MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann and other left-wing commentators have been busy high-fiving each other over “proof” that none other than George W. Bush was to blame for the Justice Department’s whitewash of the New Black Panther Party’s intimidation of voters on Election Day, 2008. (American leftists cannot resist the temptation to blame Bush for everything, up to and perhaps including their own dental cavities.) But the facts keep the focus squarely on the Obama administration for letting the NBPP intimidate voters with impunity.
As Olbermann said on July 12’s Countdown, “So, here’s the real story Fox and other malefactors of mankind will not tell you, based not on rumors nor innuendo, but court and congressional records. New Black Panthers, intimidating voters, killing cracker babies, Bush didn’t prosecute.”
Olbermann, recently fired Washington Post analyst Dave Weigel, and The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer have all crowed that Bush’s Justice Department dropped a criminal case against the NBPP. In fact, there never was a criminal case to drop. The NBPP faced a civil lawsuit prepared by Justice’s Voting Rights unit. This is exactly what career prosecutors recommended in the first place.
With respect to all but one defendant, Justice abandoned its civil case under Obama, not Bush — no matter what Olbermann and his comrades would like to believe.
This slide, presented by David Blackwood, general counsel of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR), at its July 6 meeting, lays out some of the relevant details.
Or consider the following, more detailed timeline, which shows that Obama, not Bush, let the NBPP and two of its leaders run free, leaving a third NBPP leader to endure something resembling less of a wrist slap and more of a wrist massage:
November 4, 2008: The New Black Panther Party’s Jerry Jackson and Minister King Samir Shabazz intimidate voters and poll watchers at a Philadelphia precinct.
December 22, 2008: Career Justice Department attorneys Christopher Coats (chief of the Voting Section), Robert Popper (deputy chief), and trial attorney J. Christian Adams submit a memorandum to then–acting assistant attorney general Grace Chung Becker. They call for civil litigation against the NBPP and three of its members for violating the Voting Rights Act: “We propose seeking a remedy that prohibits the members of the NBPP from deploying athwart the entry of polling places in future elections.… We recommend that you consider simply authorizing the commencement of a lawsuit.” This document makes no mention of criminal charges.
January 7, 2009: In the waning days of the Bush administration, the Justice Department files a civil lawsuit in Philadelphia against the NBPP as a party and against three of its members: party chief Malik Zulu Shabazz, Jerry Jackson, and Minister King Samir Shabazz. January 20, 2009: Pres. George W. Bush leaves office and Barack Obama is inaugurated as president of the United States. Over the next few months, the NBPP ignores the Justice Department’s lawsuit. It neither shows up in court nor otherwise responds to this federal case.