Justice Was Served in the Senate

Republicans and the seven Democrats who joined them to oppose a convicted cop-killer’s defense attorney joining the Justice Department voted with their conscience, not racism.

Alex Wong/Getty

Wednesday afternoon, the Senate rejected the nomination of Debo Adegbile to become the next assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. This marks the first defeat for President Obama under the new simple majority vote structure Democrats rammed through on a party line vote last year to consider presidential appointments.

Obama was quick to lash out at those who opposed Adegbile’s nomination. Shortly after his nominee failed to receive a majority of the vote, the president asserted:

The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant… As a lawyer, Mr. Adegbile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him.

The president’s remarks are illustrative of how he has governed the past five years—the crux of the matter is in what Obama didn’t say versus the story he would like the public to believe: the defeat of his nominee was at the hands of obstructionist Republicans—not his framing the issue that Adegbile played by the rules and Washington politics were used against him.

Obama conveniently failed to mention that his nominee had infamously elected to represent Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man convicted and sentenced to die for killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner more than 30 years ago. While lawyers often represent defendants accused of committing heinous crimes, the Fraternal Order of Police—an organization representing more than 300,000 law enforcement officers around the country—bitterly opposed the nomination of a lawyer with whom they would have to work closely should he have been confirmed—a nominee the president had failed to consult with outside groups before Obama announced Adegbile’s nomination.

In a harshly worded letter to the president dated January 4, the FoP opined in part:

“This nomination can be interpreted in only one way: it is a thumb in the eye of our nation’s law enforcement officers. It demonstrates a total lack of regard or empathy for those who strive to keep you and everyone else in our nation safe in your homes and neighborhoods—sometimes giving their lives in the effort.”

So much for the notion that sinister D.C. politicians (read: Republicans) were unfairly trying to punish a lawyer who represented a black defendant convicted for murdering a Philadelphia policeman. Lest anyone think otherwise, the FOP had the foresight to offer the following in their letter to Obama:

“Standing up and fighting against racism wherever and whenever you find it is a brave and admirable endeavor; sometimes standing up against racism entails opposing and exposing cynical opportunism disguised in the name of justice.”

There are numerous lawyers across the country with impeccable qualifications to lead the Civil Rights Division who could have sailed through Senate confirmation. That. Obama would select an individual who zealously defended a cop killer —and offered no remorse for doing so—who sought his freedom on trumped up charges of racism is offensive. Yet another cynical attempt by the president to motivate and mobilize the Democratic base in November to grasp onto power at the expense of dividing the country with a polarizing nominee.

Speaking of the Democrats, the president conspicuously failed to object to the fact that seven members of his own party voted against Mr. Adegbile’s nomination. While Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid voted against the nomination to preserve his ability to bring up the nomination at a later date, Chris Coons, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor, John Walsh, Joe Donnolly, and Bob Casey opposed Adegbile.

Consider the following from Senator Coons:

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“At a time when the Civil Rights Division urgently needs better relations with the law enforcement community, I was troubled by the idea of voting for an Attorney General for Civil Rights who would face such visceral opposition from law enforcement on his first day on the job.”

Hardly the statement of a senator who played the rules of D.C. against a nominee, but it was one of a public servant who voted with his conscience to best represent the constituents he was elected to serve.

Finally, hardly any story dealing with a rejection for the president of late would be complete if the race card wasn’t thrown in for good measure. Senator Reid took to the floor of the Senate prior to the vote to accuse Republicans of race baiting by calling opposition to Adegbile an “affront to what it means to live in America…They want fewer voting people. The don’t want people to vote and they especially don’t want poor people to vote.”

What a sad commentary that in the Era of Hope and Change that senators who elect to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on presidential nominations are branded as racists seeking to disenfranchise the votes of poor minorities.

Justice was served in the Senate when a majority of Republicans and Democrats alike formed a bipartisan consensus to reject the nomination of a candidate who had once defended a cowardly criminal convicted of murdering a Philadelphia policeman some 30 years ago. That the president and his allies would castigate Senators for rejecting a candidate they found unworthy shows they believe the ends justify the means to ram through a nominee to head the Civil Rights Division is morally repugnant.