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Posted at 12:18 PM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Rubin still flat wrong about Black Panther nonsense

By Adam Serwer

Jennifer Rubin responds to yesterday's post on how Republicans have manufactured a scandal out of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case:

Let's take them in order. Adam asserts: "Republican congressmen Lamar Smith and Darrell Issa are literally accusing the Obama administration of favoring 'a political ally -- the New Black Panther Party.'" This is wrong. The issue is whether a meritorious claim of voter intimidation was dismissed under pressure from left-leaning civil rights groups and whether there is reason to believe there is a sentiment against a color-blind application of civil rights laws. This point has been made repeatedly by the now-House Judiciary chairman, as well as by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.).

This is the most fascinating definition of "wrong," I've ever seen. I wasn't making an "assertion," I was literally quoting from a press release sent out by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in which they stated, "We've already seen this administration dismiss one case against a political ally -- the New Black Panther Party -- for no apparent reason." I don't think Rubin finds this accusation ridiculous so much as she finds it hard to defend -- the title of her piece on the NBPP case, after all, is "Friends in High Places."

A slight tug on thread of this accusation reveals the feverish alternate universe of racial resentment in which some conservatives seem to reside. It's not just that they casually accuse the president and the attorney general of being "allies" with a black hate group, it's the implication that there was some political benefit to this relationship, as though the black community as a whole is somehow deeply moved by the NBPP's racial hatred, and the narrowing of the case represents a kind of quid pro quo. We're supposed to believe that without the racist rhetoric of the New Black Panther Party, black people would never have been motivated to go to the polls for Barack Obama? That black separatism has some broad mainstream appeal among African-Americans? This gets more disgusting the more one thinks about it, which is why conservatives rarely go beyond mere implication.

As to whether or not there is "colorblind" enforcement of civil rights laws, I find the use of the term in this context, by both liberals and conservatives, to be a symptom of America's near-pathological affinity for political correctness. The Civil Rights Division was created by President Dwight Eisenhower in order to ensure that the federal government could enforce the civil rights of black Americans in the South during Jim Crow. There's no question that civil rights laws cover Americans of all backgrounds -- and indeed, the voting section under Obama has intervened on behalf of white voters. But civil rights enforcement can't be anymore "race-neutral" than our own society or history. Ensuring that people's rights are protected regardless of race can't actually be achieved through color-blindness.

When Rubin writes that the question is whether "there is reason to believe there is a sentiment against a color-blind application of civil rights laws," what she's really saying is that the lawyers in the Justice Department need to prove they aren't racist. Their intervention on behalf of white voters notwithstanding, there's no way to prove this to conservatives' satisfaction -- and conservatives don't want it proven. They just want to keep raising the question, because it allows them to continue suggesting that the president is racist against white people.

Next, Adam claims that the case was not dismissed. This is inaccurate. It was dismissed against the New Black Panther Party and two individual defendants. The remedy sought against the remaining defendant (not to brandish a weapon near a Philadelphia polling place) is meaningless, since such action is already prohibited by law.

Again, Rubin seems to be mistaking the facts she wants for the ones she has. The Justice Department obtained an injunction against the NBPP member with a weapon; that this remedy is unsatisfying to her does not change the fact that it was obtained. There isn't any evidence that King Samir Shabazz's actions were part of a nationwide effort by the NBPP to intimidate white voters, not the least of which is because a mostly black voting precinct in Philadelphia is a bad place to go if one wants to scare white people out of voting.

Adam also errs in claiming that U.S Commission on Civil Rights co-chairman Abigail Thernstrom contends that the case lacks merit. In fact, since the testimony of Chris Coates and the revelations from the Judicial Watch FOIA, Thernstrom has been silent publicly and refused to vote on the interim report or sign letters seeking additional information. I would encourage Adam to interview her to obtain her latest take on the case.

Professor Thernstrom has not retracted her comments to Politico about the conservative commissoners deliberately trying to "topple" the Obama administration. I've contacted Professor Thernstrom, who would not comment on the record but assured me that I did not mischaracterize her views.

Next, he is wrong on whether there was voter intimidation. The affidavits of poll watchers attest that there was. Moreover, the poll workers, who are also covered by the Voting Rights Act, were plainly menaced by the defendants.

Again, we have Rubin's odd definition of "wrong," which appears to mean, "factually accurate." There have been no voters who have come forward and said they were intimidated, and the Republican poll watchers alleging voter intimidation haven't produced any. Again, Rubin is alleging a "blatant" case of voter intimidation requiring the full attention of several government agencies and Congress itself without any actual intimidated voters.

As to the accusations against Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes, the accounts of two former Justice Department employees are in full agreement on the essential fact: Fernandes instructed the attorneys not to bring cases against black defendants. But let's call Fernandes to the stand and get her take.

So Rubin isn't actually contesting that when she wrote that Fernandes "instructed Department attorneys not to pursue cases against African American defendants," this was an assertion of something as fact that in reality is contested by the contradictory testimony of the conservative attorneys making the claim. Again, the testimony of one attorney was that Fernandes said the Civil Rights Division was in the business of doing "traditional civil rights work," which he interpreted as "helping minorities." It's unclear why anyone who finds "helping minorities" so viscerally objectionable would be working in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, except when you consider that the person was hired at a time when a background as a Republican political operative was more important than actual experience in civil rights law.

As for Adam's reference to a case brought against a black defendant, the Ike Brown case was filed during the Bush administration over the extreme objection of liberal department attorneys and civil rights groups who don't believe non-traditional victims of civil rights laws should have the benefit of the government's protection.

And yet those "liberal department attorneys" running the division, supposedly hostile to helping whites, subsequently extended the injunction against Ike Brown. There's no way to reconcile this without either concluding that the accusations of racism are unfounded or that the Justice Department is simply covering up its "get whitey" agenda.

At least one of the attorneys involved in that case, Robert Kengle, has said that he didn't object to the Ike Brown case being filed, he objected to the fact that the Bush administration was ignoring similar cases involving intimidation of minorities. The Government Accountability Office's report on civil rights enforcement during the Bush era backs up his claims that recommendations by career attorneys to pursue such cases were dismissed. Neither Rubin nor any other conservatives have expressed any interest in exploring any of those.

Rubin writes "I'm not sure what the list of complaints that Adam enumerates about a variety of Bush era policies have to do with this." Everything. The former voting section attorney who first testified before the commission has a background as a conservative activist, which, according to one former section chief, was why he was originally hired. The former voting section chief, Christopher Coates, who corroborated (and, in the case of Fernandes, contradicted) his charges was referred to by disgraced Bush-era civil rights division head Bradley Schlozman as "a true member of the team."

In his testimony, Coates said Schlozman was merely trying to "diversify" the division. Schlozman, on the other hand, said he wanted to "gerrymander all of those crazy libs rights out of the section." The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility and the Inspector General called it violating civil service laws. Yet Rubin suggests that Coates is a credible source on what constitutes neutrality in law enforcement.

The GAO found a "a significant drop in the enforcement of several major antidiscrimination and voting rights laws" during the Bush administration. Republicans yawned. Now they've latched onto a single case in which no voters were intimidated to allege a racist conspiracy in the Justice Department that demands by my count at least four investigations -- but only because it might involve what Rubin refers to as "non-traditional victims of civil rights laws." By which she means white people. Conservatives' priorities here speak for themselves, and they aren't what anyone could describe as "race-neutral."

Rubin's rather interesting phrase, "victims of civil rights laws," is unintentionally revealing, since what I assume she actually means is victims of discrimination. Some conservatives regard federal civil rights laws as a form of unwarranted federal intervention or as "discriminatory" against whites, since they involve the federal government securing certain inalienable rights against the kind of cultural pressures they see as integral to a healthy society. This whole "scandal" isn't really about "race neutral" enforcement of civil rights laws. It's about discrediting the whole concept of civil rights enforcement by undermining the legitimacy of the federal agency charged with doing so.

If there was any misbehavior, I'm sure the OPR/IG investigations will uncover it--there's no evidence that sustains the outrageous accusations conservatives have made thus far. 

By Adam Serwer  | January 4, 2011; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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Cat fight!

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 4, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Rubin sure got under Adam's skin.

I hope The Plum Line won't become a place where Greg's ilk are invited [to try] to trash his conservative WaPo co-workers. This seems childish.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 4, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't see it as "trashing" anybody. She responded to Adam, he is merely pointing out the flaws in her response.

Posted by: DinOH | January 4, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Mr Serwer gets an opportunity to punch above his weight class.

It is the same old issue: the federal government launches some well intentioned effort to resolve a wrong. The wrong is long gone, but the mechanism, and its funding, lives on.

it is very clear that the Obama admin intends to use the laws at its disposal to advance its agenda. OK fine. One of those agenda items is increasingly looking like some form of endless "retribution".

so we have an overbearing bureaucracy armed with unneeded laws being used as a political tool for Obama and his liberal acolytes.

Just look at the disdain emanating from Mr Serwer. Imagine the nerve of mere whities to demand that the government treat everyone the same! Darn that nasty honkie name Ricci for insisting that the government actually BE colorblind.

I have a simple solution, disband all of it. Defund the EEOC, defund the AG office's to reduce its ability to waste our money selectively enforcing laws that are simply no longer needed.

PROVE in that environment that America's blacks continue to face the same challenges today that they faced in Orval Fabus's heyday.

But the agenda for the liberals is clear. In a country where racial gerrymandering is no longer valid, what chance would fools like Alcee Hastings have in the voting booth? Who would return Marcia Fudge or my favorite example of the most ethical congress in history: Chollie Rangel?

that Mr Serwer doesn't see that he's now part of the problem instead of part of the solution is pretty typical. He's a modern liberal ain't he?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 4, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I hereby nominate Jennifer Rubin for the "Ben Domenech Award for Distorting the Truth at the Washington Post in Order to Carry Republican Water".

Posted by: flounder2 | January 4, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

How many members of the NBPP are there? 5? 6? What are the dues? Where do they meet?

Posted by: JkR- | January 4, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

It's the economy, stupid.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 4, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

in rsponse to this:
How many members of the NBPP are there? 5? 6? What are the dues? Where do they meet?


How many unibombers were there? Oh only one, so why bother, right? Isn't that the "logic" you are applying here?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 4, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I've given up on reading anything Ms.Rubin churns out. It's a waste of time and energy - unless you're reading it with a satirical slant - then it's guaranteed laughs. I'd rather take a dull, rusty nail to both eyes than read any more "insight" from Ms. Rubin.

Posted by: notfooledbydistractions1 | January 4, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Skippy: "How many unibombers were there?"


You're punching over your weight class again, skippy...and using a moronic example to boot.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 4, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"PROVE in that environment that America's blacks continue to face the same challenges today that they faced in Orval Fabus's heyday."

No one is making this assertion, moron.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 4, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"But civil rights enforcement can't be anymore "race-neutral" than our own society or history. Ensuring that people's rights are protected regardless of race can't actually be achieved through color-blindness."

Wow, you have some screws loose.

In addition to which, flights of policy fantasy like this are hardly the kind of material to show that your foe is "wrong wrong wrong wrong."

But par for the course for the sort of amateur spitballing that passes for journalism here.

Posted by: quarterback1 | January 4, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse


"Ensuring that people's rights are protected regardless of race can't actually be achieved through color-blindness."

This is an utterly absurd statement.

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 4, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse


Let's cut to the chase. This is about Republicans hoping to drum up white voters in the 2012 elections. It's really that simple.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 4, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse


"the wrong is long gone".

Wow. Apparently ol' skippy doesn't think civil rights violations can happen to anyone *but* Jim Crow-era African Americans.

I didn't bother to read the rest of his drivel.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 4, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"I didn't bother to read the rest of his drivel."

Then don't comment. You waste serious people's time. This isn't a place for ego boosting.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 4, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Well done Adam. Your explanations on this topic have been really illuminating. I think its easy to see the trumped-up nature of scandals like this but not always simple to pick out the details and the ways the facts are being manipulated. Thanks for keeping on top of this and for your clear explanation.

As for Rubin, I tried to read her early on and thought maybe she was in the "conservatives worth reading" column, but was quickly disabused of that notion.

Posted by: jbossch | January 4, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

How does someone who is so obviously factually challenged as this Rubin idiot







Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 4, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

""But civil rights enforcement can't be anymore "race-neutral" than our own society or history. Ensuring that people's rights are protected regardless of race can't actually be achieved through color-blindness.""

WELL DONE, Adam. Well said.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 4, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

All, filibuster reform update:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 4, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Adam -- where actual voter intimidation occurred was in minority districts where black voters were harrassed and menaced by white teabagger 'poll-watchers.' Many complaints have been filed, the first in Harris County, TX.

"True the Vote' - a teabagger movement,is going national in 2012, a concerted effort to intimidate and repress the black vote. You will be hearing more and more of this -- disenfranchsing minorites is a major pillar of Republican strategy for 2012.

That is why all the talk about theBlack panthers and ACORN -- to ramp up outrage and racial hatred among simpleminded white voters and drive them to the polls.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 4, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse


GM, Ford, Chrysler U.S. December Sales Top Analyst Estimates

GM’s deliveries in the month rose 7.5 percent to 224,185, the Detroit-based automaker said today in a statement. The largest U.S. automaker was expected to post a 4.3 percent sales increase, the average of four analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Ford’s sales gained 3.5 percent, topping the 3.3 percent average estimate of five analysts.

“This is a market that’s coming back significantly,” said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, a researcher in Lexington, Massachusetts. “And with really strong products coming from GM, Ford and Chrysler, there’s a lot of opportunity for change in the marketplace.”

GO GM! Back from the brink, *ahem*.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 4, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

in response to this:
No one is making this assertion, moron.


so dear sir (madame?) why do we need the civil rights division of the DOJ? Why do we need the EEOC? Why did the guys in the Ricci case get screwed?


Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 4, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

in response to this:
Wow. Apparently ol' skippy doesn't think civil rights violations can happen to anyone *but* Jim Crow-era African Americans.

I didn't bother to read the rest of his drivel.


Of course not. Let's look at the way the City of New Haven discriminated against white people in the Ricci case.

that's the point. All this liberal BS doesn't exist to END discriminiation. Oh no it exists to provide preferences for blacks in redress of wrongs that disappeared a generation ago.

The liberals have to sustain the myth that jim crow is alive and well for a variety of reasons. Among them are:
(1) If the liberals are the good guys then they are compelled to paint their opponents as barbaric haters. It isn't true but they find it comforting.
(2) The liberals aren't really into equality, they are in to retribution.
(3) The liberals need to keep the blacks on the plantation. Any black with the nerve to wander away from the liberal dogma is shame to the race.
(4) Liberals love government intervention in our lives. Using tired old rascist nonsense is just a convenient excuse to grab more power.

I could go on, but my lack of respect for Chuck and his ilk should be clear by now.

Have a blessed new year chuck. Here's hoping you manage an original thought some day soon.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 4, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse


Let go of it



Posted by: RainForestRising | January 4, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"At 69, Mr. Cheney’s heart will never beat at full strength again, doctors say." NYT

They are probably Democrats.

But wow. His Princely Darkness sure doesn't look like he'll be lunging any more war horses.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 4, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I wonder when Adam will notice that the enforcement of voting rights has actually declined since Coates left, and that the ONLY case the Obama administration has brought onbehalf of black voters was brought by (drum roll) J. Christian Adams. Trashing the Bush people might be convincing if the Obama administration were bring half as many voting rights act cases per year as the Bush administration brought - even though Obama added 10 attorneys to the voting rights section. This is just embarassing.

Posted by: androcles | January 4, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I remember the old Black Panthers.

As hapless a bunch of paranoid psycopaths as there ever was.

They make the "New" ones look like a buncha gay wimps.

Why does this Sewer guy defend them?

Could it be his left knee jerking him around again??

You betcha!

Posted by: battleground51 | January 4, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

["Why does this Sewer guy defend them?"]

Learn to read. He's defending the Obama administration. And he's doing so by pointing out, accurately, that you Reich Wingers don't know jack.

Posted by: jiji1 | January 4, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Shorter skippie: "How dare those discriminatory vengeful slave-owning power-hungry racist liberals say bad things about their opponents! A non-liberal like me would never do a thing like that!" [citation needed]

Posted by: halfspin | January 8, 2011 6:24 AM | Report abuse

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