Confirmation Or Carnival ?


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Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch Excels At Confirmation Hearing Despite Conservative Sideshow

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed its two-day hearing on Loretta Lynch, the nominee for attorney general. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, comes highly regarded from legal and law enforcement experts, as well as pundits on both sides of the aisle. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to the witnesses that Senate Republicans picked; instead, many of the witnesses they invited were straw-men offering Republicans the chance to sound off on opposing President Obama’s recent immigration executive action or his departing attorney general, Eric Holder.

Indeed, while some Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee may see this hearing as an opportunity to raise their objections to President Obama, the witnesses have nothing to do with US Attorney Lynch’s qualifications to be our top law enforcement officer. In fact, three of these four witnesses have lawsuits against the Obama administration:

  • Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson, now a contributor to the Heritage Foundation’s news site, is suing the Obama administration, alleging that she was hacked for reporting on the administration. At the hearing, she accused the administration of treating her like they would “enemies of the state.”
  • Catherine Engelbrecht, a Tea Party activist who founded the voter suppression group True the Vote, is also suing the Obama administration, alleging that she was targeted by the IRS for her political views. Today she called President Obama’s recent immigration action “the most significant voter disenfranchisement threat currently facing our country.”
  • Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, is Speaker Boehner’s lawyer for his suit against the Affordable Care Act and is also critical of the President’s executive actions on immigration. At the hearing today, he claimed that the Justice Department is playing a “central and troubling role” in changing our constitutional system “in the very way our Framers wanted us to avoid.”
  • David A. Clarke is Sheriff of Milwaukee County and has been criticized for his inflammatory rhetoric, such as when he shared his belief that “Obama Marxist types want to start a civil war in this country” by seizing guns. Apparently forgetting that, today he accused Eric Holder of having the “incendiary rhetoric.” Why? Because, according to Clarke, our nation’s top law enforcement officer paved the way for “the rallying cry for cop-haters across America.”

What the Republicans did not count on was Lynch’s poise and grace under hostile questioning. She defended the independence of the Office of the Attorney General, saying it would be “totally inappropriate” to take politically motivated orders from the president. At the same time, she agreed with President Obama’s executive action, saying that setting priorities over who should be deported, rather than extending the threat of deportation to every person living in this country while undocumented, was a “reasonable way to marshal limited resources to deal with the problem.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) summarized Lynch’s performance at the hearing as “the best” she had witnessed: “I see the combination of steel and velvet.” Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) admitted that he was “impressed” and plans to support her nomination. And when asked directly by Sen. Leahy, none of today’s witnesses expressed opposition to Lynch’s nomination.

BOTTOM LINE: Loretta Lynch is an excellent choice to replace Eric Holder after his successful tenure as attorney general. She would make history by being the first African American woman to hold the position and should be promptly confirmed. But while the attorney general handles serious issues, many of the Senate Republicans who will vote on her confirmation don’t appear to be taking her hearing very seriously. Instead, they are choosing to use the venue as a chance to invite right-wing pundits and anti-Obama crusaders in to talk about unrelated issues.