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Tilting at Windmills

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July 17, 2010

PUTTING AN END TO A RIGHT-WING 'FANTASY'.... If you haven't heard much hyperventilating about the New Black Panther Party lately, then you haven't been watching Fox News.

The "story," such as it is, hardly seems worth a fuss. On Election Day 2008, two men were recorded standing in front of a polling station in Philadelphia. They were reportedly members of the New Black Panther Party, which didn't necessarily support Barack Obama anyway, and one of the two was holding a nightstick.

No voters complained, but a few Republican poll monitors accused the pair of criminally trying to intimidate voters. Officials in Bush's Justice Department looked into it and concluded it wasn't worth pursuing.

That should be the end of it, but in some Republican circles, this exceedingly dull story is being treated as a major scandal (at least, they're pretending to consider it a scandal, in the hopes of generating racial tensions before the midterm elections). In just the last few weeks, Fox News has aired 95 segments -- that's not a typo -- about the issue. Megyn Kelly, the hyper-partisan activist/anchor, not only aired 45 segments in 15 days, she lashed out at a conservative guest who dismissed the relevance of the story.

To his credit, Politico's Ben Smith ran a piece late yesterday that effectively ends the "controversy."

A scholar whom President George W. Bush appointed as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Abigail Thernstrom has a reputation as a tough conservative critic of affirmative action and politically correct positions on race.

But when it comes to the investigation that the Republican-dominated commission is now conducting into the Justice Department's handling of an alleged incident of voter intimidation involving the New Black Panther Party -- a controversy that has consumed conservative media in recent months -- Thernstrom has made a dramatic break from her usual allies.

"This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers; this has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration," said Thernstrom, who said members of the commission voiced their political aims "in the initial discussions" of the Panther case last year.

"My fellow conservatives on the commission had this wild notion they could bring Eric Holder down and really damage the president," Thernstrom said in an interview with POLITICO.

Those pushing this garbage aren't exactly subtle in their intentions. Why hyperventilate about a two-year-old story that Bush's own Justice Department found too insignificant to care about? Because some Republicans hope to generate racial animus before the elections, trying to get white voters angry with the Obama administration.

Jon Chait explained this week, "What you're starting to see from Fox News now, though, is the most widespread and mainstream right-wing effort to exploit racial fears against Obama.... There has been a great deal of right-wing insanity unleashed over the last year and a half, but this is the first time that the fear has an explicitly racial cast. You now have the largest organ of movement conservatism promoting Limbaugh's idee fixe that the Obama administration represents black America's historical revenge against whites."

It's as disgusting as anything we've seen from the right in the past 18 months.

Steve Benen 10:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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"A scholar whom President George W. Bush appointed as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Abigail Thernstrom has a reputation as a tough conservative critic of affirmative action and politically correct positions on race."

BUT . . . she's not a Fox News Hottie with a cup side exceeding her GPA, so forget her!

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 17, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Next month I have to return to the land of Fox News. I am sure I am going to catch hell from some members of my family who watch Fox 24/7 and think Megyn Kelly is a straight news person. I am looking forward to that trip.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 17, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Having lived in North Carolina for 35 years, I thought I understood my fellow white voters pretty well. While there was some undercurrent of racial tension, it wasn't something I thought was a very big deal--especially in cities like Raleigh. Then Obama was elected. I am shocked at how pervasive the racism is here. It took losing the White House to a black man to bring this to the surface. It is a VERY big deal.

Posted by: candideinnc on July 17, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

And finally the sheets come off, or is that on?

Posted by: dontcallmefrancis on July 17, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

-be suspicious of any statement that starts with, "The Lord knows I'm not a racist," and concludes with, "Bless his heart."

Posted by: DAY on July 17, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

....and one of the two was holding a nightstick.

Yes, but was either of them holding a handmade sign with misspelled words like "get yur craker hands of my govmint" ????????

Posted by: Oh my on July 17, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I can't help but think that this type of garbage is especially stupid on the part of the right wing, from a strategic political perspective.

The right wing is clearly already engaged and energized, and has been since the advent of the Tea Party movement last year.

So, they don't need further energizing. It's the left's key constituencies that do.

I can't think of a better way to blunt Democratic losses this November than a gargantuan turnout at the polls on the part of African American and Latino voters. The latter might materialize because of Jan Brewer. Now the former's been taken care of.

Heckuva job, Rupert.

(If there's one thing as dependably permanent as death and taxes, it is triumphalist hubris and overreach from conservatives).

Posted by: Jasper on July 17, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

White men with AK-47's are patriots; a black man with a stick is a threat to western civilization.

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on July 17, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

...she lashed out at a conservative guest who dismissed the relevance of the story.

Steve, Kirsten Powers is a Democrat. She provides liberal commentary for FOX News and the New York Post. Please read:


Posted by: pol on July 17, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

I realize that the people ginning up this controversy aren't honest people and their 'concern' is entirely fictional, but it still worth pointing out that two black guys, even if one has a nightstick, aren't automatically threatening.

The peroxide blondes of Fox News may not realize this, but there are, in fact, black people in Philadelphia, and in some neighborhoods there are quite a few of them. It is entirely possible that, shocking as it may seem to Megan and her pals, that there are polling places in Philadelphia where a couple of black guys outside a polling place wouldn't seem at all peculiar. It is even possible to imagine some voters found it reassuring!

I know, amazing, right? Does that, in the words of Glenn Beck, just "BLOW YOUR MIND?" Only if you are the racist audience of Fox News, and the political opportunists who want to use them.

Posted by: biggerbox on July 17, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

[Well, kevj76@yahoo.com, I can not only send your idiotic and inflammatory rhetoric to the ether and ban you from posting here, I can publish your email address where your stupid comment used to be. --Mod]

Posted by: Nutroots Lunatic on July 17, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Fix Noose is indeed disgusting, and they have various fellow travelers about the race issue. At this Bushicide piece from Steve Sailer (who drops in here sometimes) we see him complaining that Bush should have made it friendly for white woman having more babies, so they can vote Republican. He just had to add, it was the Bushicide of "America" not just the GOP. Note irony of that term, which has relevant meanings for real ...

BTW, it seems to me that "fraud" should include lying about your veracity. Someone should sue Faux for misrepresentation of product. It would likely fail, but be a good spotlight and the discovery process should be a gas.

Posted by: neil b. on July 17, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

(If there's one thing as dependably permanent as death and taxes, it is triumphalist hubris and overreach from conservatives).

Well said, Jasper. Karl Rove is Exhibit A in that regard.

Posted by: Patrick Star on July 17, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

i wouldn't discount that idea that a memo or two went round to coordinate this...caught about a minute of some radio squawker the other morning calling the naacp racist and blaming them for blocking school vouchers among other things...obvious race-bating

Posted by: dj spellcehcka on July 17, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking its bad political strategy.

This kind of hysteria works well in the compressed time period of a political campaign. By the time the truth gets out the damage is done and the election is over.

However, in this case, there are almost 3 months for people to realize that Fox is making something out of nothing. Those factions of Fox viewers (I realize I may be bullshitting myself here) that consider themselves to be more moderate may be turned off.

I wonder how effective it would be if his mother and grandparents were African-American. As it stands now, his heritage - raised by white grandparents in rural Kansas - seems to neutralize the racial attacks. So maybe that's why the right is trying to focus on Holder.

On a side note, Hillary tried the same tactic only she was a little more subtle about it.

Posted by: John Henry on July 17, 2010 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

No, given the criminally incompetent or Rebaglican enablers at some LSM outlets, it is not "over." The Post is groveling and saying the story really should be reported on. WaPo "Ombudsman" Andrew Alexander describes the case and doesn't even clarify that the Bush DOJ dropped most of the case first - he makes it seem it was all whittled down by Obama's crew. He says "There's plenty left to explore." I think his "Ombudsman" job is more like ambassador to the Right Wing and corporate establishment. Read and be outraged at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/16/AR2010071604081_pf.html
His contact info:


Folks, get off your butts and keyboards and call. I'm going to.

Posted by: Neil B on July 17, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

20-25% of white Americans are deeply hardcore racist, and, as we all know, appealing to their fears is a political strategy that has worked well for the Republicans! So, of course, we can expect Fox news to try to whip up the racial fears of white Americans. The question is how to pull the plug on that particular noise machine.

In the meantime, has the sinister, democracy-destroying evil that was Acorn gone away? Have they found another bogeyman? And how are the Birthers doing?

The New Black Panther story puts a new light on the recent resurrection of the Franken-Coleman careful, constitutionally mandated election recount. A year after Al Franken became Minnesota's second senator, our sleazy Republican governor was on national TV suggesting that "felons" who voted illegally might have tipped the election to Franken. Despite any evidence, of course, and obviously felons would vote exclusively for the Democratic candidate.

If you could get inside the head of Tim Pawlenty or the conservatives who support him, what skin color do you suppose they associate with felons who threaten the integrity of elections?

So this conservative paranoia about people with dark skin corrupting the purity of elections has lots of angles, and I'm sure Fox Broadcasting will go after all of them.

Posted by: PTate in MN on July 17, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

I called Alexander's # and got a recording, where I left my complaint about the Post's dereliction in failing to properly describe what happened at DOJ. He doesn't care, but call anyway.

Posted by: Neil B on July 17, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

The crazy, extreme rightist has always been around in US politics, but only in recent years have they had a national news network to give them a forum.

Can you imagine if in the 1960s we'd had a John Birch Society News Network where Gen. Edwin Walker, Billy James Hargis and Phyllis Schlafly could have appeared every day accusing JFK and LBJ of being communists? We never would have Medicare, or the Voting Rights or Civil Rights Acts. Reagan probably would have become president in 1968.

Posted by: Speed on July 17, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

1Captin Sarcastic says:

July 16th 2010 at 3:01 pm
I dug into this recently and read the entirety of the minutes of the voting rights committee as they grilled Perez.

The facts show this issue to be another in a long line of false representations of facts that conservatives will believe without question.

The bullet points:

Two black men standing in front of a precinct of almost 100% black voters were dressed in paramilitary looking attire, one of them brandishing a nightstick. There were reports of racist comments by the black men, but zero reports of voters indicating they felt intimidated. A Republican poll watcher filmed the man with a cell phone camera and suggested they appeared intimidating. The police were called, and the man with the nightstick was removed from the premises while the other man, a registered poll watcher, was alloed to stay. This had all happened within the first 30 minutes of voting.

Based on the video, the Bush DOJ reviewed the case and determined there was no evidence for a criminal charge but decided to pursue civil charges under Section 11b of the Voting Rights Act, which offers very limited damages as a matter of law. The defendants at that time included 4 individuals and the New Black Panthers. Two of the individuals were not present or accused of any specific action, but were included as part of the larger charge against the Black Panthers.

The Black Panthers indicated they were going to have poll watchers at 300 Precincts, and this was the basis of their inclusion in the civil charges.

The Black Panthers disavowed the actions of the billy club armed member and there were zero reports of any attempted or completed acts of voter intimidation at ANY of the other precincts where Black Panther members were present.

Based on this information, the charges against the group as whole, and the individuals who were involved with the group, but not brandishing weapons were dropped.

The maximum civil penalty based on 11b was applied to the armed man, and the DOJ said, “We were successful in obtaining an injunction that prohibits the defendant who brandished a weapon outside a Philadelphia polling place from doing so again,”

Case closed.

If there were any evidence that the Black Panthers as a group intended voter intimidation, they could have been barred as a group, but the FACT that there was no evidence of ANY voter intimidation by members of this group at ANY other polling station, and that the group disavowed the action of this individual, clearly undermines any case that would attempt to prove that there was an effort by the group to intimidate voters.

But once again, innocent until proven guilty doesn’t apply when conservatives have made the case against hundreds of people and entire organization based on seconds of video of one person....

Posted by: Best summary reviewed on July 17, 2010 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

On the radio, Fox gave the impression that their snippet of the New Black Panther Party leader's rant was recorded on election day outside a poling place in Philadelphia. It was not.

They also implied that the current Attorney General had declined to prosecute. In fact it was decided under Bush's watch.

Two cases of artful lying by omission.

Posted by: John Hill on July 17, 2010 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

This is a typical left wing yappster who twists, turns, and denies the truth, when caught, he has his usual standard comeback, "sorry, I mis-spoke" either this author wrote this trash will on the pot or his head was in the pot. Blantant racism is coming from both Holder and Obama and it is A-ok with the left, hell, it's their own trick out of their own bag. Wake up you fools and do your own research, if you still have a brain that operates, you will see the blantant racism at play here. Oh, and by the way, check on the mandate at the DOIJ (Dept of Injustice) stating that cases brought by white plantiffs against black defendants, those cases will be dismissed without even investigating. That is fair, I guess, if you are a black criminal.

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