Obama calls rejection of Debo Adegbile 'a travesty'

The stinging defeat given President Obama by rejecting his nominee, Debo Adegbile, to head up the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department unleashed a torrent of criticism from the White House and the left.

The Hill:

The vote was a stinging defeat for the White House that showed President Obama is politically out of step with some centrist Democrats heading into the midterm elections. 

Obama labeled the vote a “travesty” based on “wildly unfair” character attacks.

“Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable. He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked,” Obama said. “As a lawyer, Mr. Adegbile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him.”

Adegbile was the director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it worked to commute Abu-Jamal’s death sentence. Faulkner’s widow, the Fraternal Order of Police and Republicans argued this should disqualify him from the Justice job, while supporters warned a rejection would set the ominous precedent of holding a lawyer accountable for a client’s behavior.

Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), John Walsh (Mont.), Chris Coons (Del.) and Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) voted to block Adegbile, while several Democrats in tough reelection races, including Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Begich (Alaska), voted to advance him.

Every Republican voted against the nomination, forcing Reid to secure the support of at least 50 members of his 55-person caucus. Vice President Biden presided over the vote and would have been available to break a tie, but his vote was not needed. 

It was the first time a nomination has gone down since Democrats changed the Senate’s filibuster rules to require simple majority votes on many procedural motions.

The Republican National Committee immediately pounced, highlighting the votes by Hagan, Landrieu and Begich.

“Vulnerable Democrats running in 2014 just voted to confirm a radical nominee whose positions on civil rights, religious liberty, voting rights and the second amendment are far outside the mainstream,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted the vote was not a sign that Obama is losing support among Senate Democrats.

“The vast majority of Democrats voted to confirm him so I don’t think it says anything about the president,” said Reid, who switched his vote from “yes” to “no” in a procedural move that allows him to bring the nomination up again for a future vote.

Reid argued that Adegbile was being smeared by charges of guilt by association. The Democratic leader noted that as a young lawyer, he himself represented unsavory characters pro bono. 

That simply isn't true. Every American is entitled to the best defense possible. If Mr. Adegbile felt it necessary to defend a cop killer, more power to him.

The question is: Do we have to reward his choice by giving him a plum government job? I don't care how qualified he is, that's not the point. Life is full of choices, and all choices have consequences. One of the consequences of representing a murderous thug like Abu-Jamal is that in many people's eyes, it disqualifies the attorney from advancement.

The same holds true for those who represent terrorists (unless ordered to in a military tribunal). Why should such choices be cost-free, or even lead to better jobs? It is eminently right and fair to hold Mr. Adegbile accountable for his life choices. President Obama would do well to remember that the next time he sends a nomination to the Hill that he knows will be controversial.