The Misleading "Political Appointees" NBPP Argument.

So, with the idea of outside pressure on the Civil Rights Division to drop the New Black Panther Case unsubstantiated, the exposure of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' investigation of the case as politically motivated, and the Justice Department's intervention on behalf of white voters in Noxubee County, Mississippi, there's really only one part of the conservative narrative of the NBPP case that remains -- the accusation that "political appointees" overruled career attorneys and were pursuing a political/partisan interest in deciding to narrow the case. This accusation mirrors the ones leveled by liberals during the Bush years -- accusations that were later substantiated by the Government Accountability Office.

In any case, J. Christian Adams, the conservative activist and former Justice Department voting-section lawyer turned "whistle-blower," claims "political appointees" overruled "career attorneys" on this case. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, who wasn't there when the decision was made, says it was a case of "career people disagreeing with career people."

Last week I reported that the transcript from the hearing shows Adams said there was no "indication" of pressure from outside the Civil Rights Division. Later in the transcript, there's a telling exchange that I think gets to the heart of the matter, between Adams and Republican Commissioner Peter Kirsanow:

COMMISSIONER KIRSANOW: ... But, based on some of the testimony we have heard thus far prior to your testimony, I would like to ask you the following set of questions. Did career attorneys, rather than administration political appointees, make the decision to dismiss the New Black Panther case?

MR. ADAMS: Oh, I see where you are in my mind, and I think in the minds of anyone who fairly reads the Vacancy Reform Act with credibility, political appointees made the decision.

This exchange occurs after Adams says there's no indication that anyone higher than the Acting Assistant Attorney General, Loretta King, pushed for the case to be narrowed. It's important, because -- and I may be misjudging him here -- what Kirsanow appears to be doing is making sure that he can still say "political appointees" had the case dismissed, which suggests that there was some kind of outside pressure or partisan motive. In fact, the Acting AAG for Civil Rights and Deputy AAG for Civil Rights were both career attorneys who were filling political positions temporarily, and since even Adams admits there's no evidence of outside pressure, I'm not sure why this framing is relevant except to suggest interference by the administration or people acting in a partisan interest. The latter seems particularly silly given that the defendant with the baton, King Samir Shabazz, characterized Obama as "a puppet on a string" who would be "the next slavemaster."

Moreover, as I've noted before, all the career attorneys who originally signed the NBPP complaint were people with significant ties to the GOP or the politicized leadership at Justice during the Bush years, while the career attorneys who were the acting leadership at the time the case was narrowed had been career attorneys at Justice prior to Bush even taking office.

What you really have here -- and what this story has really largely been driven by -- is the Bush-era folks being angry over the heat they took over the politicized hiring scandal, losing the clout they once had when Obama took office, and trying to discredit the new leadership as payback. This really was "career people" disagreeing with "career people"-- for the most part it was Bush-era career people disagreeing with non-Bush-era career people.

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