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Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch by any account has the highest legal and educational pedigree imaginable to succeed Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General. In fact, from the first moment that her name was dropped weeks ago as a possible replacement for Holder, the accolades were non-stop about her accomplishments prosecuting an assortment of crooked politicians, drug cartel heads, terror suspects, and most importantly, winning a conviction against the New York cops that beat and sodomized Haitian emigrant Abner Louima in 1997.
An added plus is that she can’t be tagged as one of Obama’s inner circle cronies, as the GOP repeatedly slandered Holder.
In the mold of Holder she’s been outspoken that a lock em’ up and throw the key away approach to crime fighting won’t work, especially when those who are most likely to have the key thrown away on them are young black males. Lynch went even further in February 2013 and told a symposium on “Smart Justice: Changing How We Think About Crime and Punishment” at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City that simply dumping more young black males in jail cells is a vicious cycle that insures they have nowhere to go and no support to break the crime and arrest cycle.
But that forward thinking and her impeccable legal credentials and unsullied political ties are likely to count far less if the GOP is tempted to use her as yet another one of their foils to hammer Obama. The first light hint that the GOP may well be poised to follow this well-worn script came from GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz, both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. They were peeved that Obama would tap Lynch when many Democrats are lame ducks, and thus not giving the incoming wave of GOP Senate members a chance to have their say on Lynch.
Another even more ominous hint that Lynch could be the GOP’s latest whipping person came with the harp that she is supposedly close to Al Sharpton, and met with him during the protests around the strangle death of Eric Garner by New York police. This quickly morphed into the wild, irresponsible, and politically loaded question, “Did Sharpton pick the next attorney general,” that being Lynch.
But that was less the issue than the fact Obama made the pick, any pick. The GOP could latch on to this in its relentless drive to tar Obama as an imperial president who thumbs his nose at Congress at every turn and chooses partisan handmaidens to do his bidding.
A brief look at how that ploy played out against Holder is in order. It began during Holder’s Senate confirmation hearing in 2009. He was grilled over his role as Deputy Attorney General in Bill Clinton's administration in a handful of controversial decisions. Holder was overwhelmingly confirmed as Attorney General. Yet, the flack he took was only the start. The GOP viewed him as a pawn in their relentless attack plan on Obama. If they could discredit, taint, and tarnish Holder for even the most picayune act, it would be another slap at Obama.
In quick succession the GOP dithered and delayed confirmation of Chuck Hegel, and Thomas Perez, and stonewalled that of Susan Rice. It did the same with a slew of judicial and administration picks which have been frozen in limbo, withdrawn their names, or Obama has withdrawn them.
The GOP has another compelling reason to try and figure out a way to brush aside Lynch’s sterling credentials and make her a target. She almost certainly would carry on the fight Holder waged against voter registration discrimination through aggressive enforcement of the voting rights laws. This poses a major threat to the GOP's push to undermine the Voting Rights Act with a rash of voter ID laws and restrictions, topped by the lawsuit before the Supreme Court to scrub the Act.
This is even more important with the opening gun of the 2016 presidential elections around the corner. The GOP’s shellack of Democrats in the mid-terms would ultimately be wiped out if there is an upsurge in black and Latino voter’s dash back to the polls in 2016. They made a huge difference in Obama's election and reelection victories, and in insuring Democrat gains in many state elections in 2008 and 2012. The full enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is a strong safeguard that those gains could be made again in 2016. This is the last thing the GOP wants. This would virtually insure the continued Democratic hold on the White House.
The GOP may well dig to find any real or manufactured alleged impropriety by Lynch to toss at her during the confirmation proceedings. The GOP's dogged vow to hamstring Obama with the tag of a go it his way president and further straightjacket his presidency poses the real likelihood that Lynch could be on the GOP’s hot seat. If so, the issue again will not be Lynch, but Obama.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.
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