New Orleans dissed, again
Published Jun 7, 2007 1:26 AM
The virtually all-white congressional leadership sounded a lot like a lynch mob
in the days after the June 4 indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). The
indictment comes almost exactly a year after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
engineered Jefferson’s ouster from the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Jefferson is one of a small handful of Black members of Congress and he
represents the district that includes New Orleans.
On June 5, the Republican members of Congress demanded Jefferson’s
immediate expulsion. The Democratic leadership under Pelosi did not counter the
expulsion demand, but instead demanded that Jefferson give up his last
remaining committee position.
The Congressional Black Caucus has stood alone in defending Jefferson, holding
to the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The Black
Caucus says Pelosi is guilty of a racist double standard. While she has moved
fast and hard against Jefferson, she has allowed a white member of Congress
also under federal investigation, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), to hold his
important committee positions.
No member of Congress has ever faced expulsion before for an indictment. Most
recently both Tom DeLay and Robert Ney, Republicans, were allowed to finish up
their business and exit “gracefully” while under indictment. DeLay
resigned his seat in June 2006; Ney announced he wouldn’t run again.
Neither faced calls for their expulsion.
In the post-Civil War period only two members of Congress have faced expulsion,
both after having been convicted of crimes. Before that only two members of
Congress were expelled, both from Missouri, both in 1861, both charged with
treason for siding with the Confederacy.
Rep. Jefferson has certainly been subjected to a racist double standard. There
is no presumption of innocence. He’s been convicted already in the big
Prosecutors and their indictments are quite often politically driven, with
little concern for truth or honesty. A chief justice of the New York Supreme
Court once famously noted that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to
“indict a ham sandwich.” That is, when the politically appointed
prosecutors ask a grand jury for an indictment, they are almost never turned
down, even if the indictment might look ridiculous.
Jefferson’s indictment all along had the smell of a political attack,
aimed at the Black population of the city of New Orleans. He is their
representative, and even after he’d been smeared in the media last year,
he was popularly reelected.
The Katrina survivors in New Orleans have been battered and besieged already.
Now they are being denied their right to representation along with their right
to return and rebuild. It is up to the people of New Orleans to choose their
representative in Congress. It’s also their right not to have the racists
who run Congress dictate to them who their representative shall be.
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