Politico's Ben Smith has a great interview today with U.S. Civil Rights Commission vice chair Abigail Thernstrom, a Bush appointee, who says her conservative commission colleagues and the right-wing media have tried to use the story of alleged voter intimidation by the "New Black Panther Party" to "topple" the Obama administration.
A longtime affirmative action foe and critic of so-called "political correctness" on questions of race, Thernstrom nonetheless blasts the Fox News firestorm over the Justice Department's decision not to prosecute two men who allegedly intimidated voters outside a Philadelphia polling station on Election Day, 2008. Never mind that one of the men was captured on tape denouncing the "puppet" Barack Obama; three Republican poll monitors claimed they were there to intimidate anti-Obama voters. But the Bush and Obama Justice Department investigated the claims, and found insufficient evidence to prosecute the men. Still, one of Thernstrom's Civil Rights Commission colleagues, Todd Gaziano, insisted the Justice Department should have pursued the case more aggressively.
“Millions of people saw the clip on Fox News and YouTube,” said Gaziano. "Any reasonable American knows this is voter intimidation. And so the dismissal itself of an infamous case where there’s footage is more damaging to people’s perception of the rule of law than a dismissal when nobody’s paying attention.”
But Thernstrom told Politico: “This doesn’t have to do with the Black Panthers, this has to do with [her Republican colleagues'] fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,” said Thernstrom. “My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president."
Thernstrom laid out her views in a National Review post I missed last week, calling the case "small potatoes" and mocking charges that the men were "armed" and wearing "jackboots" – one carried a billy club, and their boots, Thernstrom noted, "were no different from a pair my husband owns."
Thernstrom's defense of Eric Holder's Justice Department in the NBPP case should not be confused with an endorsement of the attorney general. She says she's far more concerned about his enforcement of the Civil Rights Act in redistricting decisions, which she claims will guarantee more gerrymandered districts out of the liberal belief "that blacks, left without extraordinary federal protection, will be excluded from public office. That fear does not reflect current reality." Now, that sounds like the Abigail Thernstrom we know! That she's going so far to call out old allies for hyping the idiotic NBPP case shows how ridiculous the story is.
And a note to CNN: Will you ever reconsider hiring the toxic Erick Erickson, who just this week suggested that Republicans use the NBPP as an election issue like "the Willie Horton ad" of 1988. "Republican candidates nationwide should seize on this issue. The Democrats are giving a pass to radicals who advocate killing white kids in the name of racial justice and who try to block voters from the polls The Democrats will scream racism. Let them. Republicans are not going to pick up significant black support anyway." Salon's Justin Elliott emailed CNN for reaction to Erickson's latest provocation, and got this reply: "Erick is an opinion blogger, and his opinions don’t represent CNN."