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Updates! Michelle Goldberg says Obama’s come full circle. Our favorite #FutureBidenGaffes. David Frum says it changes nothing—and everything. A position made possible by a movement. Howard Kurtz on the “political bombshell.” Andrew Sullivan says “Obama lets go of fear.” Reactions. More reactions. Are we headed towards culture war?
After sizing up the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice—the most powerful advocate for civil rights within the federal government—Bush’s operatives endeavored “to rip the heart out of [it],” in the words of Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP.
In dry statistics and even drier prose, a report released last week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) spells out how sweeping that effort became. The Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division veered away from challenging “at-large election systems” that marginalized African-Americans and focused on language discrimination against Spanish speakers. The Employment Litigation Section moved away from so-called pattern or practice cases (suits that took on widespread or systematic discrimination) in favor of individual complaints. (“Plenty of individual lawyers can bring these individual discrimination cases,” pointed out Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, a New York–based nonprofit; but only the Justice Department can pursue certain big cases that can make a real difference.) Bush’s Justice Department was also particularly sensitive to discrimination against white males. In 2007 the division filed a suit against Indianapolis for favoring African-Americans and females over white males for promotion to police sergeant.