Christine M. Flowers: Honoring the good guys who said 'No'

Philadelphia Daily NewsMarch 7, 2014 

This time, the good guys won. There are a few, so pay close attention.

First in line is Sen. Pat Toomey, the pride of Pennsylvania by way of Rhode Island, who exemplified JFK's profile in courage by standing up to President Obama, saying, "You will not force an offensive nominee on the people of this country, and especially not on the people of my state."

The nominee in question was Debo Adegbile, President Obama's choice to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. By all accounts, Mr. Adegbile is an accomplished attorney and scholar who just happened to embrace the cause of a cop killer. For Pennsylvanians, particularly those of us who live in the southeast portion of this beautiful commonwealth and remember the cold December evening when officer Danny Faulkner was murdered, that nomination was repulsive and unconscionable. So, Sen. Toomey took up his own cause, namely, making sure that Adegbile's nomination was scuttled.

He wasn't the only hero in this scenario. Seth Williams, usually a strong ally of this administration, found the moral courage to stand up and say, "No, this one will not pass." As someone who represents an important branch of law enforcement in a city where a sentry for our safety was gunned down in cold blood, Williams saw how inappropriate it was to have the gunman's passionate defender preside over the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. It neither looks right, feels right nor does it in any way give a sense that this administration understands what the death of Maureen Faulkner's husband meant to Philadelphia.

Another good guy, albeit a little late to the game, was Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. While Toomey and Williams were out in front from the beginning criticizing this nomination, Casey held back. Whether it was because he truly believed that the nominee was qualified or that he didn't want to be seen cozying up to Republicans, he voted against advancing the nomination, and that is all that matters. To paraphrase Machiavelli, the ends justify the hesitation.

Of course, there was the usual hysteria from the left. Harry Reid blamed "racism" for the nomination's failure, just as Debo Adegbile and his crew at the NAACP blamed "racism" for Mumia Abu-Jamal's conviction. While both claims are laughable - especially to anyone who has read the trial transcripts and understands that Mumia has gotten more process than anyone is ever due - it's not at all surprising that they were made. When a Republican is successful and the losing party is black, it must have been due to bigotry, or so the thinking goes. Sen. Toomey had the courage to address that execrable notion head-on: "This was always about the principle that no one should be able to make a mockery of our criminal justice system (or) fan the flames of racial strife in America."

Reid has little credibility these days. President Obama's reaction was a bit more nuanced, a bit more sober but still troubling. He attributed Adegbile's defeat to "wildly unfair character attacks." Actually, the attacks were not unfair. It is completely legitimate to question the professional choices of an attorney. It provides a very clear image of his or her priorities. While it is quite true that every criminal defendant is entitled to a defense (thanks, Clarence Gideon), no attorney - except, perhaps, the court-appointed - is obligated to take a particular client. In Debo Adegbile's case, he not only accepted the client, he actively campaigned to have the NAACP represent Mumia Abu-Jamal in his quixotic attempt to prove that racism, not the bullet in Danny Faulkner's body, put him on death row.

The thing is this: No one is entitled to Senate confirmation. If that were the case, we would have mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice Robert Bork last year, and we would be talking about the interesting decision just handed down by Circuit Court Judge Miguel Estrada. Both of those nominations, made by Republican presidents, were rejected because of pure political payback. Bork, one of the most brilliant minds of the last century and a founding father of originalism, was denied a place on the high court because of his conservative views. Estrada, a man who arrived in this country from Honduras not speaking a word of English and who obtained degrees from Harvard, was damaged goods because he wasn't the "right" kind of minority. You know the kind I mean: the one who doesn't believe color and ethnicity demand allegiance to liberal ideology.

That's why the whining from the left is a bit hypocritical. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and those who voted against Adegbile had both a right and an obligation to vote their conscience, just as I'm sure everyone who voted against Bork and Estrada were motivated by conscience.

Now, allow me to dislodge my tongue from its cheek.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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