…to defeat his nominee for the head of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, Debo Adegbile, a choice that raised an unusual amount of criticism because Adegbile had defended convicted cop-killer and leftist darling Mumial Abu-Jamal.
The LA Times calls the vote “a surprising defeat” and, strangely enough, that’s not hyperbole. It actually was surprising. There are a number of reasons why, the first being that Harry Reid doesn’t usually bring something up for a vote till he knows he’s got it in the bag. The other reason is that (at least as far as I know, and I could be wrong on this), although in the past Democrats have sometimes defected from the party line if it would be politically expedient in their state for them to do so (Obamacare would be a prime example), the number who defect is usually strictly controlled to make sure the desertions don’t defeat the bill.
By the way, this is one of the first confirmation votes that’s occurred since the filibuster was ended. Under the old rules, Adegbile’s nomination would probably never have even gotten to a vote, and Obama would have had to find someone a little less objectionable. The end of the filibuster for nominees must have emboldened him to choose Adegbile, but thinking he had the extra leeway may have backfired on Obama.
According to the LA Times, Adegbile’s nomination had been expected to pass “until recently.” My guess is that in this case “recently” means “until the vote itself.” Even before that, they knew it would be close, however; Joe Biden was standing by to vote in case he was needed to break a tie. But he wasn’t needed; even his vote would not have been enough to get Adegbile through.
This action today may or may not mean much. It really depends whether it will be followed by any more defiance of Obama’s wishes. Is it the first sign (however slight) of a revolt by moderate Democrats who are fed up with being sacrificial lambs for Obama, or is it just a one-shot deal?
In a fairly humorous side note, Harry Reid had earlier warned Republicans that “if Adegbile lost there would have to be a ‘broad discussion’ of civil rights in America.” This, of course, is because the topic of civil rights has never been brought up before, especially during Obama’s years in office.
In an ironic move, Reid changed his own vote to “no” at the last minute because he realized even with his vote the nomination would not be confirmed, and voting “no” apparently preserves (for technical reasons) his right to call another vote on the same subject later. I can only imagine the sorely twisted arms some Democratic senators will be enduring as he tries to persuade them a change of vote in the future might be a really good idea for them.
[NOTE: Adegbile, by the way, has an unusual resume in addition to his Mumia defense:
Born Adebowale Patrick Akande Adegbile in New York City, Adegbile is the son of a Nigerian father and an Irish immigrant mother. He was raised by his single mother. He also was a child actor on the children's TV show Sesame Street during the 1970s, playing the character Debo and performing in episodes for nine years.
On a personal note, let me say that I don't hold against Adegbile that fact that he filed "an amicus curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court in 2009, arguing that [Mumia's] conviction was invalid because of racial discrimination in jury selection.” At the time, Adegbile was a lawyer for the NAACP, and that organization was in Mumia’s corner. If you believe in our legal system, someone had to defend Mumia and help him appeal his case, and it’s hardly surprising that the NAACP—and therefore Adegbile—would be part of that process. [See "ADDENDUM" below.]
However, if you want to protest Adegbile’s nomination because he worked for the NAACP and the NAACP has become a leftist, kneejerk, racemongering, divisive institution, that seems more valid to me. And, as Democratic Senator Coons said, to explain his vote of “no”:
…[A]t a time when the Civil Rights Division urgently needs better relations with the law enforcement community, I was troubled by the idea of voting for an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who would face such visceral opposition from law enforcement on his first day on the job…
Coons added that it was the toughest vote he’d taken as a senator. I don’t doubt it. And the story’s not over yet.]
[ADDENDUM: I just noticed this:
The widow of [slain] officer Danny Faulkner along with police organizations and other groups, objected to the nomination, arguing among other things, that Adegbile became a champion of Abu-Jamal beyond being his appellate lawyer.
That makes a great deal more sense to me as an objection than that Adegbile merely was Mumia’s appeals lawyer.
Here is part of the widow’s statement:
Mr. Adegbile previously led the Legal Defense Fund at the NAACP. In that position, Mr. Adegbile chose to throw the weight and resources of his organization behind Abu-Jamal. Attorneys working under Mr. Adegbile’s supervision have stood before rallies of Abu-Jamal supporters and openly professed that it was “an extreme honor” to represent the man who put a hollow based bullet into Officer Faulkner’s brain as he lay on the ground wounded, unarmed, and defenseless.
So Adegbile was an especially eager defender of Abu-Jamal, the guy in charge of the NAACP’s decision to defend him and to do so vigorously. Here’s the text of the widow’s entire statement.]