Did the New Black Panther Party intimidate Philadelphia voters on Election Day in 2008? Is the Obama Justice Department guilty of an anti-white voter bias when it dropped most of the charges against the Panthers? A former Justice Department lawyer would have you believe that the answer to both of these questions is yes. And he would also have you believe he is a whistle-blower, but don't believe the hype.
On Tuesday, J. Christian Adams testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. A career official at DOJ, Adams claims that the department's civil rights division instructed its lawyers to ignore voter intimidation cases involving black defendants and white victims. He quit his position in May 2010.
All of this stems from an incident on Election Day 2008 in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, which, oddly enough, is my neighborhood. King Samir Shabazz and Jerry Jackson, two members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, placed themselves at the entrance to a polling place in a heavily African-American area. They were dressed in black militant attire, and Shabazz was carrying a nightstick. The two men allegedly hurled color-coded slurs and insults such as "white devil" and "you're about to be ruled by the black man, cracker." Police told Shabazz to leave but allowed Jackson to stay.
On its way out the door, the Bush administration brought a case against the group, accusing them of violating the Voting Rights Act. The Obama administration -- under the nation's first black attorney general, Eric Holder -- dismissed most of the charges for lack of evidence.
I certainly heard about the incident when it happened, but as the police officer says, "Keep moving, nothing to see here." And if there was anything to see, certainly we would have been talking about it in Philly, don't you think? Certainly, the right-wing noise machine at FOX News will attempt to make something out of this, but they will try in vain.
"The New Black Panther case was the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career," Adams said in a recent Washington Times opinion piece following his resignation. "Based on my firsthand experiences, I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law.... The department abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens victimized by the New Black Panthers. The dismissal raises serious questions about the department's enforcement neutrality in upcoming midterm elections and the subsequent 2012 presidential election." But Adams' allegations appear weak. He failed to mention that when he worked under the Bush Justice Department in 2006, they declined to charge the Minutemen for voter intimidation against Latinos in Arizona, a case similar to the Panthers.
If Adams believes that the New Black Panther case was the worst case he has seen in his career, then he must not get out that much. The watchdog group Media Matters calls the whole thing a "manufactured story" from "a political operative with an ax to grind" and who wants to make Obama look bad right before the midterm elections. And even Abigail Thernstrom--Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and a conservative member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who has shown nothing but open hostility towards minority voting rights--called this case "very small potatoes." Thernstrom said in the National Review that "There are plenty of grounds on which to sharply criticize the attorney general -- his handling of terrorism questions, just for starters -- but this particular overblown attack threatens to undermine the credibility of his conservative critics."
Nevertheless, under the Bush administration, Karl Rove politicized the Justice Department. In those days, officials purposefully ignored racial discrimination against people of color, did not enforce the civil rights laws, and ran the department based on a mixture of smoke and mirrors, and incompetence. They filled the once-prestigious department with 150 graduates of televangelist Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School. They focused on distractions and scams such as reverse discrimination, anti-Christian religious discrimination, and voter fraud, which is little more than right-wing codeword for suppression of the black and Latino vote. Remember all of the drama over the community nonprofit group ACORN and those bogus charges of voter fraud? Conservatives were really angry because ACORN registered all of those new black, brown and poor voters that subsequently brought about an Obama victory.
So, it is no surprise that the Bush attorneys would care so much about the New Black Panthers. And conservative witch hunters, conspiratorial and deceptive as they are, are trying to make the Panthers the new ACORN. In the end, they are prejudiced against the president because he's black, and they believe, as Glenn Beck once claimed, that Obama is a racist who doesn't like white people. It doesn't help that his attorney general is black either.
Like the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is a fire. But with the case against the New Black Panthers, there's only smoke and mirrors, and lots of racial hating on Barack Obama--a man who has restored integrity, competence and the rule of law to the White House. So let's keep moving.