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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.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Chances that a Republican man believes that “poor people have hard lives”:
A school in South Korea was planning to deploy a robot to protect students from unwanted seductions.
Nuremberg’s Neues Museum filed a criminal complaint against a 91-year-old woman who completed a crossword puzzle that was in fact a $116,000 piece of avant-garde Danish art.
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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.'”