White House supporters will say today’s stunning Senate defeat of liberal activist Debo Adegbile’s nomination to be Barack Obama’s head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was due to GOP prejudice and the cowardly actions of Democratic senators up for reelection this November. But five of the seven Democrats who joined every Republican in opposition — Chris Coons (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.), aren’t up for election this year or don’t face competitive challengers. They had serious problems with a nominee of Adegbile’s views and career choices.
Adegbile had many problems, but the most serious was his advocacy on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and Marxist revolutionary who was convicted of murdering Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer. The question of Abu-Jamal’s guilt is not a close call. Two hospital workers testified that Abu-Jamal confessed to them: “I shot the motherf***er, and I hope the motherf***er dies.” Abu-Jamal’s brother, William, has never testified to his brother’s innocence even though he was at the scene of the crime. Abu-Jamal himself chose not to testify in his own defense.
Democratic senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania put his opposition succinctly: “It is important that we ensure that Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country have full confidence in their public representatives — both elected and appointed. The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the City of Philadelphia. . . . I will not vote to confirm the nominee.” As Quin Hillyer pointed out in The American Spectator, Adegebile had also shown questionable judgment in areas ranging from voter ID to quotas during his tenure as head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He clearly had too much baggage for key moderate Democrats.
“His defeat shows that exposing the radical racial agenda of people like Adegbile is a winning issue,” says the Election Law Center’s Christian Adams, the author of a book critical of the Obama Justice Department. “Most of America still believes in the rule of law and equality under law. Confront the race radicals like Adegbile and we win because America is still full of good people.” Adams, along with National Review and The American Spectator, led the media pressure that appears to have made a difference in Adegbile’s rejection.
Since Adegbile is a Senate insider (he is currently counsel to the Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee), there may be an attempt to bring his nomination back to the floor. But he will have to pick up at least two votes to have Vice President Biden break the tie in his favor, and the heightened attention his nomination has now received is unlikely to increase his public approval.
It’s more likely that Adegbile’s supporters will shrink from mounting a full-throated defense of his legal positions and those of the current Civil Rights Division and will look for another less controversial nominee. Just as Democrats don’t want to talk about Obamacare in an election year, they certainly don’t want to make Eric Holder’s Justice Department and its sorry record a campaign issue.
— John Fund is a national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.