The Bush Legacy of Racist Politicization of Justice

Did Bradly Schlozman politicize the DOJ Civil Rights Division? Evidently there is not enough evidence to bring him to trial for that or for lying to Congress. But the report gives us the evidence that is ugly, especially in the injection by Schlozman of racism into the very Division of the DOJ charged with combatting racism in the US.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The biggest triumphs of our system of justice in the last 100 years, I would argue, were in the 50′s and 60′s, and dealt with the civil rights movement. In America we recognized the racism in our past and went a good, if long ways towards correcting that racism that was nearly hard-wired into our institutions. The United States Department of Justice is housed in the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, and RFK himself was instrumental in leading the DOJ in civil rights issues. The Civil Rights Division was founded in response to Civil Rights legislation and is charged with enforcing the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1968, among other statutes. The Division is a testament to what is good in our system of government, perhaps one of the most important testaments to the good of our system of governmetn. It is now clearer than ever that the Bush Administration has made a mockery of this, one of our most important institutions.

First, the Civil Rights Division under Bradley Schlozman clearly participated in illegal, politicized hiring practices. From McClatchy:

A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as “real Americans,” kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.

Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers “commies” and “pinkos” and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn’t be limited to hiring “politburo members” who belong to some “psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,” the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.

Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges.

The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.

It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and “improperly used political or ideological affiliations” in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy.

Of 65 lawyers whom Schlozman hired from 2003 to 2006 and whose political affiliations were evident, 63, or 97 percent, were Republicans or conservatives and only two were Democrats or liberal, it said.

When Schlozman was approached by a lower-level manager or fellow department political employee about a job applicant, he sometimes blurted, “Conservative?” or “What’s his view of the world?” the report says.

Other reports detailing the political bias and extremism at the Civil Rights Division under Schlozman can be found at The Hill and at the Washington Post. That’s devastating, of course, but worse is that the Schlozman tenure of the Bush DOJ Civil Rights Division was marked by blatant racism on Mr. Schlozman’s part. Yes, blatant racism on the part of Bradley Schlozman reported today by Rolling Stone:

The report is shocking. But even moreso in a topic it touches on only tangentially – racism in the Civil Rights Division of the Bush DOJ. Schlozman tried to have one “Democrat in hiding” that he oversaw exiled because she: “wrote in Ebonics,” “was an idiot,” and “was an affirmative action thing.”

(The attorney in question graduated magna cum laude from a top law school and was repeatedly praised in her performance reviews for her strong writing and analytical skills.)

There is also this email exchange between Schlozman and John Tanner, the Voting Rights division chair who infamously asserted that Voter ID requirements that disadvantage the elderly have no impact on minorities because, “minorities don’t become elderly the way white people do. They die first.”

Tanner and Schlozman are discussing how they like their coffee, with Tanner writing that he took his “Mary Frances Berry style – black and bitter.”

Berry, an African American, chaired the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for nearly a decade, ending her service in 2004.

There may be no more lasting shame that will stick to the Bush Administration than the institutionalization of racism in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice. But the report that came out this week has failed to recommend prosecution for Schlozman, and his own lawyer is interpreting that as vindication in what appears to be the usual whiney Republican fashion. Their line is that since they were not charged with a crime there is no moral taint, but reasonable observors will see moral taint all over the Bradley Schlozman tenure at the DOJ. There is no other way of interpreting Schlozman’s tenure than that it corrupted the fine work of the Civil Rights Division, an institution that was one of our proudest over the last half of the 20th Century.

Yes, Katrina tars Bush, as does torture and Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and the list goes on and on and on. His ugliest legacy is the institutionalization of racism, via his man Bradley Schozman, in the very agency charged with combatting racism. We do not expect Mr. Bush or Mr. Schozman to admit any of the shame that drips from their actions, because we know that it is vital to the Republican Brand never to admit wrongdoing or shame. We must instead make everyone aware of this promotion of racism by Republicans, and console ourselves int he knowledge that virtually every demographic of color is now avoiding the Republican Party as if they were wearing white sheets. As if? Given the revelations yesterday one wonders if “as if” is an appropriate turn of phrase.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I are in the process of adoption, and the child we adopt will likely be African American. We don’t pat ourselves on the back for this, as we know we will benefit far more than the child will by the opportunity for parenting. But civil rights and race issues are definitely on the front burner for us as we go through this process. As a further aside, this adoption could happen very soon, though out of caution I would say in the next couple of months.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

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