It’s a shocking Wednesday: a shocking decision by prosecutors in Chicago in the Jussie Smollett case; former vice president Joe Biden makes a shocking self-own in an attempt to sell himself to progressives; an in-depth investigation offers a shocking indictment of the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Adam Schiff shocks the world by insisting that Robert Mueller wasn’t thorough enough.
The Obama Administration’s Awkward Reunion around Jussie Smollett
Every step of Jussie Smollett’s plot always included an element of the absurd. Out of all of the possible locations for a sudden, unprovoked hate crime targeting a gay black man, he picked downtown Chicago. Out of all the possible nights to fake a hateful attack, he picked the coldest evening in Chicago in three decades. Then his assailants couldn’t have merely picked him as a target because he was black or because he was gay; these alleged racist homophobes had to be Empire fans who recognized him from the show. It wasn’t enough for him to be beaten; the assailants had to spray a bleach-like liquid on him and put a noose around his neck. Once Smollett had established himself as a victim, he changed his story and emphasized that he had fought back. Finally, it’s not like there’s a good motive to fake a hate crime, but doing so as part of a salary negotiation has to rank among the worst.
Perhaps it fits, then, that Smollett would get off the hook in what appears to be one of the most transparent cases of prosecutorial misconduct in recent memory. The prosecutor declared afterwards that he believed Smollett fabricated the incident, and that “people lying to police is certainly important and deserves accountability.”
But all charges were dropped, Smollett pled guilty to nothing, his record was expunged, no written records of the deal were filed with the court, and all existing records of the crime were sealed. Judging from Smollett’s public statements, he’s not even willing to admit he fabricated the attack, telling reporters, “I have been truthful and consistent from day one.”
In exchange for forfeiting his $10,000 bond, the prosecutors gave up everything. The prosecutors seemed to indicate that Smollett had somehow completed any community-service requirements in advance, citing Smollett’s completing 18 hours volunteer work at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which included “critiquing its broadcast.”
(I had no idea that critiquing someone else’s broadcast counts qualifies as volunteer work. Apparently, you have been doing “volunteer work” every time you yell at your radio or television.) The Rainbow PUSH Coalition said they had no idea that Smollett’s work there was in connection to his criminal charges.
This is despite the police and prosecution having the check that Smollett used to pay one of them, footage of the men involved buying ski masks and red hats, and presumably the testimony of the two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo. (The fact that Smollett hired two brothers of Nigerian descent to play white supremacists is just one more absurdity.)
Then there’s this detail:
[State’s Attorney Kim] Foxx recused herself from the case last month after revealing she had contact with Smollett’s representatives early on in the investigation. She declined to provide details at the time. Communications later released to the Tribune, however, showed Foxx had asked Superintendent Johnson to turn over the investigation to the FBI after she was approached by a politically connected lawyer about the case.
Foxx reached out to Johnson after Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, emailed Foxx saying the actor’s family had unspecified “concerns about the investigation.” Tchen, a close friend of Mayor Emanuel’s wife, said she was acting on behalf of the “Empire” actor and his family. A relative later exchanged texts with Foxx.
Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff calls up the state’s attorney, the state’s attorney hands off the case to her assistant, and the assistant gives Smollett the deal of the century. And all of this is so egregiously, transparently corrupt that mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is spitting hot fire over this, as is Obama’s former chief strategist David Axelrod.
The editors of National Review point out that the prosecutors are creating greater incentives to more hate-crime hoaxes in the future.
A guilty plea from Smollett and robust punishment would have provided the closure America needed. Yet the colossal error in judgment by the Cook County prosecutors has foreclosed both opportunities. The rancor and ill-will connected with this sordid case will continue, and we will all be forced to breathe the toxic atmosphere. Meanwhile prospective hate-crime grifters will smile.
Is it any wonder that angry populism isn’t going away?
The Biden Trap
Nominating Joe Biden is a trap for Democrats. Let’s see if they fall for it.
Last night Biden again rhetorically flagellated himself for the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, declaring, “To this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to give her the kind of hearing she deserved. I wish I could have done something.”
He was chairman of the committee! If he couldn’t give her the hearing she deserved, who could?
Biden and his team know that his appeal to the party’s impassioned progressive grassroots is limited. You see it in comments like that, and the recent rumor that Biden is considering an early announcement that unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams would be his running mate.
Biden and Hillary Clinton may have personal disagreements, but from the perspective of a young socialist who follows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Facebook, Biden is not all that different from another Hillary bid. He’s a longtime part of the Democratic Party Establishment, on cordial terms with big business, and a continuation of the Obama-era status quo. There’s nothing revolutionary about Biden and no cultural barrier would be broken by nominating him the way it would with Kamala Harris or Pete Buttigieg or Julian Castro. At a time when Democrats are most excited by new faces like AOC and Beto O’Rourke, Biden is the same old, same old.
Last night, Biden lamented, “this is a white man’s culture — it’s got to change. It’s got to change.” Biden will be asking Democrats to change a white-man’s culture by electing another white man. The message he’s test-driving right now is the counterargument against his own candidacy.
Oh, and Biden is three and a half years older than President Trump.
Would Biden be more competitive among blue-collar whites than Hillary Clinton was? Probably. But on Election Day 2016, Hillary Clinton was surprisingly weak among a whole slew of key voter demographics. By one estimate, 12 percent of Bernie Sanders primary voters voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election. Do those voters stay with the Democrats if Biden is atop the ticket? Maybe, maybe not. (In a Biden-Trump race, Biden is the free-trader!) How nasty would a Biden-Sanders primary fight get? How motivated would Sanders fans feel if their man came close but fell short two cycles in a row?
Black and Hispanic voters didn’t come out in big numbers for Hillary Clinton the way they did for Barack Obama. Do those voters come out in bigger numbers for Joe Biden? That’s another gamble.
By nominating Biden, Democrats would bet that they could run on the party’s currently fashionable agenda of a sweeping overhaul of American life — the Green New Deal, eliminating private insurance, reparations for slavery, adding additional Supreme Court justices to the court, eliminating the Electoral College, breaking up the big-tech companies, a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants — with a nominee who is a johnny-come-lately to almost all of those ideas. It would be a controversial, divisive message with an undisciplined messenger who only recently adopted the agenda. Maybe Biden’s goofy charm could make it work, or maybe Democrats get the worst of both worlds: a hard-Left agenda that repels independents and centrists with a nominee who doesn’t stir the passions of progressives.
The Hard Truth About the Southern Poverty Law Center
This article from Current Affairs should be cited to anyone who continues to use the Southern Poverty Law Center’s research as evidence that somebody is a hatemonger, racist, or some other menace:
The biggest problem with the hate map, though, is that it’s an outright fraud. I don’t use that term casually. I mean, the whole thing is a willful deception designed to scare older liberals into writing checks to the SPLC. The SPLC reported this year that the number of hate groups in the country is at a “record high,” that it is the “fourth straight year” of hate group growth, and that this growth coincides with Donald Trump’s rise to power. There are now a whopping 1,020 hate groups around the country. America is teeming with hate.
Let’s dig into this number a bit. The first thing you should note is that it’s meaningless. The SPLC consistently declines to identify how many members these hate groups have. It just notes the number of groups. Without knowing how large they are, what does it mean that they exist? Are they one person? 1000? Hypothetically, the number of hate groups could be dropping while the number of people in hate groups was actually rising — say, for instance, small organizations were consolidating into a large, powerful, national organization. Or it could be the other way around: The number of hate groups could be increasing because the neo-Nazis were becoming weak and fragmented and splitting into tinier and tinier units.
In fact, when you actually look at the hate map, you find something interesting: Many of these “groups” barely seem to exist at all. A “Holocaust denial” group in Kerrville, Texas called “carolynyeager.net” appears to just be a woman called Carolyn Yeager. A “male supremacy” group called Return of Kings is apparently just a blog published by pick-up artist Roosh V and a couple of his friends, and the most-recent post is an announcement from six months ago that the project was on indefinite hiatus. Tony Alamo, the abusive cult leader of “Tony Alamo Christian Ministries,” died in prison in 2017. (Though his ministry’s website still promotes “Tony Alamo’s Unreleased Beatles Album.”) A “black nationalist” group in Atlanta called “Luxor Couture” appears to be an African fashion boutique. “Sharkhunters International” is one guy who really likes U-boats and takes small groups of sad Nazis on tours to see ruins and relics. And good luck finding out much about the “Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology,” which — if it is currently operative at all — is a tiny anti-Catholic cult based in Shawano, Wisconsin.
The SPLC doesn’t actually link to or provide details about many of the groups it profiles, perhaps because this would reveal what a joke many of them are.
There is danger in underestimating hate groups. But there is danger in overestimating them, too. As a country, we’re more diverse than ever, with more Americans of multiple ethnic heritages than ever. Overt racism has been a fringe belief for two generations and is getting fringier with each passing year. The majority of Americans of all races, colors, and creeds recoiled at the sight of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, but it’s worth noting that about two dozen people showed up for the second one in 2018.
The Current Affairs article comes to a scathing conclusion:
They’re perpetrating a deception, because they don’t want you to know that groups like the “Asatru Folk Assembly” are no political threat. The SPLC has continuously sent out terrifying lies to make old people part with their money. They’ve become fantastically wealthy from telling people that individual kooks in Kennesaw are “hate groups” on the march. And they’ve done far less with the money they receive than any other comparable civil rights group will do. To me, this is a scam bordering on criminal mail fraud.
ADDENDUM: Adam Schiff is now publicly arguing that in a two-year, fully-staffed, fully-funded, investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller somehow missed evidence of collusion:
“Undoubtedly there is collusion,” Schiff said in an interview this week, after Attorney General William P. Barr submitted a four-page letter to Congress summarizing key aspects of Mueller’s report. “We will continue to investigate the counterintelligence issues. That is, is the president or people around him compromised in any way by a hostile foreign power? . . . It doesn’t appear that was any part of Mueller’s report.”
Last year, I noted that Adam Schiff was a hardline partisan with mild manners. He now may be revealing that he’s something of a kook.