Sunday, March 09, 2014

"Feckless" In Pennsylvania

In his blog "Attytood," Philadelphia-based journalist Will Bunch says Republicans "use this word to describe President Obama and his foreign policy: 'Feckless'."  He doesn't know what it means, Bunch acknowledges, but believes it describes "Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, a man who apparently had a feck-ectomy at some point in his life" (video below of a different kind of senator).

Responding to defeat in the Senate last week of President Obama's appointment of Debo Adegbile, former director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department, Bunch wrote (or more likely, typed)

One of the cases that the Fund took on while Adegbile was there was arguing that convicted Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal should not receive the death penalty, in part because of racial disparities in jury selection before his trial. Now, I've made it clear how I feel about Abu-Jamal -- the guy murdered a cop in cold blood and widowed Maureen Faulkner. I have no sympathy for him and I hope he spend the rest of his days behind bars, contemplating the evil thing he's done.

Bunch concedes he doesn't believe Abu-Jamal should have been executed, but only because he is opposed to the death penalty.  I would go further: Abu-Jamal should have been executed but, as Bunch explains

those of us who believe in an American way of justice believe that even a cop killer like Abu-Jamal deserves a defense (and an appeal) from qualified and presumably decent attorneys. Adegbile wasn't arguing for Abu-Jamal's innocence, just that he be spared the death penalty. Over the years, hundreds of men and women who've defended murderers have become judges, pillars of their community, even U.S. senators.

That's the American way. But someone forgot to tell Sen. Bob Casey.On Friday, the day of the week preferred by cowards for revealing their cowardly decisions, Casey announced that he could not support Adegbile. In addition to feck, Casey is also apparently lacking is something that the journalists Laker and Ruderman were ab\le to display, which is cojones. Faced with the choice of voting for a good man or responding to the bullying tactics of the Fraternal Order of Police, Casey wilted. I don't know why that's a surprise. Spinelessness has been a trademark of Casey's career; even when one agrees with him...

However, there was someone who has even less courage, even less (fewer?) cojones than the Senator. reports

District Attorney Seth Williams, typically an ardent supporter of President Obama, joined with congressional Republicans yesterday in opposing the nomination of Debo Adegbile to a top Justice Department post.

Williams said in a news conference that Adegbile's role in defending convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal is the crux of why he, too, objects to the nomination. Adegbile was Obama's top pick to head the Justice Department's civil-rights division. He was head of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund at the time it was fighting against the death penalty for Abu-Jamal.

"Mr. Adegbile's decision to champion the cause of an extremist cop killer sends a message of contempt to police officers who risk their lives every day," Williams said.

"He is ill-suited for a pivotal role in the Justice Department. From the very beginning, the defense of this man, charged with the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner, was about misleading the public. He is a cold-blooded murderer not deserving of hero worship."

Tough words from a tough prosecutor.

Not quite. After Adegbile's office fought to have the sentence of death of its client set aside, in April 2011 a new sentence hearing was ordered and six months later the United States Supreme Court declined to upend the decision.  Two months later, in December

Mr. Williams said Wednesday that the appeals court ruling — and others that have spared Mr. Abu-Jamal’s life over the years — had led him to drop his pursuit of the death penalty, in part because witnesses are no longer available. He said he made the decision after discussing it with Maureen Faulkner, the widow of Daniel Faulkner, the slain police officer.

In 2011, when the Philadelphia District Attorney could have used the power of his office to pursue the execution of the "cold-blooded murderer not deserving of hero worship," Seth Williams took a pass. It may have been the rational decision- continuing the case would have been very expensive- but the decision was made nonetheless to let stand a ruling which Mr. Williams condemns Mr. Adegbile for seeking.

Yet now, when the issue is not Mumia Abu Jamal but voting rights, Seth Williams goes grandstanding, denouncing the defendant when it will require no expenditure of funds, no work building a case, and no effort. Instead, he boldly stands in opposition to "a message of contempt to police officers who risk their lives every day."

The famous Republican journalist and satisrist H.L. Mencken once (unfairly) remarked "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."  It is far nearer the truth to say "Nobody ever lost a vote wrapping his arms around the men in blue."  No doubt Williams understands that and perhaps even, as Chris Hayes (program transcript, here; video, here) described (while commending Tom Harkin), that

if you`ve within watching FOX News with the sound turned off, you may have even thought Debo Adegbile was, in fact, Mumia Abu Jamal, that man you see there, because so often when they talked about Adegbile, they put Mumia Abu Jamal`s image on the screen.

And that was not on accident. They knew what they were doing. The  question is, why? Why? Why did the entire right wing noise machine going to war over this nominee? From FOX News, to Pajama`s Media, to Breitbart, to Senate Republicans -- why did they all go at this guy so hard?

Well, as we try to answer that question, let`s consider what Debo Adegbile would have done if he had confirmed. He would have headed up the DOJ`s civil rights division meaning he would have overseen the implementation of a law called the Voting Rights Act. That`s the same piece of legislation he, himself, twice defended in oral arguments before the Supreme Court -- the same piece of legislation the conservative legal movement has been waging a successful war against for years.

When the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act last summer, they revoked the Justice Department`s power to automatically review for preclearance any voting changes in states with histories of discrimination.

But the Justice Department has another tool under the Voting Rights Act. They don`t automatically get preclearance power anymore, but under Section 2 of the law, DOJ can request preclearance in specific states for jurisdictions by suing them, and the decision of which states or jurisdictions to sue, that would come from, you guessed it, the DOJ`s civil rights division -- the one that Adegbile was nominated to head up.

And, clearly, that fact was on the minds of some Republicans, at least three GOP senators submitted written questions to Adegbile asking specifically how he would use his Section 2 power or how he decide which voter ID laws to fight.

Since the Supreme Court gutted Section 5 of the VRA, according to Brennan Center, five states that used to be covered under preclearance are moving forward with laws that have been on hold, or have passed new laws that restrict voting, and those laws restricting voting, that`s what Republicans appear to be trying to protect.

Mumia Abu Jamal was just a way to sell it.

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