As Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe points out, President Bush's attempt to kiss and make up with the NAACP last week came as the "Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights." According to the Globe:
The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.
Enterprise reporting! We love it! Chase the link, the details are outrageous.
We've already blogged on how Bush's NAACP cameo was too little, too late. On a related point, last week, during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Edward Kennedy (exhorting the administration to support reauthorization of the Voting Rights act) got into the whole hypocrisy gap with Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, noting that:
"The Bush administration Civil Rights Division has litigated only three lawsuits on behalf of African-American voters; two of which were initiated by Attorney General Reno." And furthermore, the DOJ is currently "in the process of litigating the department's first-ever alleging discrimination against white voters."
(Full transcript of Kennedy/Gonzalez face-off is after the jump)
Close readers of the Washington Post might feel a little déjà vu over this whole kerfluffle. Back in December, the Post's Dan Eggen reported that:
"The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said."A few weeks earlier,
Eggen pointed out that:
Nearly 20 percent of the division's lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration's conservative views on civil rights laws. Longtime litigators complain that political appointees have cut them out of hiring and major policy decisions, including approvals of controversial GOP redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas.
At the same time, prosecutions for the kinds of racial and gender discrimination crimes traditionally handled by the division have declined 40 percent over the past five years, according to department statistics. Dozens of lawyers find themselves handling appeals of deportation orders and other immigration matters instead of civil rights cases.
(Graphic to that end is here. The numbers don't lie.