Commentary Magazine


Topic: smart lawyer

Why Don’t Liberals Care About Voter Intimidation?

Hans Von Spakovsky, a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, provides a helpful summary of Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther case. As he notes, it seems that Democrats don’t care much for the notion that the Justice Department should vigorously pursue a case of obvious and extreme voter intimidation that occurred at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. He writes:

The Democratic commissioners, especially Michael Yaki, a former Pelosi staffer, tried to minimize what happened in Philadelphia; he even said at one point that there may have been no more than a couple of people who were turned away. Yaki was unable to produce any evidence that would support that assertion.

Yaki’s Democratic colleague Arlan Melendez claimed the investigation was a waste of time and resources. According to him, everyone should just take the DOJ’s word that the case was meritless. Most of the other commissioners pointed out that the commission has a special mandate to protect voting rights and that not only was the Justice Department’s dismissal of this case inexplicable, but its refusal to provide information, documents, or witnesses violated the law in general and specifically its responsibility not to engage in selective enforcement.

Even after video and compelling testimony by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull and former deputy associate attorney general Greg Katsas left little doubt as to the egregious behavior of the New Black Panthers, the Democrats were unmoved:

The most amusing part of the hearing was watching Commissioner Yaki try to run interference for the Obama administration. Yaki was clearly unhappy to have the administration’s dirty linen dragged out into the public arena, and he did his best to try to cross up witnesses like Bull and Katsas when he was questioning them. Yaki obviously believes he’s a very smart lawyer, but Bull and Katsas both ran rings around him. Bull, who did an outstanding job of pointing out how outrageously the Panthers had acted in Philadelphia and how wrong the Justice Department was in dismissing this lawsuit. Imagine for a moment if members of a white supremacist group had shown up in paramilitary uniforms with swastikas at a polling place, and yet the Justice Department dropped a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against the group. The hearing room at the commission would have been swarming with news crews, and C-SPAN would surely have covered the hearing live. However, none of that happened. C-SPAN wasn’t there, and neither was a single one of the national cable-news channels.

There really is no other explanation than the obvious one: the Obama Justice Department — aided and encouraged by their Democratic handmaidens on the commission, a compliant liberal media, and a chorus of professional civil rights activists – simply doesn’t believe that voter intimidation can be perpetrated by African-Americans. It is a “waste of time” in their minds to pursue the New Black Panthers because the “real” job of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is going after white racists. The laws are on the books to protect minorities and minorities only, they are convinced. We know from Chris Coates, a trial lawyer on the case, that this thinking is pervasive in the department. And Yaki inadvertently confirmed as much by his behavior at the hearing.

The head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, is due to testify before the commission in May. The commissioners should ask him about the seeming refusal of his department to fully and fairly apply the civil rights laws to all Americans. He will need to tread a careful line — too candid and he risks creating a firestorm (as average Americans don’t buy the idea that laws are there only for particular racial groups); too disingenuous and he risks offending the civil rights lobby. It will be interesting to watch.

Hans Von Spakovsky, a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights, provides a helpful summary of Friday’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hearing on the New Black Panther case. As he notes, it seems that Democrats don’t care much for the notion that the Justice Department should vigorously pursue a case of obvious and extreme voter intimidation that occurred at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008. He writes:

The Democratic commissioners, especially Michael Yaki, a former Pelosi staffer, tried to minimize what happened in Philadelphia; he even said at one point that there may have been no more than a couple of people who were turned away. Yaki was unable to produce any evidence that would support that assertion.

Yaki’s Democratic colleague Arlan Melendez claimed the investigation was a waste of time and resources. According to him, everyone should just take the DOJ’s word that the case was meritless. Most of the other commissioners pointed out that the commission has a special mandate to protect voting rights and that not only was the Justice Department’s dismissal of this case inexplicable, but its refusal to provide information, documents, or witnesses violated the law in general and specifically its responsibility not to engage in selective enforcement.

Even after video and compelling testimony by veteran civil rights activist Bartle Bull and former deputy associate attorney general Greg Katsas left little doubt as to the egregious behavior of the New Black Panthers, the Democrats were unmoved:

The most amusing part of the hearing was watching Commissioner Yaki try to run interference for the Obama administration. Yaki was clearly unhappy to have the administration’s dirty linen dragged out into the public arena, and he did his best to try to cross up witnesses like Bull and Katsas when he was questioning them. Yaki obviously believes he’s a very smart lawyer, but Bull and Katsas both ran rings around him. Bull, who did an outstanding job of pointing out how outrageously the Panthers had acted in Philadelphia and how wrong the Justice Department was in dismissing this lawsuit. Imagine for a moment if members of a white supremacist group had shown up in paramilitary uniforms with swastikas at a polling place, and yet the Justice Department dropped a voter-intimidation lawsuit it had already won against the group. The hearing room at the commission would have been swarming with news crews, and C-SPAN would surely have covered the hearing live. However, none of that happened. C-SPAN wasn’t there, and neither was a single one of the national cable-news channels.

There really is no other explanation than the obvious one: the Obama Justice Department — aided and encouraged by their Democratic handmaidens on the commission, a compliant liberal media, and a chorus of professional civil rights activists – simply doesn’t believe that voter intimidation can be perpetrated by African-Americans. It is a “waste of time” in their minds to pursue the New Black Panthers because the “real” job of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is going after white racists. The laws are on the books to protect minorities and minorities only, they are convinced. We know from Chris Coates, a trial lawyer on the case, that this thinking is pervasive in the department. And Yaki inadvertently confirmed as much by his behavior at the hearing.

The head of the civil rights division, Thomas Perez, is due to testify before the commission in May. The commissioners should ask him about the seeming refusal of his department to fully and fairly apply the civil rights laws to all Americans. He will need to tread a careful line — too candid and he risks creating a firestorm (as average Americans don’t buy the idea that laws are there only for particular racial groups); too disingenuous and he risks offending the civil rights lobby. It will be interesting to watch.

Read Less

Democrats Wake Up: “Not-Bush” Makes No Sense

It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.

What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”

And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:

Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”

There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”

That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.

It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.

What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:

In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”

The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”

And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:

Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”

There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”

That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.

Read Less




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