It’s been a banner day for Senate Democrats. First, minority (?) leader Harry Reid successfully bludgeoned GOP leadership into waving the white flag in the DHS funding fight, scoring a clean political win against shambolic Republicans. Then, having witnessed his party once again rewarded for bad behavior and dishonest rhetoric, Reid’s top deputy decided to apply that lesson to another current political battle:
Durbin on Loretta Lynch: “As we approach 50th anniversary of Selma, Republicans should be more sensitive about how they treat this woman.”
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) February 24, 2015
Weigel offers more context at Bloomberg:
Lynch came to the Senate after multiple Republicans had threatened to block any nominee for attorney general who would support the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration. After Lynch’s hearings, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced that he’d oppose her nomination because of how she’d handled a civil forfeiture case. The scandal over how an HSBC subsidiary allegedly dodged taxes boomeranged on Lynch after Grassley and other Republicans asked why the nominee, as a U.S. attorney, had not scoured HSBC when the scandal emerged. A committee vote on Lynch could happen on Friday, pending further holds. On Tuesday, asked about the Republicans and Lynch, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin–the party’s whip–brought up the fact that Lynch was a black woman. “I would think, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Selma, that Republicans should be more sensitive about what they’re doing to this woman,” Durbin said.
Confirming Lynch is a litmus test of Republicans’ commitment to civil rights, Durbin implied, hoping to to delegitimize criticism of President Obama’s nominee as racist. He wasn’t quite through, either:
When pressed by NBC News reporter Frank Thorp on the “implications” he was making, Durbin stood by the claim. “She is an African-American woman who has been nominated for the highest law enforcement position in the history of the United States,” he said. “She’s being held up for no substantive reason. That’s not an implication. That’s a statement. You can’t celebrate civil rights and ignore the reality that one of the most important civil rights milestones, the appointment of an African-American attorney general, is being held up for no good reason.” Republicans had heard this before–not about Lynch, but about Holder. In 2012, when House Republicans held Holder in contempt for failing to answer all of their questions about a defunct gun-walking investigation, they were accused by Democrats and some in the press of wild racial insensitivity.
Republicans are holding up Lynch’s nomination for “no good reason,” he claimed, so their opposition must be rooted in something more sinister. He oafishly filled in that blank, just in case his ugly implication had been lost on anyone: Have I mentioned she’s a black woman, and we’re getting close to a major civil rights anniversary? I’m half surprised Durbin didn’t toss in a nasty play-on-words involving the nominee’s last name, just for good measure. Weigel’s piece cites several substantive reasons why certain Republicans have objected to Lynch’s nomination. I’ll add two more: Ms. Lynch, who seeks to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer, recently defended President Obama’s unilateral immigration fiat (which both a federal judge and Obama himself have deemed to be illegal) in Congressional testimony. She also took the opportunity to assert the “right” of illegal immigrants to work in the United States. Perhaps a number of Republicans are therefore concerned about her commitment to carrying out the rule of law, as opposed to carrying water for her boss’ ideological agenda. Or perhaps Lynch isn’t especially objectionable to others, but they want to exercise their procedural prerogatives to retaliate against Obama’s extraordinary power grab. But Durbin isn’t interested in having that debate, or even acknowledging that reasonable opposing viewpoints exist, so he moves to (cough) end the discussion by busting through door number three: Republicans must just hate black people. Over to you, black Senator overwhelmingly elected by conservative Republicans in a deep red state:
“I think the vote for the attorney general is a vote for the attorney general,” said South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, the upper house’s only black Republican. “One beautiful thing that history has taught us is that we want to judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. So for this to somehow be a racial conversation seems to be wrong — this is a conversation about competence, and qualifications. This is a question about who’s best to serve our country. Whether that’s in May or Christmas time, it’s important for us to move forward and do the right thing.” Scott was actually a co-chair of the upcoming Selma commemoration in Alabama.
I’ll leave you with this relevant episode from Durbin’s past:
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have worked in close concert with outside special-interest groups to defeat President Bush’s judicial nominees, according to internal Democratic staff memos. In one memo to Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois obtained by The Washington Times, Washington lawyer Miguel A. Estrada is singled out as “especially dangerous” because “he is Latino.” Mr. Estrada, born in Honduras, withdrew his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in September after being filibustered for eight months…Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have long proclaimed their independence from outside interest groups and angrily deny accusations that they considered the race of Mr. Bush’s nominees before blocking them.
Dick Durbin helped lead Senate Democrats’ lengthy (and successful) filibuster of an exceptionally-qualified Hispanic judicial nominee in 2003 because they viewed him as “especially dangerous” explicitly due to the color of his skin, according to their own secret memos. Yet here he is today, shamelessly trotting out this despicable, baseless, race-baiting, lie. Because that’s what the political moment requires, and the ends always justify the means.