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Panther, Panther, Burning Bright...

There's a bit of a dustup between two opinionators at the Washington Post. Jennifer Rubin (a former colleague of mine, but we've never actually had any contact whatsoever) brought up the New Black Panther voter-suppression case, and her current colleague Greg Sargent rebutted.

Which is a particularly apt term, because Sargent's response is particularly butt-headed.

First, some brief background. On Election Day 2008, two NBPP members, one of whom was carrying a baton, were videotaped outside a polling station in a mostly black neighborhood in Philadelphia. No voters complained, but video of the two taken by Republican poll watchers went viral in the conservative media. Two months later, Bush administration officials in the Justice Department filed a voter intimidation lawsuit under a section of the Voting Rights Act that was last used to stop a 1992 statewide voter suppression effort against blacks by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).
Pretty much accurate. so far, so good. But note the use of "Bush administration officials" -- that might be technically accurate, but will be used over and over again as a shorthand for "bad."

Republican congressmen Lamar Smith and Darrell Issa are literally accusing the Obama administration of favoring "a political ally -- the New Black Panther Party." Think about that for a second: Republicans are casually suggesting, with a straight face, that the Obama administration is "allied" with members of an anti-white hate group. Never mind that one of the men charged in the 2008 incident, King Samir Shabazz, once described Obama as "the next slavemaster" and a "puppet on a string." The thinking seems to be that because the attorney general and the president are black, and black people -- or black Democrats -- all are filled with seething hatred for whites and an unquenchable thirst for vengeance over past wrongs, they must be in alliance. It's idiotic on its face.

"Ally" is a bit of an overreach here. It implies a certain level of agreement between the two parties, and that would be absurd. If there is one characteristic that defines Obama, it's a lack of a sense of loyalty. But what would be indisputable would be to describe the NBPP as "supporters" of Obama -- that was the entire gist of their shouts and imprecations at the polling station.

Furthermore, the Justice Department did not "dismiss" the case. Rather, it decided -- in the absence of any evidence of a nationwide plot by the NBPP to intimidate white voters -- to narrow the civil charges and obtain an injunction against the one NBPP member that actually had a weapon.

I'm no lawyer, so I'm not going to get into a technical argument about what constitutes a "dismissal" of the case. Rather, a simple recitation of facts: the NBBP members were indicted. They chose to ignore the whole matter. They didn't show up at their trial, didn't send counsel, did nothing. The judge then ruled against them summarily, convicting them on all charges. At that point, the Justice Department decided to take its victory and throw it away. It asked the judge to drop all charges against one guy (the one without the billy club) and "punish" the other guy with an injunction saying that he couldn't show up at a polling place with a weapon again -- until 2012.

And what's this BS about there needing to be a "nationwide plot?" When is that some kind of criterion? The cases Sargent cited didn't involve nationwide plots, either.

Rubin mentions the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report -- without noting that then-President George W. Bush gamed the system to stack the panel with Republican partisans. The one actual voting rights expert on the panel, Republican Abigail Thernstrom, has called the entire issue a right-wing effort to "topple" the Obama administration.

So, what were the flaws in that report? What did the Commission get wrong, or slant, or distort, or just lie about? Bush used his legal authority to appoint whom he believed would to the best job, and didn't stuff it with liberal activists -- that's supposed to be some great scandal?

Rubin also asserts as fact that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes "instructed Department attorneys not to pursue cases against African American defendants," but the two conservative former Justice Department attorneys who leveled those charges give completely different accounts of the incident, with one saying that Fernandes said the Civil Rights Division was in the business of doing "traditional civil rights work," which he interpreted as "helping minorities." Rubin also neglects to note that the voting section has already intervened on behalf of white voters against a black defendant.

Those two accounts -- at least one of them was delivered under oath. That means that if Mr. Coates lied, then he committed perjury. You know, perjury -- as in Bill Clinton and Scooter Libby. That's certainly grounds for more investigation, not less.

She calls the case a "blatant case of voter intimidation," but no actual voters have come forward to complain, even after the deluge of coverage. Let's face it: If the OPR/IG investigations of the case come back without evidence of politicization, conservatives won't drop the subject -- they'll simply argue that this proves the Obama DoJ is politicized and they'll demand further investigations.

Here's where we see the corrosive danger of paying too much attention to lawyers, wonks, and lawyer-wonks. Here are two men, in military-style fatigues, proclaiming that we were gonna all be ruled by The Black Man, whitey better watch out, and nobody better mess with The Black Man, in front of a polling station on election day, with one of them brandishing a weapon. That is intimidation -- and it takes a very special kind of elitist arrogance and stupidity to even try to weasel around that.

While conservatives constantly complain of being unfairly accused of racism, they've spent the better half of the past two years leveling such frivolous accusations against Obama, in the context of almost every policy decision he's ever made, from health-care reform to financial regulation. When you think about it, suggesting that the Justice Department is racist after having argued that Obama is actively ruining the economy to get back at white people for slavery actually kind of seems like small potatoes.
Another dodge. Because other attacks have been partially driven by "improper" motives, then all of them are BS -- and so are these.

With the NBPP case, they've managed to turn one of the Obama administration's most low-key triumphs, the restoration of the Civil Rights Division to its original role as a protector of all Americans' civil rights, into an overblown scandal, short on evidence but long on the kind of race-baiting Republicans have freely indulged in since the first black president of the United States took office two years ago. Holder was right, the "the facts and the law," are on his side, and, as many reasons liberals have to be disappointed with this administration, Holder's stewardship of the Civil Rights Division isn't one of them.

The NBPP case is a "low key triumph?" In what universe? Two guys stood in front of a poll, one of them armed, and loudly proclaimed that their guy better win, and the sole penalty is one of 'em can't bring a weapon to the polls until the next presidential election -- when their guy will, in all likelihood, be up for re-election?  One of the two, also, apparently an official poll watcher for the Democratic Party?

Those of a malicious bent should take very careful note of the Justice Department's actions and statements on this case, and assemble a plan on how to act at polling stations for 2012. Don't bring any really big weapons, don't explicitly threaten violence, and don't conspire on a national basis. Just keep it local, keep it "low key," keep it implicit, and you'll be fine. Billy clubs, axe handles, baseball bats -- nothing more than that. Paramilitary garb is OK, but no armor or masks.

That's the rule they've established. Those who should choose to adopt them should have no fears of prosecution, as long as they follow the rules.


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Comments (15)

"That's the rule they've es... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"That's the rule they've established. Those who should choose to adopt them should have no fears of prosecution, as long as they follow the rules."

Well, the most important part of the Rule is : the Rule applies if you are black, it does not apply if you are white.

Here's the straight factual... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

Here's the straight factual setup: two men in paramilitary garb were standing outside a polling place, one holding a weapon (nightstick).

Now to add some flesh to that skeleton. The two men weren't waiting for a bus; IIRC, they addressed prospective voters as they approached, and made clear their interest in how those prospective voters proposed to vote. Further, the one with the nightstick could be characterized as "brandishing" it.

Is that a fair characterization of events? I think it is.

Question for liberals: do you have a problem with any this?

Oh, I forgot to mention, the men were from the Aryan Nation. Does that change your answer?

It shouldn't.

Wow, this Sargent guy is ab... (Below threshold)

Wow, this Sargent guy is absolutely clueless. He totally beclowned himself in that article. Is this really the best talent the WaPo can come up with.

"That's the rule they've es... (Below threshold)

"That's the rule they've established. Those who should choose to adopt them should have no fears of prosecution, as long as they follow the rules. "

Maybe Judicial prosecution.....

Well, according to him, is ... (Below threshold)

Well, according to him, is any polling place in Texas is mostly white, we can have armed Permit To Carry people standing out front. It isn't intimidation. Just "what it is". The left is so clueless they do not even recognize their own hypocrisy. ww

Sargent has always been an ... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Sargent has always been an idiot and a hack, whose word is worthless. If NBPP is so alien to Obama, how was it that Shabazz was allowed to visit the White House?

#2,Good comment...... (Below threshold)


Good comment...what if...they were white and pulling this stunt. It should have been just a disgusting and criminal. These black men in question really thought the world was going to change to their mind-set of what is fair (or what is pay back) not because a black man might be president, but because Obama was in the running for president. This is the atomsphere Obama created and creates in this country.

Sargent argues that the bla... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Sargent argues that the black intimdators are in a "mostly black" community thus they could not have been intent on intimidating "white voters," for there were virtually no white voters to intimidate. Sargent presupposes, without missing a beat, that no black voters would consider voting against Obama and that the only targets of the Black Panthers must be white. How condescending -- and racist. The usual soft bigotry of the left.

A former civil-rights worke... (Below threshold)

A former civil-rights worker, associate of R. Kennedy, was at that polling place, on that day and encountered these men. According to his TESTIMONY, in all his years of working in the South to obtain and assure the rights of blacks to vote, he NEVER encountered such outright intimidation. Interesting coming from him.

Sargent argues that the ... (Below threshold)
jim m:

Sargent argues that the black intimdators are in a "mostly black" community

I wonder how many blacks Sargent would accpet being intimidated in a "mostly white" community. I expect that if the number were even one there would be hell to pay.

Furthermore, it doesn't matter if nobody was effectively intimidated. It isn't being successful at intimidation it is the act of intimidation itself that is illegal. Sargent should try robbing a bank and see if leaving the money behind excuses him from the jail time. Something tells me that the jury won't be buying the "I didn't take any money so it wasn't a robbery" excuse.

I'm sure Holder and Barry w... (Below threshold)

I'm sure Holder and Barry will have this all cleared up by 2013. I'm so proud of them.

Where were the police durin... (Below threshold)
Joel Adler:

Where were the police during this activity? In my town by law there is a police officer in the building to protect the process.There is even a ban against the wearing of pins and holding signs in the polling place. The police also monitor that political supporters of any candidate or issue stay at least 150 feet away from the poll. I would think that at least one voter would have felt intimidated by the Black Panthers and then contacted the police for help either before or after voting.

I sure hope this dumbest pr... (Below threshold)

I sure hope this dumbest president ever is not contemplating running again.... Or there is going to be a lot of " don't tase me bro " Going on at the polls come 2012.

Rules? We don't need no st... (Below threshold)

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules.

Two black guys standing out... (Below threshold)

Two black guys standing outside a poling place - one armed with a night stick -shouting slurs and threats and this tool masquerading as a journalist goes into how racist whites are for complaining about legitimate issues that have NOTHING to do with the NBPP case.

But it was in a "mostly black" neighborhood, so it's all okie dokie. If I remember correctly, Obama didn't get 100% of the black vote. It stands to reason not every single black person in that neighborhood intended to vote for Obama. So it's okay if black people intimidate other black people and white people. Just don't be white and utter a complaint about Obama's policies.

If this guy was any more stupid they'd have to water him once a week.






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