Want to know why Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert was in Washington, D.C. today, brought in for testimony by California Democrat Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship & Border Security?
Certainly, Colbert is no expert on immigration, citizenship or border security. He may have visited a farm in New York while putting together a satirical news package for his show on Comedy Central, but that is the extent of his knowledge about migrant farm workers.
Maybe I’m a little overly cynical, but I know why he was there. Or, at the very least, I know why the Democrats and the White House were extremely glad he was there. I know why he was given full latitude by subcommittee members today to spout off a litany of jokes and make an overall mockery of an establishment full of elected officials who have already made a mockery of said establishment. I know why he tried to enter into the Congressional Record images from a recent colonoscopy.
He was there because of Christopher Coates. Don’t know the name? Here you go, from a Fox News piece:
Christopher Coates, former voting chief for the department’s Civil Rights Division, spoke under oath Friday morning before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a long-awaited appearance that had been stonewalled by the Justice Department for nearly a year.
Coates discussed in depth the DOJ’s decision to dismiss intimidation charges against New Black Panther members who were videotaped outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008 dressed in military-style uniforms — one was brandishing a nightstick — and allegedly hurling racial slurs.
The case has drifted in and out of the limelight over the past year as the commission has struggled to investigate it. Former Justice official J. Christian Adams fueled the controversy when he testified in July and accused his former employer of showing “hostility” toward cases that involved white victims and black defendants.
Nearly three months later, Coates backed up Adams’ claims. In lengthy and detailed testimony, he said the department cultivates a “hostile atmosphere” against “race-neutral enforcement” of the Voting Rights Act.
He said civil rights attorneys stick to cases that involve minority victims, and he said the Black Panther case was dismissed following “pressure” by the NAACP and “anger” at the case within the Justice Department itself.
A search for “Christopher Coates in Washington” on Google News today at 1:30 p.m. yielded 19 results, while a search for “Stephen Colbert in Washington” at the same time yielded 997 results. A search for “Christopher Coates Testimony” yielded eight results, while a search for “Stephen Colbert Testimony” yielded 222 results.
Folks, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice has been stonewalling Coates’ testimony for nearly a year. (Holder, recall, is the one who admonished the nation back in February 2009 for being “cowards” when it comes to race.) And yet when the day finally comes for the mask to be pulled from the face of the DoJ, exposing the race-driven politics and policies and procedures coming from that department, what happens?
And then, when it comes for late local news broadcasts in towns big and small across the country to spend a total of six minutes–if that–on national news, which soundbite do you think will make the cut? Which story will they choose to tell? More importantly, which story will most Americans hear about today?
From an ABCNews piece on the Colbert farce:
“This is America,” he told the panel. “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican,” he said. “We do not want immigrants doing this labor.”
He tried to enter images from his colonoscopy into the Congressional Record during a riff on how Americans should eat less roughage. Then Colbert recalled his day spent picking vegetables at an upstate New York farm earlier this summer.
“I’ll admit, I started my day with a preconceived notion of immigrant labor,” he said.
“I have to say, and I do mean this sincerely: Please don’t make me do this again. It is really, really hard,” Colbert said, pretending to choke up.
And he didn’t stop there.
On the bill dealing with immigrant workers, Colbert quipped, “Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.” He sarcastically expressed confidence that as the bill moves forward, “both sides will work together as you always do.”
That was one of the rare jokes that actually drew a good laugh from the packed committee room.
Or, from the Fox News piece on Coates’ testimony:
The Bush Justice Department first brought the case against three members of the group, accusing them in a civil complaint of violating the Voting Rights Act. The Obama administration initially pursued the case and at one point won a default judgment, but the administration last year moved to dismiss the charges after getting one of the New Black Panther members to agree not to carry a “deadly weapon” near a polling place until 2012.
Coates dismissed as weak the department’s rationale for abandoning the case, saying the department let one of the Black Panther members off the hook because a local police officer had determined he was a Democratic Party poll watcher. Coates called it “extraordinarily strange” for the department to rely on this and urged the commission to consider what the legal backlash would have been if the Panthers had been members of the Ku Klux Klan.
“To understand the rationale of these articulated reasons for gutting this case … one only has to state the facts in the racial reverse,” he said. Coates said that with the United States becoming increasingly diverse, it is “absolutely essential” that the law be enforced equally.
“As important as the mandate in the Voting Rights Act is to protect minority voters, white voters also have an interest in being able to go to the polls without having race-haters such as Black Panther King Samir Shabazz, whose public rhetoric includes such statements as ‘kill cracker babies’ … standing at the entrance of the polling place with a billy club in his hand hurling racial slurs at voters,” he said.
“Given this outrageous conduct, it was a travesty of justice for the Department of Justice not to allow attorneys in the voting section to obtain nationwide injunctive relief against” the defendants, he said.
While I do find Stephen Colbert funny, while I do think that he can make no more a mockery of Congress than Congress already does to itself, and while I’m not certain that the timing was anything more than a terrible coincidence that he was there at the same time as Christopher Coates, coincidental or not there is something insidious about the nature and extent of coverage that one story is getting over the other.
I don’t often make pleas here at America’s Right to spread a particular piece far and wide, and even here I really don’t care whether you send out a link to this one or to anything on Christopher Coates, but I do believe that it is incredibly important for folks who might not otherwise hear about it to understand exactly what we’re dealing with in Eric Holder’s Justice Department and Barack Obama’s administration.