The Washington Post has been acting as the mouthpiece for disgruntled Department of Justice Civil Rights Division lawyers by publishing their leaked rejected staff opinions, implying the new Administration is undercutting civil rights by rejecting their judgement, and ignoring that those opinions are not factually or legally warranted, but rather partisan.
As it did in the area of foreign policy, the Post has tacitly taken the undemocratic, indeed regressive, stance that the entrenched bureaucracy, not the elected Administration, has an unquestionable right to set policy.
Abigail Thernstrom skewered the original Washington Post report on the subject, a report which Congresswoman Pelosi not surprisingly enthusiastically adopted as proof the Administration was impairing minority rights. She noted the charge was an untterly false one:
The Washington Post breathlessly reported last week that in 2003 the recommendations of a team of Department of Justice career bureaucrats were rejected by the head of the civil—rights division and then—Attorney General John Ashcroft — implying that the final word on the implementation of federal voting—rights law should be that of staff, not the attorney general. The team's 73—page memo concluded the Texas plan 'quite plainly' reduced 'minority voting strength' in violation of the pre—clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, which requires certain states (Texas among them) to show that electoral changes are not discriminatory either in purpose or effect. 'Effect' has long been defined as any reduction in the number of majority—minority districts in a revised map.
Actually, though, what Pelosi and others are upset about is not that minority voters in Texas lost power under the new plan — they didn't — but rather that the 2003 redistricting plan bumped off four white Democrats and replaced them with Republicans. That sounds like redistricting business as usual to us: After the 1990 census, Texas Democrats had drawn an equally gerrymandered map. In other states — such as Maryland — Democrats remain in control and Republicans have lost congressional seats. Nobody has called the process in Maryland 'illegal' or demanded a special inquiry. That Texas (unlike Maryland) is 'covered' by the Voting Rights Act has given Democrats in the Lone Star State an excuse to use the statute to camouflage what are, in fact, partisan charges.
In the case of Texas, it is a pretty flimsy excuse. Minority voting strength was not, in fact, reduced as a consequence of the new districting lines. Under the old map, Texas sent two black representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, one from Houston, the other from Dallas. The new plan added a third black district, and raised the number of majority Hispanic districts from seven to eight.
The Texas case is just the latest example of DOJ career lawyers run amok. For the last twenty years, the voting section staff has racked up a slew of embarrassing mistakes, a number of which had to be rectified by the U.S. Supreme Court. These mistakes ranged from approving plans that were later found to be illegal to disapproving ones later found to be perfectly legal. But a consistent thread runs through the decisions of the voting section: the conviction that only minority officeholders properly represent minority voters, and that racial and ethnic proportional representation (by the crude tool of redistricting) is both a matter of high principle and an entitlement under the Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court took the voting section to the woodshed a decade ago, citing the pressure it put on certain states to adopt race—driven districting maps drawn by the ACLU. Pelosi and others have complained that the Justice Department has been politicized. Apparently, working hand—in—glove with the ACLU, MALDEF, and other such advocacy groups — of which there is an extensive and indisputable record — did not constitute 'contemptible politicization of the Justice Department.' That's a charge that the Washington Post and the New York Times (editorially) will only air when Republicans run the civil—rights shop at DOJ.
But, yet again, the Washington Post, follows up with yet another article which never mentions the Court decision and reprises the false claim that the Administration is diluting minority rights by ignoring the advice of the team, instead of considering Thernstrom's well—considered argument that the rejected opinion was partisan, unwarranted by law and that it's time to scrap the frequently abused pre—clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act altogether.
The latest article begins
The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said.
Disclosure of the change comes amid growing public criticism of Justice Department decisions to approve Republican—engineered plans in Texas and Georgia that were found to hurt minority voters by career staff attorneys who analyzed the plans. Political appointees overruled staff findings in both cases.[/quote]
But the only "public criticism" of the decisions cited are from "Jon Greenbaum, who worked in the voting section from 1997 to 2003, and who is now director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law" and "congressional Democrats ".
So, there you have it, the objections of partisan opponents and interested advocacy groups aligned with them are equated with "public criticism" and the views of a run amok bureacracy (not sustained by the Courts , indeed, previously criticized by them)) implicitly should trump all, including the Attorney General selected by the elected Preisdent and confirmed by the elected Congress.
It's time for the Washington bureaucracy, their supporters in the opposition party and professional advocacy groups and press to come clean: do they believe in the Democratic process or have they determined that bureaucrats hired under prior administrations have some superior right to rule us until they retire or die?
Clarice Feldman 12 10 05