Here’s an exercise for those who think that Republicans’ Double Standard Paranoia Quotient regarding media bias is unjustified at best and borderline paranoid at worst.
(1) Read the following excerpt (the first four paragraphs) from Carrie Johnson’s report in today’s WaPo, headliined “A Split At Justice On D.C. Vote Bill.” (The story doesn’t appear in today’s New York Times, but at this stage that’s not cause for any DSPQ because it appears to be a WaPo scoop. Let’s wait and see see how many legs it grows in other outlets over the next couple of days.)
Justice Department lawyers concluded in an unpublished opinion earlier this year that the historic D.C. voting rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional, according to sources briefed on the issue. But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who supports the measure, ordered up a second opinion from other lawyers in his department and determined that the legislation would pass muster.
A finding that the voting rights bill runs afoul of the Constitution could complicate an upcoming House vote and make the measure more vulnerable to a legal challenge that probably would reach the Supreme Court if it is enacted. The bill, which would give the District a vote in the House for the first time, appeared to be on the verge of passing last month before stalling when pro-gun legislators tried to attach an amendment weakening city gun laws. Supporters say it could reach the House floor in May.
In deciding that the measure is unconstitutional, lawyers in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel matched a conclusion reached by their Bush administration counterparts nearly two years ago, when a lawyer there testified that a similar bill would not withstand legal attack.
Holder rejected the advice and sought the opinion of the solicitor general’s office, where lawyers told him that they could defend the legislation if it were challenged after its enactment.
Democratic and Republican Justice Department veterans said it is unusual, though not unprecedented, for the solicitor general, who backs the administration’s position before the Supreme Court, to be asked to weigh in before a case makes its way into a courtroom. Typically, legal scholars said, the solicitor general is asked whether the office can plausibly defend a law in court, rather than to opine directly on the legality of a piece of legislation. The office was asked for the opinion several weeks ago, before the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan as the new solicitor general.
(2) For “Holder” substitute “Gonzalez” or “Ashcroft” or “Meese” or “Mitchell” or the surname of any other Republican Attorney General of the last several decades..
(3) Consider what the reaction would be if one of them —say Alberto Gonzalez— had overruled a decision he didn’t like, that had been made by the appropriate office at DOJ, by assigning another less appropriate but more dependably friendly office to supply the opposite conclusion.
(4) Join me in following the development of this story and tracking the outrage level on, say, Countdown with Keith Olbermann and the Rachel Maddow Show, and the op-ed page of the New York Times.
(5) Monitor the usually hair-trigger indignation meter at NPR for discussions of such politicization of the DOJ. Count the conniptions experienced by Diane Rehm and Tom Ashbrook.
(6) Makes notes on Donna Brazile’s, Paul Krugman’s, Katrina vanden Heuvel’s, and Paul Begala’s barely controllable righteous ire on the Sunday talk shows.
(7) Don’t hold your breath.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be wrong. After all, there’s a first time for everything. But if I’m not, then, please, enough already about the Republicans’ misplaced paranoia regarding media bias.