Commission on Civil Rights vice-chairwoman Abigail Thernstrom has delivered what should be a lethal blow to the Fox News-hyped “scandal” regarding the Department of Justice and the New Black Panther Party. And she's also turned the New Black Panther case into something the media would be justified in investigating.
In the course of an interview with Politico's Ben Smith, Thernstrom, a conservative who was appointed by George W. Bush, alleged that the conservatives she serves with on the commission seized on the New Black Panther case not out of concern for civil rights and the law, but rather to wield it as a cudgel against the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder. In stark language, Thernstrom claimed that her colleagues held “fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration,” and that they “had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president.”
Thernstrom has effectively confirmed what most of us already assumed to be true -- that the New Black Panther Party allegations are nothing more than invidious political hackery. And it should be noted that Thernstrom's claims carry more credibility than anything J. Christian Adams, the GOP activist and former DOJ attorney whose allegations of institutional racial bias at DOJ form the spine of the NBPP non-scandal, has thus far brought to bear; she clearly isn't grinding any political axes, and she boasts first-hand knowledge of the events she says transpired.
More importantly, Thermstom's allegations have the weight of plausibility. The widespread and illegal politicization of the Justice Department was one of the more high-profile scandals of the Bush years, contributing as it did to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. People like Adams and his cohorts on the Commission on Civil Rights are the legacy of that scandal -- conservative activists who, if Thernstrom's accounts are true, openly and enthusiastically abuse their positions to wage ideological and political warfare.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Thernstrom's allegations can be substantiated. But if she's right, then she's revealed a vile corruption at the Commission on Civil Rights, wherein destructive political activism subordinates the safeguarding of civil liberties.
And that's something the media should probably look into.