When the Obama administration wakes up next month to a divided capital, no cabinet member will be facing a more miserable prospect of oversight hearings and subpoenas than Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.That's when I declared that I'd have Attorney General Holder's back and started the tab up above titled "DOJ Watch." As I kept track of things, it became clear that a central role in all this was being played by Thomas Perez, then the Director of DOJ's Civil Rights Division. Together he and AG Holder tackled things like police brutality, reverse redlining, going after Arizona's Sheriff Arpaio, the school-to-prison pipeline and voting rights.
Mr. Holder is a particularly juicy target because he presides over issues that have served as recurrent fodder for political controversy — including using the criminal justice system for terrorism cases, and federal enforcement of civil rights and immigration laws.
And then President Obama nominated Perez to be Secretary of Labor. Yesterday, with an assist from 6 Democrats, the Republicans defeated the nomination of Debo Adegbile to replace him at DOJ. For the moment I'll leave it to others to explain the racist reasons that were trumped up by his opponents to defeat his nomination because I want to focus on putting this one in historical context. That's why I started this off with that 2011 quote from the NYT.
But before we even get there, Sam Kleiner has done a good job of going back to the Clinton administration to demonstrate the Republican's attempts to neuter enforcement of the Civil Rights Act by the DOJ. Remember the firestorm about Lani Guinier back in 1993? Or how about Bill Lann Lee in 1997? Yep, they were both nominated to the same position. Kleiner also points out that under the Bush II administration, the Civil Rights Division at DOJ was stacked with political appointees and re-calibrated to focus on cases of so-called "reverse racism."
It is in that context that we should see the powerful work that Holder and Perez did to refocus the efforts of this department back to its original function. Too many liberals missed that story in their zeal to castigate Holder. It was a BFD!
And so now the Republicans have once again ramped up their efforts against the enforcement of civil rights by going after yet another nominee. As I said on twitter yesterday, I am loath to give President Obama advice or predict what he will/will not do (he's demonstrated that he's MUCH better at this than I am). However...I really hope that he recess appoints Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. But regardless of who is in charge - the work must go on!