Thanks to legal reporter Charlie Savage, the Times finally gave attention to an important story: The Election Day 2008 case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party outside a polling place in Philadelphia.
Two New Black Panther Party members, one armed with a billy club, are accused of intimidating potential voters. But the Obama Justice Department downgraded the case. J. Christian Adams, until last month a civil rights attorney at the Department, accuses Obama's Justice of having "abetted wrongdoers and abandoned law-abiding citizens" and described a department plagued with such racial double standards in civil rights enforcement.
Savage's reporting in Wednesday's "Racial Motive Alleged in a Justice Dept. Decision" leaned heavily on the "conservative" politics of those forwarding the charges, and the accompanying text box gave the case an odor of white racial animosity: "A white rights case was shunned, says a former federal lawyer." (Since Savage filed his report, the Commission on Civil Rights has announced it is reopening the case.)
The testimony by Mr. Adams brought new attention to a case that has been used as political ammunition against the Obama administration by some conservative media outlets seeking to flip the script on portrayals of the Bush administration as having "politicized" the Justice Department.
Savage emphasized that the case is a "cause celebre" among conservatives. Does that make it dubious?
The case became a cause célèbre in the conservative media world, and the Civil Rights Commission opened an investigation. The eight-member panel, which has the power to issue subpoenas and issue reports, is controlled by a six-member conservative bloc appointed during the Bush administration.
Savage hammered in more redundant "conservative" nails, yet identified a Democrat as merely a "Democrat":
The investigation has divided the commission. In a statement on Tuesday, one of its two Democratic members, Michael Yaki, called it "incredibly shallow, expensive, and partisan" and a "one-sided farce."
And one of its six conservatives, Abigail Thernstrom, wrote an article published Tuesday in National Review dismissing the New Black Panthers incident as "small potatoes" and warning that the commission's "overblown attack threatens to undermine the credibility" of conservative criticism of the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
But Commissioner Todd Gaziano, who is a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, signaled that the other five members of the conservative bloc intend to press forward. And Mr. Adams offered to identify other former officials whom the commission could subpoena.
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