained about the quashing to testify. J. Christian Adams had to quit his job in order to tell his story.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now challenging the mainstream-media canard — this is “small potatoes” — and pushing Holder to end the stonewalling. The chairman of the commission, Gerald Reynolds, wrote to Holder yesterday. The letter reads, in part:

Mr. Adams testified that there is hostility within the Civil Rights Division to the race neutral enforcement of civil rights protections, and that such hostility may be supported by statements of current political appointees in the Division. By way of example, his testimony indicated that career employees refused to work on the Ike Brown litigation (in which the court found that the voting rights of white and black voters had been violated by a black official) and, most importantly, that specific instructions were given to Mr. Chris] Coates [head of the Black Panther trial team] from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that “cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims; that if somebody wanted to bring these cases it was up to the U.S. Attorney, but the Civil Rights Division wasn’t going to be bringing it.”

Without waiving its rights to examine Department personnel in the future as to the decision making process in the New Black Panther Party litigation, the Commission will agree to limit Mr. Coates’s (initial) questioning to non-deliberative statements or actions relating to whether there is a policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws and whether there is a policy not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

(And oh, by the way, the chief pooh-pooher on the commission, a Republican who’s now the darling of the left, “fearlessly” abstained from the vote to send the letter. What could possibly be the objection or the reason to take a pass – or have the facts simply become too overwhelming to dispute?)

To reiterate: we are talking about a serious allegation that Obama’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the civil rights laws without regard to the race of the defendant and — without any legal basis — is preventing a witness from testifying. If it were not for their partisan loyalty and desire to minimize a scandal they have ignored for far too long, the mainstream media and the punditocracy would be going nuts. Imagine if the Bush administration had refused to allow a key Justice Department attorney to testify as to why a Republican administration dropped a slam-dunk case against a white racist organization. It’s inconceivable that a Republican administration would attempt such a thing or that the media would yawn in response.

Let’s see what Holder’s excuse is now for blocking an inquiry into his department’s lawless conduct.

From the onset of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department has refused to allow percipient witnesses, including the trial team, to testify. Eric Holder has prevented those accused of quashing the voter-intimidation case and those who complained about the quashing to testify. J. Christian Adams had to quit his job in order to tell his story.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is now challenging the mainstream-media canard — this is “small potatoes” — and pushing Holder to end the stonewalling. The chairman of the commission, Gerald Reynolds, wrote to Holder yesterday. The letter reads, in part:

Mr. Adams testified that there is hostility within the Civil Rights Division to the race neutral enforcement of civil rights protections, and that such hostility may be supported by statements of current political appointees in the Division. By way of example, his testimony indicated that career employees refused to work on the Ike Brown litigation (in which the court found that the voting rights of white and black voters had been violated by a black official) and, most importantly, that specific instructions were given to Mr. Chris] Coates [head of the Black Panther trial team] from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes to the effect that “cases are not going to be brought against black defendants for the benefit of white victims; that if somebody wanted to bring these cases it was up to the U.S. Attorney, but the Civil Rights Division wasn’t going to be bringing it.”

Without waiving its rights to examine Department personnel in the future as to the decision making process in the New Black Panther Party litigation, the Commission will agree to limit Mr. Coates’s (initial) questioning to non-deliberative statements or actions relating to whether there is a policy and/or culture within the Department of discriminatory enforcement of civil rights laws and whether there is a policy not to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

(And oh, by the way, the chief pooh-pooher on the commission, a Republican who’s now the darling of the left, “fearlessly” abstained from the vote to send the letter. What could possibly be the objection or the reason to take a pass – or have the facts simply become too overwhelming to dispute?)

To reiterate: we are talking about a serious allegation that Obama’s Justice Department refuses to enforce the civil rights laws without regard to the race of the defendant and — without any legal basis — is preventing a witness from testifying. If it were not for their partisan loyalty and desire to minimize a scandal they have ignored for far too long, the mainstream media and the punditocracy would be going nuts. Imagine if the Bush administration had refused to allow a key Justice Department attorney to testify as to why a Republican administration dropped a slam-dunk case against a white racist organization. It’s inconceivable that a Republican administration would attempt such a thing or that the media would yawn in response.

Let’s see what Holder’s excuse is now for blocking an inquiry into his department’s lawless conduct.

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Incovenient Truths Denied by Sestak

On Monday, Joe Sestak ventured to the Pennsylvania press club. He tried to explain away his pledge to give back donations from those who received earmarks. It was only a “personal” pledge (reneging on a personal pledge is OK?). He argued that he really hadn’t voted for TARP money when, in fact, in October 2008 he voted against withholding $350B in TARP money.

He also got cornered on the Emergency Committee for Israel. The video should be watched in full, for it is as squirrelly a performance as you will see from a pol. First, he tries to suggest that the ad is down. (Well, ECI actually doubled its ad buy.) Then, he claimed he really didn’t know. (He thinks ignorance is endearing? We are supposed to imagine his attorney never told him, “Sorry, but Comcast wouldn’t cave.”) Then he claims that the ECI ad was “false” — but provides no specifics. (I suppose if a pledge not to take money from earmark beneficiaries is not a pledge, then a letter indicting Israel for imposing ”collective punishment” isn’t a condemnation of Israel for inflicting collective punishment.) And once again, he claims he went to CAIR to lecture them on terrorism. (No explanation was given for the slobbering praise for the group, nor was any repudiation of CAIR forthcoming now that several officials have been identified as engaged in terrorist activities.)

What is unnerving about the performance is the total conviction with which he asserts facts that simply aren’t so. He betrays not a hint of self-awareness nor of remorse for dabbling with jihadism. Voters should take note: this is not a pol who takes facts seriously, and consequently not one to be persuaded by experience or evidence that contradicts his strongly held beliefs. Gosh, does that remind you of another liberal politician?

On Monday, Joe Sestak ventured to the Pennsylvania press club. He tried to explain away his pledge to give back donations from those who received earmarks. It was only a “personal” pledge (reneging on a personal pledge is OK?). He argued that he really hadn’t voted for TARP money when, in fact, in October 2008 he voted against withholding $350B in TARP money.

He also got cornered on the Emergency Committee for Israel. The video should be watched in full, for it is as squirrelly a performance as you will see from a pol. First, he tries to suggest that the ad is down. (Well, ECI actually doubled its ad buy.) Then, he claimed he really didn’t know. (He thinks ignorance is endearing? We are supposed to imagine his attorney never told him, “Sorry, but Comcast wouldn’t cave.”) Then he claims that the ECI ad was “false” — but provides no specifics. (I suppose if a pledge not to take money from earmark beneficiaries is not a pledge, then a letter indicting Israel for imposing ”collective punishment” isn’t a condemnation of Israel for inflicting collective punishment.) And once again, he claims he went to CAIR to lecture them on terrorism. (No explanation was given for the slobbering praise for the group, nor was any repudiation of CAIR forthcoming now that several officials have been identified as engaged in terrorist activities.)

What is unnerving about the performance is the total conviction with which he asserts facts that simply aren’t so. He betrays not a hint of self-awareness nor of remorse for dabbling with jihadism. Voters should take note: this is not a pol who takes facts seriously, and consequently not one to be persuaded by experience or evidence that contradicts his strongly held beliefs. Gosh, does that remind you of another liberal politician?

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Don’t Give Me the Facts, I’ve Got My Story

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

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Did Thomas Perez Testify Truthfully?

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department attorney who was a key member of its New Black Panther litigation team, made a splash when he testified that the Civil Rights Division under Obama is hostile to filing civil rights cases that don’t follow the historic pattern — i.e., a white defendant violating minorities’ rights. (Helpful summaries are found here and here.) It is, if accurate, far more explosive than the dismissal of an isolated case, as egregious as the withdrawal of a default judgment against the New Black Panthers was.

The notion that civil rights laws can’t or shouldn’t be used against a minority defendant who seeks to deprive others of their civil rights is noxious to most Americans. According to Adams’s testimony, however, it is a commonplace at the Justice Department and was articulated by Julie Fernandes, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Moreover, it raises a question as to whether Thomas Perez was being truthful to Congress and to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he testified under oath that he was unaware of any such sentiments. Before the Commission, Adams testified: “But Mr. Chris Coates and I and [Robert] Popper went and met with him the day before he testified here for about an hour, and we laid out all of our arguments and begged him not to testify inaccurately about the case.” He nevertheless testified that the case was unsupported by the law and the facts, and suggested the lawyers may have violated Rule 11, which provides for sanctions in the event of a frivolous legal action.

But that’s not all. A knowledgeable source tells me that at that same meeting, trial team head Chris Coates, who participated in the meeting by phone, explicitly warned him that there was a deep hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the law and he provided details to Perez. Sitting in the room with Perez were Adams and Popper. Perez had aides who were taking notes in the room. Nevertheless, under oath and before Congress and the Commission, Perez testified that he was unaware of such sentiments. If, indeed, he was briefed and then delivered this testimony, then he misled Congress and the Commission.

Now did he conduct a thorough investigation and find Coates unpersuasive? Well, the testimony before the Commission was the next day and I doubt there was time to commence — let alone complete — such an inquiry. Moreover, he denied having heard about such allegations. If he had been briefed the day before, this was patently untrue.

It is time for Congress to exercise appropriate oversight and get to the bottom of this issue. Moreover, since the Justice Department can’t investigate itself, I don’t see why a special prosecutor isn’t in order.

Now, two additional former DOJ attorneys have come forward to corroborate the hostility toward colorblind enforcement. Their affidavits can be read here. The witnesses are piling up and the stonewall is turning to rubble. We may finally be getting to the reason why Eric Holder’s Justice Department has done everything possible to keep members of the trial team from testifying. Their exposure is much greater than one case.

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department attorney who was a key member of its New Black Panther litigation team, made a splash when he testified that the Civil Rights Division under Obama is hostile to filing civil rights cases that don’t follow the historic pattern — i.e., a white defendant violating minorities’ rights. (Helpful summaries are found here and here.) It is, if accurate, far more explosive than the dismissal of an isolated case, as egregious as the withdrawal of a default judgment against the New Black Panthers was.

The notion that civil rights laws can’t or shouldn’t be used against a minority defendant who seeks to deprive others of their civil rights is noxious to most Americans. According to Adams’s testimony, however, it is a commonplace at the Justice Department and was articulated by Julie Fernandes, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Moreover, it raises a question as to whether Thomas Perez was being truthful to Congress and to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights when he testified under oath that he was unaware of any such sentiments. Before the Commission, Adams testified: “But Mr. Chris Coates and I and [Robert] Popper went and met with him the day before he testified here for about an hour, and we laid out all of our arguments and begged him not to testify inaccurately about the case.” He nevertheless testified that the case was unsupported by the law and the facts, and suggested the lawyers may have violated Rule 11, which provides for sanctions in the event of a frivolous legal action.

But that’s not all. A knowledgeable source tells me that at that same meeting, trial team head Chris Coates, who participated in the meeting by phone, explicitly warned him that there was a deep hostility to race-neutral enforcement of the law and he provided details to Perez. Sitting in the room with Perez were Adams and Popper. Perez had aides who were taking notes in the room. Nevertheless, under oath and before Congress and the Commission, Perez testified that he was unaware of such sentiments. If, indeed, he was briefed and then delivered this testimony, then he misled Congress and the Commission.

Now did he conduct a thorough investigation and find Coates unpersuasive? Well, the testimony before the Commission was the next day and I doubt there was time to commence — let alone complete — such an inquiry. Moreover, he denied having heard about such allegations. If he had been briefed the day before, this was patently untrue.

It is time for Congress to exercise appropriate oversight and get to the bottom of this issue. Moreover, since the Justice Department can’t investigate itself, I don’t see why a special prosecutor isn’t in order.

Now, two additional former DOJ attorneys have come forward to corroborate the hostility toward colorblind enforcement. Their affidavits can be read here. The witnesses are piling up and the stonewall is turning to rubble. We may finally be getting to the reason why Eric Holder’s Justice Department has done everything possible to keep members of the trial team from testifying. Their exposure is much greater than one case.

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Hollywood Celebrates

Will there be fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl? A fantastic bash in his honor, albeit with the guest of honor absent? Yes, from coast to coast, the moral zombies who populate the big and small screen are no doubt jumping for joy that Roman Polanski will not be extradited to stand trial for his rape of a 13-year old child. As a colleague pointed out, really, the man has suffered enough. (“The 77-year-old Oscar-winning filmmaker was first imprisoned and then confined to his ski chalet in the Alpine resort of Gastaad with an electronic foot bracelet.”) The Swiss judiciary seems to have aced out the Nobelians as the best exemplar of the debasement of European society, as we are reminded that “the decision constituted a victory not only for Polanski but also for a broad array of European intellectual and political figures who had come to his defense with petitions and statements of outrage denouncing the effort to continue prosecution after so many years.”

The Swiss Ministry of Justice claims that the verdict is not a statement about Polanski’s guilt or innocence:

The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that the decision reflected doubts over the legal strength of the U.S. extradition request, in particular concerning negotiations between Los Angeles prosecutors and Polanski’s U.S. lawyers at the time. …

Switzerland blamed U.S. authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about Polanski’s sentencing procedure in 1977-1978. The Swiss government said it had sought confidential testimony given on Jan. 26 by Roger Gunson, the Los Angeles attorney in charge of the original prosecution against Polanski.

Actually, it’s not a statement about Polanski at all. It is, however, a vivid reflection of the mindset of today’s elites (both in Europe and America). If you smoke or drive an SUV, you’re a social pariah. But if you’re an aging millionaire who drugged a 13-year-old child before raping her, why, you needn’t fear that you’ll lose their admiration or support. To the contrary, a special Oscar may await!

Will there be fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl? A fantastic bash in his honor, albeit with the guest of honor absent? Yes, from coast to coast, the moral zombies who populate the big and small screen are no doubt jumping for joy that Roman Polanski will not be extradited to stand trial for his rape of a 13-year old child. As a colleague pointed out, really, the man has suffered enough. (“The 77-year-old Oscar-winning filmmaker was first imprisoned and then confined to his ski chalet in the Alpine resort of Gastaad with an electronic foot bracelet.”) The Swiss judiciary seems to have aced out the Nobelians as the best exemplar of the debasement of European society, as we are reminded that “the decision constituted a victory not only for Polanski but also for a broad array of European intellectual and political figures who had come to his defense with petitions and statements of outrage denouncing the effort to continue prosecution after so many years.”

The Swiss Ministry of Justice claims that the verdict is not a statement about Polanski’s guilt or innocence:

The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that the decision reflected doubts over the legal strength of the U.S. extradition request, in particular concerning negotiations between Los Angeles prosecutors and Polanski’s U.S. lawyers at the time. …

Switzerland blamed U.S. authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about Polanski’s sentencing procedure in 1977-1978. The Swiss government said it had sought confidential testimony given on Jan. 26 by Roger Gunson, the Los Angeles attorney in charge of the original prosecution against Polanski.

Actually, it’s not a statement about Polanski at all. It is, however, a vivid reflection of the mindset of today’s elites (both in Europe and America). If you smoke or drive an SUV, you’re a social pariah. But if you’re an aging millionaire who drugged a 13-year-old child before raping her, why, you needn’t fear that you’ll lose their admiration or support. To the contrary, a special Oscar may await!

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You Can’t Fire the Star of a One-Man Show

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, thinks that whoever has been responsible for the Obama administration’s Middle East policy should be fired. He runs through the possibilities — Emanuel, Axelrod, Mitchell, Clinton, Jones — but realizes the problem may go higher:

The more we find out about who makes decisions in the White House on every subject from nuclear weapons to coloring of Easter eggs, it turns out to be the man in the Oval Office himself. He’s the expert. He’s the decider. He invites everyone to state his or her piece or peace, then he tells them what to do — and seemingly without question, they do his bidding.

Gelb writes that Obama entered office with a “near-zero base of foreign-policy knowledge and no experience in the Middle East,” demanded a pre-negotiation halt to West Bank construction, to which “no Israeli leader, even a dovish one” would ever agree, adopted the “brilliant tactic” of publicly humiliating Israel’s prime minister (not even shaking his hand at the end of the prior meeting), and “only made matters worse” this week by appearing as if he were cowed by domestic politics into treating Netanyahu well. Gelb concludes that Obama needs new advisers.

That is a little like blaming the bit players for the failures of a one-man show.

The problem has been more than a staffing issue. Over the past year, Netanyahu (1) formed a coalition government with parties to both his right and left, (2) proposed immediate negotiations with no preconditions, (3) formally endorsed a two-state solution (as long as one of them is Jewish and the other is demilitarized), (4) removed scores of West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints, (5) implemented an unprecedented settlement moratorium, and (6) plans even more gestures to the perpetually confidence-impaired Palestinians to encourage them to join negotiations to give them a state.

During the same period, the Palestinians have been unwilling to commence direct negotiations unless Israel first conceded the principal issues to be negotiated, and Obama has acted as if he were the Palestinians’ attorney – not bound by U.S. commitments to Israel (the 2004 Bush letter), ignoring longstanding understandings on the meaning of a settlement freeze, manufacturing a crisis about future Jewish housing in the Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state, voting for a UN resolution singling out Israel on its most sensitive defense issue, etc.

It is good that there was a tectonic shift in atmospherics this week. But it is remarkable that it is considered an achievement that, unlike last time, Israel’s prime minister was allowed to (1) enter the White House during business hours, (2) have a photo opportunity, (3) speak briefly at a press availability, (4) receive a meal, and (5) be treated courteously on his departure. It is an indication of how bad the script of this one-man show has been.

Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, thinks that whoever has been responsible for the Obama administration’s Middle East policy should be fired. He runs through the possibilities — Emanuel, Axelrod, Mitchell, Clinton, Jones — but realizes the problem may go higher:

The more we find out about who makes decisions in the White House on every subject from nuclear weapons to coloring of Easter eggs, it turns out to be the man in the Oval Office himself. He’s the expert. He’s the decider. He invites everyone to state his or her piece or peace, then he tells them what to do — and seemingly without question, they do his bidding.

Gelb writes that Obama entered office with a “near-zero base of foreign-policy knowledge and no experience in the Middle East,” demanded a pre-negotiation halt to West Bank construction, to which “no Israeli leader, even a dovish one” would ever agree, adopted the “brilliant tactic” of publicly humiliating Israel’s prime minister (not even shaking his hand at the end of the prior meeting), and “only made matters worse” this week by appearing as if he were cowed by domestic politics into treating Netanyahu well. Gelb concludes that Obama needs new advisers.

That is a little like blaming the bit players for the failures of a one-man show.

The problem has been more than a staffing issue. Over the past year, Netanyahu (1) formed a coalition government with parties to both his right and left, (2) proposed immediate negotiations with no preconditions, (3) formally endorsed a two-state solution (as long as one of them is Jewish and the other is demilitarized), (4) removed scores of West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints, (5) implemented an unprecedented settlement moratorium, and (6) plans even more gestures to the perpetually confidence-impaired Palestinians to encourage them to join negotiations to give them a state.

During the same period, the Palestinians have been unwilling to commence direct negotiations unless Israel first conceded the principal issues to be negotiated, and Obama has acted as if he were the Palestinians’ attorney – not bound by U.S. commitments to Israel (the 2004 Bush letter), ignoring longstanding understandings on the meaning of a settlement freeze, manufacturing a crisis about future Jewish housing in the Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state, voting for a UN resolution singling out Israel on its most sensitive defense issue, etc.

It is good that there was a tectonic shift in atmospherics this week. But it is remarkable that it is considered an achievement that, unlike last time, Israel’s prime minister was allowed to (1) enter the White House during business hours, (2) have a photo opportunity, (3) speak briefly at a press availability, (4) receive a meal, and (5) be treated courteously on his departure. It is an indication of how bad the script of this one-man show has been.

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Kagan Hearing: Just Say No

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

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