Behind the Curtain at TMM

J. Christian Adams: Whistleblower Or Political Player?

Who is J. Christian Adams and why did he resign his job at the Justice Department?

Adams' complaints have been widely circulated in the conservative media.  He says that the Obama administration is not vigorously pursuing complaints where white people are victimized. His evidence is primarily a case from election day 2008, in which two members of the New Black Panther Party (one of them was carrying a short night stick) were videotaped by a Republican poll watcher.  And, yes, it was a majority black neighborhood and a majority black polling place. No voters have come forward to say they were intimidated and/or prevented from voting.

J. Christian Adams invoked a rarely used provision of the Voting Rights Act to pursue a civil case against the two men. The Obama administration later narrowed the case and pursued an injunction against the man carrying the club. But Adams did not believe that was sufficient and he has complained publically and loudly to the conservative media and blogosphere that the Obama administration isn’t taking it seriously when the rights of white people are abridged.

Does he have a point?

The Justice Department says absolutely not.  We asked the DOJ for a response and here's what they said:

On enforcement of voting laws: The Department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved. We are committed to comprehensive and vigorous enforcement of both the civil and criminal provisions of the federal laws that prohibit voter intimidation. We continue to work with voters, communities, and local law enforcement to ensure that every American can vote free from intimidation, coercion or threats.

On New Black Panther case: The Department sought and obtained an injunction against the individual who brought a night stick to the polling place on Election Day. This was the only defendant known to have brought a weapon to the Philadelphia polling place during the election. After a thorough review, the top career attorney in the Civil Rights Division determined that the facts and the law did not support pursuing claims against the other defendants in the case. A federal judge determined that the relief requested by the Department was appropriate.

On Commission Inquiry:The Department has worked in good faith with the Commission and produced thousands of pages of documents as well as provided the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division at a hearing to testify on this matter. The longstanding Department guidelines are clear that both current and former employees must be authorized by the Department before disclosing internal information relating to their official duties because of the confidential nature of internal deliberations.

A prominent conservative thinker, Abigail Thernstrom, a Republican member of the US Civil Rights Commission, who has written and spoken widely about civil rights and equal opportunity issues, also says Adams’ complaints are way overblown, that the case he is so upset about is “small potatoes.”

But we thought it was important to hear from Adams himself. And I know some of you will ask why? Why are we giving this man a platforms. Critics will point out that Adams was hired by a Justice official named Bradley Schlozman who was sternly criticized by the Department’s own Inspector General for inappropriately using political and ideological considerations in hiring decisions for positions that are supposed to be non partisan and non political, whose conduct not even former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would defend. On this program he says if he had known of Scholzman’s behavior he would never have tolerated it.

But I argue that if you take race seriously as subject then one must take the complaints and concerns of all races seriously. And while historically the narrative of race in America has included the phenomenon of white majorities violently suppressing the social movement of non white (and sometimes non Christian) minorities, in a diverse country, where whites are sometimes and in some places a minority, one must take these concerns seriously as well.

Is J. Christian Adams a whistleblower revealing an uncomfortable truth? Or a disgruntled, know-it-all partisan who just cannot accept that he is not the sole arbiter of truth and justice?  Isn’t it fair to let you decide for yourself?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

About