photo: PoliticalActivityLaw.com via Flickr

Wow, Hans von Spakovsky has taken a page from Lynn Cheney’s “Al Qaeda Seven” slander ad and launched a patchwork quilt of personal attacks against the senior members of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. In an article appearing in the National Review he goes after each of them in a very personal way. Ultimately, I think the article backfires and Hans has jumped the shark.

The article is actually wildly entertaining if you read it as satire. How can pointing out that someone was smart and talented enough to clerk for a federal Court of Appeals judge and a Supreme Court Justice actually count as an insult?

I’m not going to dignify this hysterical screed with a link because The National Review did not earn any click-through props by printing this crap. Normally, I respect them even when I disagree with them, but this tripe is so far below their standards as to make me wonder what sort of shouting must be going on in their editorial meetings this week.

For example, Hans castigates Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez for the sins of having worked for Senator Edward Kennedy, having been elected to the Montgomery County, Maryland legislature and belonging to Casa de Maryland.  Oh, the horror of it all. Worse yet, according to Hans, is Mark Kappelhoff’s sin for daring to have worked for – wait for it – yes, the ACLU. OMG!

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Samuel Bagenstos is the aforementioned victim of Hans’s insult who clerked for 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt. Bagenstos also clerked for my personal SCOTUS fave, Justice Ruth Ginsberg. Evidently, Hans thinks these credentials are something to be ashamed of; he really enjoyed “outing” Bagenstos.

The National Review piece reads like something from The Onion. If it was meant as an April’s Fool’s piece, they are a few weeks early. I know that Hans gets paid by the Heritage Foundation to come up with attacks from the right, but are they getting value for money?  If the best he can turn out sinks to the Liz Cheney level of Epic Fail, might they want to rethink how they are allocating their resources?

Last semi-related point:

I know that Attorney General Eric Holder thinks that the work of the Civil Rights Division is going to be his legacy—that the Civil Rights Division (CRD) is, as Senator Schumer described it,  the  “crown jewel” of DOJ.  I have to put a pin in the AG’s party balloon.

It won’t matter one tiny little bit how much or how great the work of the Civil Rights Division is if we fail to restore the rule of law in this country.

If DOJ does not have the independence to make charging and venue decisions free from political interference; if people can be captured and held indefinitely without trial or due process, then every single civil right in this country is an illusion and the talented lawyers with sterling resumes in the CRD are wasting their time as we speak.

Hans von Spakovsky’s and Liz Cheney’s efforts to delegitimize these lawyers and their work cannot compare to the effects of failing to adhere to the rule of law.

Mr. Attorney General, during your confirmation hearings you promised to restore the rule of law and you told Senator Herb Kohl that there were some things worth resigning over. Don’t let Senator Lindsey Graham destroy everything else you are trying to do.

Whether or not you are able to restore the independence and integrity of DOJ is the only legacy that matters. All of the work of the CRD or the entire DOJ hinges on this effort.