Politics & Policy

Debo Adegbile: Exit Stage Left

A clutch of Senate Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the nomination of Debo Adegbile to the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights, the Justice Department’s lead man on matters racial. The president fumed that the Senate had denied the nation the services of a gifted public servant, but what the Senate has done is deny Barack Obama the chance to install yet another pet radical in the commanding heights of government.

Good riddance to Mr. Adegbile.

The centerpiece of the case against Mr. Adegbile’s nomination was his advocacy in the cause of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia radical of 1970s vintage who spent years advocating the murder of police officers before getting around to pulling the trigger himself, gunning down Daniel Faulkner in front of multiple witnesses and then boasting about it when he was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries he sustained during the course of his arrest. The murderer’s braggadocio evaporated in the face of a capital conviction, which he duly received, though the state never got around to executing his sentence and eventually gave up trying to do so. And so Mr. Abu-Jamal lives on, enjoying the rewards of radical chic and using such legal maneuverings as he can manage to conduct an ongoing circus in the service of his poisonous racist politics.

As Senator Pat Toomey argued, the objection to Mr. Adegbile’s nomination was not his participation in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s criminal defense but his participation in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s circus, the propaganda campaign waged by the murderer and the fashionable radicals congealed around his cause to undermine American legal institutions on racial grounds — Mr. Abu-Jamal had after all been tried during the reign of that notorious reactionary Ed Rendell, then the elected district attorney of Philadelphia. Senator Toomey is here correct: A defendant is entitled to a legal advocate, but not to a political advocate. As head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mr. Adegbile never had any hope of changing the outcome of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s long-settled case — the murder was in 1981, he became involved in 2009 — and it has been decades since any but the willfully blind have, on examining the evidence, entertained any doubt that Mr. Abu-Jamal is a calculating murderer. But there is nothing quite like a celebrity homicide artist to add a dash of daring to quotidian politicking and the annual fundraising appeal. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is only one of many organizations that have dipped into the bottomless well of stupidity associated with the cause of Mr. Abu-Jamal.

Mr. Adegbile’s other endeavors include arguing for the explicit use of racial criteria in college admissions and unsuccessfully campaigning to use civil-rights law to maintain endless federal oversight of elections in certain states, also on racial grounds.

Mr. Adegbile is, in short, the last thing an already politicized Justice Department needs: a professional practitioner of racial politics antipathetic to law enforcement and inclined to see — or at least pretend to see, when convenient — the shadowy hand of racial conspiracy behind every skinned knee. Republicans were right to object to his nomination, and seven of the eight Democrats who voted against him deserve credit for standing against the president’s habitual radicalism in personnel matters. (The eighth Democratic no vote was from Harry Reid, a procedural maneuver that allows him to reintroduce the nomination if he desires.) The president was positively in a lather over the matter, denouncing “a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks.” Judgment is a critical component of character, and Mr. Adegbile’s is defective. The inescapable conclusion of this episode is that President Obama’s judgment is defective as well, or else no one outside legal circles would know the name Debo Adegbile.


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