Thursday, May 25, 2006


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....

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.
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.

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.]


Kari Chisholm said...

Yeah, except that there's a healthy pattern of the DOJ going after African-American politicians.

For example, the Mike Espy case, in which the defense rested without presenting a case. The jury acquitted on 30 counts.

Or also, Harold Ford Sr. who was investigated many times but never convicted.

Or the case of John Street, when the FBI planted a bug in the mayor's office - but never found any wrongdoing on his part.

Now, Jefferson looks guilty -- but there's a reason why race is getting injected into the story.

Jeff Alworth said...

A race element to the FBI's raid, fine. But Pelosi?