Today the Senate voted 47-52 in opposition to confirming Obama nominee Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Adegbile is a former top lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. That vote was brought about by the usual Republican obstruction, but additionally, 7 Democrats voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would be number 8, but he only voted against it so that he can reintroduce the appointment at a later date.
The President said in a statement, “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.”
Perhaps President Obama is unaware that he is making the case for why Republicans blocked Adegbile’s confirmation as he explained his qualifications, “Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable. He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked.”
And here’s the part of Obama’s statement that really sheds light on why Republicans failed to confirm, as Adegbile’s dedication to voting rights, “His unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and Constitutional rights under the law – including voting rights – could not be more important right now.”
I’m pretty sure that Republicans know exactly how dedicated Adegbile is to voting rights, since Republicans have a record of trying to deny voting rights to all who don’t vote Republican. In fact, in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) grilled Adegbile over whether or not he would allow states to enact voter ID laws. In this same hearing, Adegbile explained his argument to overturn the death sentence of Mumia Abu Jamal, which is what the Republican Party attacked him over. (Given their lust for blood and death, this could be genuine, but it seems more likely that it’s just a good front for their need to keep anyone from protecting voting rights.)
Obama explained that Adegbile’s personal life is the all American story, “And Mr. Adegbile’s personal story – rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s Solicitor General referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators – is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules.”
Ironic, eh? The President thought so as well, “As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him. The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant.”
Republicans have been blocking any and everything and one in order to destroy Obama, as they swore to do before he even took office in 2009. But this block is personal to the GOP. They simply can’t stand to have someone competent protecting civil rights. That wouldn’t do at all. No, that would not help them win any elections, and in fact, were everyone who is entitled to vote allowed to vote, Republicans would be hard pressed to win anything but the most gerrymandered House districts.
Plus, the Human Rights Campaign urged his confirmation, saying, he “is a strong supporter of LGBT rights, a skilled litigator, and an accomplished advocate.” Naturally, Republicans threw a lot of dirty mud on Adegbile, in an effort to it a tough vote for some Democrats in an election year. It’s not a surprise to see Republicans going Willie Horton, as noted by Ari Melber at the Nation. Melber also detailed the Democrats who voted against the confirmation, “Casey, Coons, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Pryor and Walsh.”
People For the American Way Vice President Marge Baker was also not impressed. She issued a statement saying, “This vote is deeply disappointing for anyone who cares about civil rights. There’s no question that Debo is extraordinarily well qualified for this position.”
Baker called Republicans out for attacking doing the job of an attorney, “Attacking an attorney for representing an unpopular criminal client is a toxic strategy for winning a political fight and deeply disruptive to the American ideal of everyone deserving a fair hearing before a court of law. Today’s vote is a triumph of demagoguery.”
No one should be surprised that the GOP played dirty to keep an attorney who is dedicated to voting rights from being confirmed to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. Someone who cares about civil rights? They’re not having it.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.