Attorney General Eric Holder insisted to MSNBC earlier this month that “we are in a better place than we were before” in race relations since Barack Obama was elected president.The president doubled down in an interview with NPR last week. Asked if race relations were worse since he took office, he said, “No, I actually think that it’s probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided.”But that’s not what the American people see.
A Pew Research Center poll found that only 40% of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling race relations. Black approval is down to 57%, while approval among whites is down to 33%.More young people under age 30, the age group who were most enthusiastic about electing the nation’s first African-American president, now disapprove of his performance on racial issues than approve. And Eric Holder has one of the lowest approval ratings of any public official.Law-enforcement officials are appalled at the way the Obama administration exploited tragedies in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City to appeal to its political base. David Clarke, a Democrat who is the African-American sheriff of Milwaukee, doesn’t mince his words.“The thing that disappoints me the most is some very powerful people in this country — the president of the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York — have created a pathway that contributes to an unjustifiable hatred of law enforcement officers across the country,” he told WMAL radio in Washington, DC. “They trashed an entire profession with a broad brush because it was politically expedient for them to do so.”
Holder, who thinks we are “a nation of cowards” on race, has infused the Justice Department with the “racial justice” movement that falsely argues the police “subconsciously” discriminate through the use of “disproportionate” means such as traffic stops. It has forced 15 cities into consent decrees to end such practices, for which it has almost no evidence.Take Seattle, where Justice claimed that “Biased policing is not primarily about the ill-intentioned officer but rather the officer who engages in discriminatory practices subconsciously,” adding that even a well-meaning cop can violate the civil rights of black suspects by operating “on implicit biases that impact that officer’s behavior or perceptions.”Even though DOJ admitted it couldn’t verify the supposed bias, in 2012 it ordered Seattle to weaken its use-of-force rules while disciplining officers engaged in “implicit bias.”
A lawsuit by Seattle police officers against Justice charges that the new policies have led to “hesitation and paralysis” in officers being able to carry out their duty to protect the public from criminals. The suit notes that crime rates have climbed in Seattle — with aggravated assaults up 14%, car theft up 44% and murders up 21%. It is those trends that should scare New Yorkers about the Obama-Holder approach to law enforcement.
Even honest liberals agree that Holder’s Justice Department has been confrontational and polarizing. Juan Williams of Fox News, the author of “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years,” laments that “the Justice Department has devolved into the heart of Washington darkness, the absolute pit of modern political polarization in my lifetime.”
One reason for that is that, thanks to direct support from Holder and Obama, Al Sharpton has now become the nation’s leading civil-rights leader. Far from becoming the “refined agitator” his apologists now claim him to be, Sharpton is the same racial charlatan and rabble-rouser of the past using slightly new tricks.
Sheriff Clarke says the Obama administration set a pattern early on that it would ignore bad behavior and bad actors if it suited their political purposes and their warped racial ideology.
In 2009, it dropped charges against the New Black Panther Party for intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place because the defendants were black. In 2013, the Inspector General of the Justice Department filed a report criticizing its Civil Rights Division for allowing the harassing and bullying of conservative employees. No disciplinary action was taken. And Holder has filled the ranks of the office at DOJ responsible for policing the police with radical lawyers hostile to law enforcement.
In 2013, a federal judge ordered a new trial for five New Orleans police officers convicted of a shooting during Hurricane Katrina because of “grotesque prosecutorial abuse.” Judge Kurt Engelhard slammed the “skullduggery” and “perfidy” of Justice Department prosecutors in engaging in a PR campaign to inflame public opinion and sway the jury through anonymous postings on a newspaper website. The judge suggested that Holder “seriously consider appointment of an independent counsel” to investigate the scandal. Holder has ignored the judge’s recommendation and instead recently moved to have the judge removed from the case.
For Sheriff Clarke, all of this fits into a pattern. “I think these two [President Obama and Attorney General Holder] have indicated their dislike of the police even if it’s in coded language.” He notes that in the wake of the killing of two cops last weekend in New York, Mayor de Blasio and others are now issuing “contrite statements about how they respect and admire our law enforcement officers. I think it’s hollow. I don’t accept it.”
Since President Obama took office, “racial justice” ideology has been allowed to trump common sense. Saying we “are in a better place” when it comes to race relations may be true for the Al Sharptons of the world but not for ordinary Americans.
John Fund is the national affairs correspondent for National Review and Hans A. von Spakovsky is a former Justice Department official. They are co-authors of “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department” (HarperCollins/Broadside), out now