You’re going to hear a lot more about Debo Adegbile before the 2014 midterm elections. And that’s a bad thing for Democrats trying desperately to hold on to their Senate majority.
Adegbile, President Barack Obama’s choice to run the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, watched his confirmation to that post – once assumed to be likely — crumble in the matter of a few hours this past week. The reason? Adegbile, a longtime lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was part of the legal team that in 2009 filed an appeal on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1981 and has since become an international celebrity as he has fought the charge.
In a statement, Obama labeled the opposition to Adegbile as “wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.” But the collapse of the nomination lies at the feet of a remarkable miscalculation by the White House and Democratic Senate leaders, who seemed to believe that they could keep enough of their members in line to get Adegbile confirmed.
Wrong. Seven Democratic senators defected, the majority of whom represent Republican-leaning states and were clearly concerned about casting a vote supportive of someone with ties to Abu-Jamal.
Even more politically problematic than the Democratic defections is the fact that a number of vulnerable Democratic senators up for re-election in November voted for Adegbile — and have nothing to show for it. They include Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Alaska’s Mark Begich, who went out on a limb for their side only to see it sawed off behind them. “It’s a 30-second ad that writes itself,” lamented one Democratic aide about the vote.
Debo Adegbile, for watching your nomination get caught up in the midterm battles, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Chris Cillizza covers the White House for The Washington Post and writes The Fix, its politics blog.