Sunday, September 26, 2010

Send in the Clown

When comedian Stephen Colbert "testified" (in character) before Congress on Friday, most pundits were shaking their heads. If Mr. Colbert's comments on immigration were an attempt at humor, they fell flat. If they were aimed at advancing various Democratic bills on that issue, Colbert's appearance did nothing for the cause.

On the other hand, if Colbert's testimony was a distraction, it clearly served its purpose. A distraction from what, you ask? As Glenn Reynolds reminds us, Friday was also the day that career Justice Department lawyer Christopher Coates appeared before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, delivering bombshell testimony on racism scandals within the Obama Justice Department, including the New Black Panthers case. Among his observations:

"[There is a] deep-seated opposition to the race-neutral enforcement of the Voting Rights Act against racial minorities and for the protection of whites who have been discriminated against."


The opposition within the Voting Section to taking actions on behalf of white voters in Noxubee County, Mississippi, … was widespread...The Deputy Chief who was leading that election coverage asked me: “can you believe that we are going to Mississippi to protect white voters?”

Mr. Coates also stated that he was verbally upbraided by Assistant Attorney General Loretta King for asking prospective DOJ attorneys, in job interviews, if they could equally enforce voting rights laws. His testimony confirmed similar observations from other Justice Department whistle-blowers, who allege that Obama appointees have cast a blind eye to discrimination committed by racial minorities.

But, as Professor Reynolds observes, it was hard to find any meaningful coverage of Coates' testimony. Most of the mainstream media, talk radio--and even the blogosphere--focused on Colbert's clownish antics before Congress, while a few outlets concentrated on the firings of media executives Jeff Zucker and Jon Klein.

Was this some sort of set-up, aimed at pushing real scandals off the cable channels and into the back pages of daily newspapers? That's hard to say, since no one has been able to determine when Colbert was first invited to testify, and compare that date to Mr. Coates scheduled appearance before the Civil Rights Commission.

At this point, it's a rather amazing coincidence--one that is clearly working in the favor of the White House and its political allies. It's hard to find someone who isn't aware of Mr. Colbert's appearance on the Hill. By comparison, you'd be lucky to find anyone (beyond a few legal bloggers) who are remotely aware of what Christopher Coates told the civil rights panel, and his damning indictment of the Justice Department.

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