Justice in the Obama era 0

Paul Greenberg writes in Townhall:

The outstanding example of … cynical manipulation of justice is how a case against the New Black Panthers, which the Department of Justice described as a “black super-racist organization,” has been quickly and quietly shelved with minimal attention to the law and the Constitution. The evidence is right there on the videos recorded Election Day, 2008, when uniformed members of the Black Panthers showed up at a Philadelphia polling station, one of them wielding a billy club. They shouted insults and made threats: “Cracker, you about to be ruled by a black man,” one of the Panthers informed a voter. Two Republican poll watchers, a black couple, were called traitors to their race …

Thank goodness for modern technology, which can make any citizen with an iPhone and its camera a crusading reporter. When all this made the Internet, not even the Obama administration’s Justice Department could ignore what had happened on Philadelphia’s streets. Particularly after the department’s own investigation revealed that the New Black Panthers had called for “300 members to be deployed” at various polling places across the country.

So early this year, the Department of Justice proceeded to file a complaint against the Black Panthers, and specifically against the stormtroopers who were captured on video. So far, so fair.

A lawyer and survivor of many a legal battle for civil rights, Bartle Bull, filed an affidavit in support of the Justice Department’s complaint. He characterized the incident in Philadelphia as “the most blatant form of intimidation I have encountered in my life in political campaigns in many states, even going back to the work I did in Mississippi in the 1960s.”

But the Black Panthers didn’t even bother to respond to the charges — as if they were above the law. And maybe they are. Because after a court had ordered a default judgment against them, including one of their national leaders, the Justice Department caved. It dropped all charges against the Panthers except one, and that one was settled with a light tap on the wrist…

There doesn’t seem to be any explanation for this perversion of justice except the Panthers’ political pull with this new administration. This case is no longer about the Black Panthers so much as it is about a newly politicized Justice Department. At some point the career lawyers in the Justice Department’s civil rights division changed their minds about pressing charges — or had their minds changed for them. By whom? Why? Those questions need answering. Under oath.

The same voices that once complained about the politicization of the Justice Department under a previous administration have fallen noticeably silent. For once Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s senior nudnik, has nothing to say. And the only excuse the Department of Justice offers for its cave-in is that it didn’t want to interfere with the Black Panthers’ freedom of speech. That “explanation” is scarcely good law, but it deserves first prize for sheer chutzpah — even in a city as full of it as Washington, D.C. Shouting racial imprecations at voters, wielding nightsticks, dispatching bully boys in military-looking uniforms to polling places … all that is now exercising freedom of speech? In America? It sounds more like the kind of electioneering practiced by Iran’s supreme leader and holy fraud.

The leading lights of the Democratic Party in and out of Congress may have turned a blind eye to this outrage, but the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hasn’t. In a letter to the attorney general, it has demanded an explanation for this kind of “justice” from the Justice Department:

“We believe the Department’s defense of its actions thus far undermines respect for rule of law and raises other serious questions about the department’s law enforcement decisions.”

It sounds as if the commission is getting some subpoenas ready for high Justice Department officials, and it should be…

Nothing may actually be done to protect Philadelphia’s voters under this administration, but at least there ought to be a full investigation and comprehensive report by somebody official, even if it has to be somebody outside Congress. The record needs to show just how cynical this president and his attorney general can be when it comes to their promises about upholding the rule of law. Not to mention every American voter’s right to cast a secret ballot without being harassed.

Why hasn’t there been a greater sense outrage, betrayal or just disgust at the administration’s handling of this case? My theory: Because none of this comes as a surprise. What else could be expected when The People in their wisdom elect a president of the United States who’s a product of Chicago’s machine politics?

H. L. Mencken said it: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Posted under Commentary, government, Law, Race, United States by Jillian Becker on Saturday, August 22, 2009

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