The Lonely Centrist

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Friday, January 27, 2006

More on Politicizing Justice

Shortly after my last post, my attention was drawn by the Skeptic to an exchange on the Election Law listerve. (look under today's date, Jan. 27). Some poor guy named David Becker is, in a series of three posts, beside himself about my controversial post on the political inclinations of some folks at the Department of Justice's Voting Rights Section. Mr. Becker, it turns out, is another former DOJ Voting Rights attorney (and much more impressive, he is a former Jeopardy champion and Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestant, too). When going down the ex-Voting Rights Section roster, him I missed.

Anyway, in his little tantrums I think he shows himself to be another guy with some pretty strong political opinions that most people would consider show a pretty strong ideology, and one that is not friendly to the Bush Adminstration. You can read and decide. But mainly, Becker is just outraged that the Centerman has put this information out there. He calls this "character assassination."

Again, I don't think so. As I pointed out here, I bring up these facts - which apparently make some people quite uncomfortable - because it is the critics of the political appointees at DOJ who have made the backgrounds of these individuals an issue. They have claimed that their criticism of the Bush administration is especially trenchant and deserving of respect because they are particularly non-partisan and non-ideological. Having chosen this course to bolster the credibility of their arguments, it is only fair that factors be brought out suggesting that perhaps they are not so uniquely non-partisan and non-ideological.

Mr. Becker also makes another line of argument I think wrong, and I will quote him at length:

The key point is that the "Centrist's" post does nothing to assess the
true nature of someone's objectivity, particularly when he cites one
campaign contribution to a notably centrist Democrat as evidence of bias. Simply having contributed on rare occasions to a particular candidate says nothing about alleged bias. I myself have donated to Democrats on rare occasions, but when the Georgia Democrats filed a lawsuit seeking to have their pro-Democrat redistricting precleared in 2001, as lead counsel I led the successful challenge to that plan (at least in the trial court), siding with Republicans who also sought to prevent the plan from taking effect. To simply seek to tar individuals based on small amounts of money they had contributed on rare occasions to particular political candidates is nothing short of character assassination, which has no place in this debate. I challenge the "Centrist" to find one instance, just one, in any of these fine lawyers' careers where in their professional capacities they
took biased positions in favor of ANY political party, let alone the
Democrats. The fact is, he cannot - indeed, I'd venture to say that each of these individuals was engaged in litigation and other policies that more often than not went against the interests of the local, state, or national Democratic party.

Mr. Becker here interprets the evidence more narrowly than others might. It is not partisanship that is at issue so much as ideology. It is well known within these circles that in the 1990s Republican political operatives joined together with liberal activists - who otherwise routinely support the Democratic Party and its candidates - in an interpretation of the Voting Rights Act that tended to favor Republican candidates, even as it stood for an interpretation of the VRA that most all conservatives despised (and, I would suggest, most Americans disagreed with). Showing a pattern of supporting Democratic candidates is consistent with the notion that these allegedly non-ideological, non-partisan career civil servants in fact, in many cases, have political views and agendas, that they lean left; and that this may be a reason to think that they are less pure than they are claiming.

Similarly, Becker notes that many of the people mentioned were not involved in the recent Texas redistricting case. Again, he is too narrow. Most of these folks in fact left DOJ before the DOJ case, as the Centerman noted. But the criticism of Bush hasn't focused just on the Texas case. Rather, these folks offer a more comprehensive critique of the Bush political appointees. But what this evidence suggests is that, generally, there are and have been a lot of folks in DOJ with what appear to be liberal and/or partisan political leanings. Contrary to Becker's assertion, the Centerman doesn't try to "stifle criticism," but rather to see that the criticism of the administration does not attempt to insulate itself by claiming a purity that may, in fact, not be there.

And, of course, Becker goes crazy about the fact that the Centerman remains anonymous, suggesting that the Centerman ought to expose himself to public scrutiny. But again, unlike some of these critics of the Bush appointees at DOJ, I ask you for no special deference because of my background. Thus, my background remains irrelevant. Take the arguments and evidence that appear here, not only on this issue but others, on the merits. When you add it all up - for example, as Mr. Becker says, you might consider that many of these ex-DOJ folks worked under Reagan without quitting - you might decide that they do deserve special respect for their opinions. But let's at least get all the evidence out there. That's all I've done.

And it seems to me that has helped advance the debate a bit.

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