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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:
No Comment — March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm
On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath
No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith