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One of the principal architects of the GOP’s voter suppression campaign is an attorney from North Georgia named Hans von Spakovsky. The son of emigrants who fled Nazi oppression, Spakovsky seems to have taken to partisan politics at a very early age. His skills got national-level GOP attention, and he was appointed to head the Civil Rights Division for the Department of Justice in the Bush Administration. But the funny thing is that he can’t much remember what he did running the Division – although he’s confident that he didn’t make major decisions that were cast in the Division’s name. McClatchy reports:
Another former Justice Department lawyer went before Congress on Wednesday with few answers for his Democratic interrogators and a spotty memory. Hans von Spakovsky, who’s seeking a full six-year term on the Federal Election Commission, deflected questions about whether he undermined voting rights laws, saying, “I was not the decision maker in the front office of the Civil Rights Division.”
Time and again during his confirmation hearing, he cited either the attorney-client privilege or a cloudy memory for his purported role in restricting minorities’ voting rights. Von Spakovsky couldn’t remember blocking an investigation into complaints that a Minnesota Republican official was discriminating against Native American voters before the 2004 election.
Under oath, he also said he didn’t recall seeing data from the state of Georgia that would have undercut a push by senior officials within the Civil Rights Division to approve the state’s tough new law requiring photo IDs of all voters. The data showed that 300,000 Georgia voters lacked driver’s licenses. A federal judge later threw out the law as unconstitutional.
Of course, it might be that Spakovsky didn’t remember these things, notwithstanding that they’ve featured in newspaper accounts for the last month and that he’s been intently preparing for the hearing. Or it might be that he is engaged in deceit to avoid testifying on a subject matter which is at best embarrassing and at worst would reflect serious mismanagement of the Division he headed. In any event, however, he’s following a now well settled path trodden by his three bosses, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, and Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, each of whom also suffered from rather astonishing memory lapses about quite recent events.
The Georgia Democratic delegation in Congress issued a letter stating that Spakovsky’s confirmation could “turn back the clock on fifty years of progress” in the voting rights area. Read their letter here. His conduct at Justice demonstrated that these concerns are not frivolous.
Perhaps Mr. von Spakovsky should pay attention to the writings of another of the great figures of the German emigration from the thirties, Hannah Arendt. In her classic study of totalitarianism, Arendt noted that totalitarian and wannabe totalitarian regimes frequently wage wars overseas and use these wars to undermine and then destroy the essential institutions at home which obstruct totalitarian rule (see Quote for the Day). This is a vital warning for Americans in the age of Bush, and Mr. von Spakovsky is just what Arendt was talking about: a diligent termite boring away in the foundations of America’s democracy. The question for the Senate is now whether he will get license to do still more damage.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Number of Turkish college students detained in the last year for requesting Kurdish-language classes:
Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”