Americans are often willing follow each other over a cliff like a herd of irrational frightened lemmings instead of exercising critical thinking on important matters. They would much rather succumb to the hysteria of the crowd than use their individual intelligence to decide the merits of issues using reason and logic.
American politicians are lemmings leading the lemmings. They are far more likely to do what is politically expedient for their own personal interests than to do what is right, reasonable and just under the circumstances. That’s the nature of American politics. If the lemmings squeal loud enough and whine long enough their political leaders will eventfully heed their call and do whatever they want in the interest of protecting their own political hides.
That’s what happened this week in the United States Senate when a majority blocked the Obama administration’s nomination of Mr. Debo Adegbile, a perfectly seasoned, competent and qualified Justice Department attorney to head the Civil Rights Division.
None of the lemmings or the politicians leading them ever once questioned the actual legal and ethical qualifications of candidate Adegbile for the job in question -- except that is, upon one irrelevant point which had nothing at all to do with his qualifications: 34 years ago he represented in a Pennsylvania appellate court a guy who killed a cop.
As it happens, Mr. Adegbile, a competent civil rights attorney, was working with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund during the early 1980’s on behalf of a convicted criminal defendant named Abu-Jamal, perhaps America's most well-known cop killer, who was sentenced to death for his crime.
The death sentence was eventually overturned on legitimate legal grounds largely because of Mr. Adegbile’s diligent advocacy, but the underlying conviction stands. In short, the criminal is still serving a life term in prison for the murder but he won’t suffer the death penalty. The attorney representing him was just doing his job which, of course, any reasonable person knows was his legal and ethical obligation as a lawyer.
But that didn’t sit well with the dead cop’s widow and many police department organizations across the country who desperately wanted the guy to fry and felt that this attorney cheated them out of their rightful revenge. They got together even after 34 years and raised a very long and loud hue and cry over the nomination. Adegbile’s client killed a cop; he got the death penalty overturned so he’s not suitable for the job, they whined.
Senate Democrats were facing heavy pressure from police organizations, as well as Republicans, to vote against the nominee. Even after the vote to block him Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called the nomination itself "an embarrassment for President Obama," and blasted "vulnerable Democrats running in 2014" who voted "yes."
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police called the nomination a "thumb in the eye of our nation's law enforcement officers." Both Pennsylvania senators were opposed, and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., questioned whether Adegbile could be counted on to advocate for the civil rights "of all Americans," if confirmed.
Maureen Faulkner, the cop’s widow and the one who started all the fuss, maintained that Adegbile was "the wrong person for the job," and thanked the seven Democratic senators who "broke ranks and had the courage to do the right thing."
One of those senators, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, admitted afterward that he was "concerned about his ability to work with law enforcement" if the nominee was confirmed. Another Democrat, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, effectively gave his Democratic colleagues cover to vote "no" after he came out against the nomination.
You see, he represents the state in which Abu-Jamal killed the cop. His political hide was on the line
President Obama stood by his nominee, calling the vote a "travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant... The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice -- and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant."
Rarely do I agree with this president but he is absolutely right this time. If this nominee had been representing rapists, child molesters, and murderers of ordinary human beings as a public defender 34 years ago very few lemmings and their lemming political leaders today would be hysterically demanding that his candidacy be nixed.
Cops are a special and exalted segment among Americans in today’s social and political climate. Most people love cops, especially politicians. Everybody hates lawyers, but any lawyer who has the integrity and fortitude to honor his profession and represent a cop killer is especially hated to the point of becoming politically toxic.
So with regard to the squashing of Mr. Adegbile’s nomination to head the DOJ Civil Rights Division it will do no practical good to ask: what does cop killer have to do with it?