William Jefferson Is Black.
Unless you've seen pictures of disgraced Democrat William Jefferson, you may not realize he's black. I didn't mention it in my post about him on Tuesday, and I'll bet a lot of bloggers went through the same thought process as I when thinking about whether it was a relevant detail. It went something like this: "Hmm, he's black. This is a story about corruption. Is mentioning the guy's race relevent? Is it dishonest not to mention it?" And finally, I came to the conclusion I expect many others did: "Well, if he were white, I wouldn't mention that, so why would I mention that he's black?"
Race emerges as an issue because the Congressional Black Caucus has made it one. Following the news that he had a fridge fulla dough, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded that he step down from the Ways and Means Committee. This precipitated a "revolt" from the CBC:
Outraged that one of its members was being picked on even though he has not been charged with a crime, the Congressional Black Caucus had intended to issue a defiant statement against their leader but agreed after the meeting to pause, at least briefly, for reflection....This is a bad turn of events. I'm ignorant enough of inner workings of the Democratic caucus that I'm not about to defend Pelosi--she may be double-dealing here. But leveling the charge of racism is dangerous, stupid, and shortsighted. Pelosi, if she is double-dealing, is doing so because Jefferson's a horses ass who was caught on video taking a bribe. That's political radioactivity, and any leader who didn't try to run him off committees would be (appropriately) charged with political idiocy. When a guy is caught on video taking a bribe and stores the bribe, Tony Soprano-style, in foil-wrapped bricks in his freezer, you gotta cut him loose. Thems the rules of politics.
Jefferson promptly refused, calling her request “discriminatory” and “unprecedented,” and suggested that she was employing a double standard by failing to ask other lawmakers facing ethics questions to relinquish their committee assignments. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) has come under fire for earmarks he secured through his seat on the Appropriations Committee.
I have no idea why the CBC would try to defend Jefferson, but on the surface it appears idiotic to charge the Dems as racists. (An aide warned grimly, "The African-American community, which overwhelmingly backs the Democratic Party, will not take this lightly. I hope she enjoys being minority leader.”) Democratic lawmakers may be charged with taking black voters for granted, for exploiting them as a political bloc, and for failing to do enough for them through sound policy. (Of course, every bloc in the Democratic Party can complain of the same thing.) But racist? That's a charge Democratic leadership shouldn't have to put up with. I decided not to make race an issue in Jefferson's corruption--the CBC should do the same thing.
[Note: post has been edited slightly.]