Wednesday, March 05, 2014


This is not really surprising, alas:
The Senate voted 47-52 Wednesday to reject controversial nominee Debo Adegbile to lead the Department of Justice's Division of Civil Rights.

Seven Democrats voted against moving forward with President Obama’s nomination of Adegbile, which the Fraternal Order of Police and other groups opposed because of his involvement in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981....
It was always going to be a tough fight to win confirmationfor Adegbile, who was part of a legal team that prevented the reinstatement of the death penalty for Abu-Jamal. (Needless to say, Abu-Jamal remains in prison.) If you're as old as I am -- I'll be 55 soon -- you know that Abu-Jamel fits an archetype in a lot of Americans' brains that's absolutely terrifying to them: politically radical black cop-killer. The truth is more or less irrelevant, because the narrative archetype is so powerful, and the temptation to self-righteousness is so strong: far too many white people who lived through the '60s and '70s have memories of believing that radicalism and violent crime by non-whites were utterly and irreversibly out of control, and therefore white people could be killed at any time by black radicals acting ideologically. There were actual victims, of course -- police office Daniel Faulkner really was killed, though people continue to argue about what Abu-Jamal had to do with that. The certainty his haters feel is the same certainty people always feel about guilty verdicts and harsh sentences directed at the most despised defendants, a certainty based on their anger about the crimes themselves; when I was younger, the survivors of shootings like Faulkner's were treated almost the way 9/11 widows are now, and for a lot of people that feeling endures. It's hard to fight that sort of outrage by pointing out that "procedures used during ... Abu-Jamal's death penalty hearing violated the Constitution, as a federal appeals court panel that included two Reagan appointees unanimously held in 2008. Try to make that case and you'll be told, Mumia is the worst of the worst. Look that widow in the eye. I dare you to argue otherwise.

But that being said, why the hell couldn't the White House or other Democrats at least have tried to make the case that in the past we haven't treated a nominee who provided legal counsel to a defendant as if he endorsed the crime of which the defendant was accused? Specifically, why couldn't the White House or other Democrats have pointed out that Adegbile is being held to a standard to which we never held the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
Three months ago, John Errol Ferguson was executed for one of the worst mass murders in Florida's history. After tricking his way into a woman’s home, he eventually bound, blindfolded and shot eight people. Six of them died. While under indictment for those crimes, Ferguson murdered two teenagers on their way to church.

Ferguson might have been executed earlier, but his attorneys, one of whom was later rewarded with a position of unparalleled influence in the U.S. government, argued Ferguson was mentally ill and dragged out the process for years.

What kind of person would defend a butcher with the blood of eight people on his hands?

It was Chief Justice John Roberts, who devoted 25 pro bono hours to Ferguson's case when he was working in private practice. Later, when Roberts was nominated to the nation's highest court, his work on the Ferguson case wasn't seen by anyone as a hinderance. "A good lawyer like John Roberts may not share the client's priorities, they might not share the client’s worldview, what they're committed to is the application of rights under law," says Charles Geyh, an expert on legal ethics and professor at the Indiana University School of Law....
Are Democrats ever going to develop the habit of anticipating attacks of the kind that were made against Adegbile? Are they ever going to recognize the need to neutralize such attacks rather than sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping the attacks will just go away? Is the Democratic Party always going to be a party of Dukakises?


A CLARIFICATION: Harry Reid and Pat Leahy mentioned the Roberts case today. But how many Democrats mentioned it in public forums before today?


Victor said...

Ok, you 7 Democrats, why don't you join the Republicans and start to posthumously impeach the late President John Adams.

Don't you know that that traitorous SOB defended British Soldiers in court?!?!?!?!?!?!


Outside of a handful of Democratic Senators, who display some occasionally, I not only don't see too many "Profiles in Courage" on either side of the aisle - I don't even see any 'Nose-hairs in Courage.'

Democrats, you need to MESSAGE better!
NOT massage the Republicans fee-fee's, and help them in their quest to make you look rediculous.

RandomThgt said...

To answer your questions....
Are Democrats ever going to develop the habit of anticipating attacks of the kind that were made against Adegbile? No

Are they ever going to recognize the need to neutralize such attacks rather than sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping the attacks will just go away? No

Is the Democratic Party always going to be a party of Dukakises? Yes

Glennis said...


Anonymous said...

While this is spineless and feckless, it's political more than anything.

The legal community needs to come out and force this as an issue. Not just on the grounds that "guilty or innocent everyone deserves a fair trial", but also on business grounds.

Ultimately all recent "wins" (as some of them are half steps) when it comes to any sort of social issue come from business interests. Big tech, big agra, and big business are the most powerful tools in the immigration fight (granted for reasons that will lower wages but still). Rich cosmopolitan types bankrolled and bought gay marriage and big business is key in getting those laws passed and forcing the right to let them through.

The legal community is plenty large, plenty rich, and has plenty of influence. As such they are the ones who can drive this forward and actually change things.

When top lawyers and top law firms come out and fight on this, the 1% to put it bluntly, they will win this fight for us. Just like they have on every other fight related to social battles. If the 1% doesn't engage and the fight is just "activists" it cannot be won.

marieburns said...

"He inserted his office in an effort to turn reality on its head, impugn honorable and selfless law enforcement officers, and glorify an unrepentant cop-killer. This is not required by our legal system. On the contrary, it is noxious to it." -- Mitch McConnell on Debo P. Adegbile

"Judge Roberts has an impressive record.... We should not attribute to him the actions of clients he has represented." -- Mitch McConnell, on John Roberts, July 20, 2005

Anonymous said...


You can point out the hypocrisy of the Republicans or the spinelessness of the Democrats all you want. It ultimately changes nothing.

What will matter is when 1% top flight law firms go after this. Once they wade in with this being a moral, ethical, and business issue and take the front on it the Democrats will grow a spine and the Republicans won't fight it (well slightly in both cases but enough). Then change will happen.

Once this sort of chicanery becomes an issue at the cigar and martini parties top lawyers attend and thus becomes an issue politicians and the press feel pressure about it will stop. Until then nothing can, or will, be done.