As the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its hearing on the nomination of Eric Holder as attorney general, revelations of just how politicized the Justice Department has been under President George W. Bush continue to surface. Ironically, the same members of the SJC who are questioning Mr. Holder’s independence are the same senators who supported the nomination of Alberto Gonzales, and sat idly by for years as the department, under his leadership, fell apart.
David Savage of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Bradley Schlozman, who was appointed by Bush to head up the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Section, spent three years systematically driving out career attorneys. In a 2003 email, Mr. Schlozman wrote “My tentative plans are to gerrymander all of these crazy libs right out of the section…I too get to work with mold spores, but here in Civil Rights, we call them Voting Section attorneys.” He referred to Democrats and liberals in general as “disloyal,” and wrote that he hoped to replace them with “real Americans.”
Probably the most disturbing of his exchanges, came in 2004 in emails with then Voting Section Chief John Tanner. When Mr. Schlozman asked Mr. Tanner how he liked his coffee, Mr. Tanner replied, “Mary Frances Berry style – black and bitter.” Mr. Tanner was referring to Mary Berry, the African American woman who led the U.S. Civil rights Commission from 1993 to 2004. Mr. Schlozman, the head of the Civil Rights division, was so amused by Mr. Tanner’s response that he forwarded it to his colleagues, saying “Y’all will appreciate Tanner’s response.”
Unfortunately for the department, it seems that Mr. Schlozman was extremely successful in weeding out career attorneys with Democratic affiliations. According to an inspector general’s report released yesterday, 63 of the 65 lawyers hired by Mr. Schlozman had “Republican or conservative credentials.” Considering the damage done by those DOJ appointees supported by SJC Republicans, it seems rather ridiculous that they would try to fight so hard against the nomination of a man like Eric Holder. Let’s hope Mr. Holder makes it through today’s hearing quickly, so that he can begin repairing the damage done to the department as soon as possible.