As part of its extended campaign against the Obama administration Justice Department's hires, Pajamas Media has turned to noted experts on the subject of politicization: Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams.
Yes, the conservative media outlet is again attacking the Obama administration for hiring civil rights attorneys for the Civil Rights Division. And they've decided that the best people to push their months-long investigation are a beneficiary of the Bush DOJ's policy of politicized hiring and a Bush DOJ staffer known for injecting his own politics into the department's work.
It's the sort of takes-one-to-know-one decision reminiscent of Fox News' decisions to hire Judith Miller as a media critic and book Michael Brown to discuss disaster relief.
Who's next? Will PJM drag out fellow Bush DOJ alums Bradley Schlozman and Monica Goodling to write the next installments in this breathtakingly mundane series?
Adams and von Spakovsky spend thousands of words detailing the alleged “radical” nature of the new hires. Ties highlighted by the pair include: (1) working for civil rights organizations like the ACLU and NAACP (2) clerking for allegedly “liberal” judges (3) donating money to Democratic candidates or having been members of College Democrats organizations (4) working in the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (apparently “a notorious hot-bed of left-wing activity” ) and (5) working for the Civil Rights Division under President Clinton but leaving during President Bush's tenure.
In other words, they have a problem with applicants who have previously demonstrated interest or experience in civil rights issues.
The pair also highlight new hires who have publicly supported abortion rights or increased unionization, worked with felons on post-conviction challenges, worked with the Congressional Hunger Center, given a presentation on “The Future of Black Legal Scholarship and Activism,” and received an award “for demonstrated ... commitment to advancing diversity in the legal profession.”
In a particularly cold and gruesome moment, as part of their effort to demonstrate the liberal credentials of the new hires, both point to attorney Jaye Sitton's membership in the Intersex Society of North America (Adams adds “whatever that is,” highlighting either his contempt or his ignorance). Sitton discusses growing up intersex at 3:30 into the following clip:
The pundits are trying to make the case that liberals attacked the Bush DOJ on the trumped-up charge that too many conservatives were being hired. They respond in this week's pieces by claiming that the Obama DOJ's hiring actions are worse because (in von Spakovsky's words) while the Bush DOJ's Civil Rights Division “hired individuals from across the political spectrum... there has been nary a token conservative welcomed into the Division” under Obama.
As we noted yesterday, this argument is based on a fatally flawed reimagining of what the Bush DOJ did wrong.
The problem wasn't that the Bush administration was wrong to hire conservatives; it was that the Bush administration was illegally hiring attorneys on the basis of their partisanship.
As the DOJ's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility detailed under President Bush, hiring authority at DOJ was stripped from career civil servants and given to political appointees. Those appointees then used that authority to illegally take partisanship into account when making hiring decisions, deliberately hiring attorneys because they were Republicans or conservatives and blackballing attorneys because they were liberal or Democrats. These actions, according to the IG/OPR report, “violated federal law.”
Following President Obama's inauguration, the Civil Rights Divison's hiring authority was returned to career attorneys. Political appointees now have only the most limited of roles: Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez has the final say on hiring decisions, but as of earlier this year had yet to overrule the decisions of the career lawyers.
Neither Adams nor von Spakovsky provide any evidence that deliberate politicization is happening under the Obama administration. All they show is that people they claim are liberals have been hired. And von Spakovsky himself has previously acknowledged that conservatives are “unlikely” to seek work at the Civil Rights Division under a Democratic president.
In short, this is the biggest non-scandal since the last manufactured controversy this pair trumpeted.