Exclusive: Justice Is Blind but it is now Deaf, Crazy and Retarded, Too
by ROBERT WEISSBERG
February 9, 2010
It is said that war is hell but until recently it was a simple hell – declare war, arm and dispatch the military and kill everyone until the enemy surrenders. Today, alas, war, especially the war on terror, has grown immensely more complicated. There may not even be a firm line between friend and foe let alone a clear definition of an “attack.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has historically played a minor role in America’s wars. But, as the bungled interrogation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab sadly illustrated, matters have changed. Indeed, insofar as DOJ must advise the President on his legal authority to conduct the war, the limits of domestic surveillance, and how to handle alleged enemy combatants, among other war-related responsibilities, the DOJ is a full-fledged member of the President’s “war cabinet.” In a nutshell, today’s wars are fought by Department of Defense generals and Department of Justice lawyers.
Given that thousands, perhaps millions, of lives are now at stake, one might anticipate that the PC infatuation with diversity and inclusion would be suspended. In matters of life and death, this is hardly a revolutionary idea – not even über PC liberals rely on class, race and gender when choosing brain surgeons.
Have President Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, sensibly abandoned political correctness? Apparently not. Consider a recent DOJ solicitation for ten attorney positions in its Civil Rights Division to deal with federal voting rights statutes. Salaries range between $105,211 and $155,500. A JD degree plus three years of post-JD experience is required. The advertisement is boilerplate until one arrives at the now ubiquitous “we strongly encourage ….to apply” section. This is usually the perfunctory outreach to women and minorities, and for private firms the first line of defense against discrimination litigation.
Attorney General Holder’s staff goes far, far beyond customary inclusiveness. Specifically:
The Civil Rights Division encourages qualified applicants with targeted disabilities to apply. Targeted disabilities are deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorder, mental retardation, mental illness, severe distortion of limbs and/or spine. Applicants who meet the qualification requirements and are able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation are encouraged to identify targeted disabilities in response to the questions in the Avue application system seeking that information. For additional information for applicants with targeted disabilities, please contact the Civil Rights Division's Disability Program Manager, Diane Petrie, at (202) 514-3934.
You read correctly: The DOJ is encouraging job applications from the mentally ill, those with convulsive disorders, the mentally retarded (hear that, Rahm Emmanuel!), the blind, the deaf and the immobile to work as government lawyers. Perhaps we should be thankful that the list did not include the transgendered, transsexuals, hermaphrodites, transvestites and those still uncertain of their socially constructed gender.
To be sure, much – perhaps all – of this is gratuitous feel-good nonsense. Even mighty Washington will be hard pressed to recruit a bona fide mentally retarded (again, DOJ’s terminology) lawyer, though we are less sure of hiring a spineless one (“severe distortion of limbs and/or spine” so as not to offend the cowardly). Nor can we anticipate a blind DOJ lawyer interrogating Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called blind Sheikh responsible for the first Twin Towers attack, and thus give a whole new meaning to the expression, the blind leading the blind.
The significance of this Kafkaesque self-defeating inclusion is how it offers a peephole into Department of Justice thinking. No one obscure paper-pusher could have single- handedly sneaked this twaddle into the job announcement. This is the federal government so it must have passed muster with countless unindicted co-conspirators, including lawyers finely attuned to charges of discrimination. Worse, and here we can only speculate, no DOJ Pooh-Bah recognized the attention-getting oddity of soliciting job applications from the mentally retarded, the psychologically infirm (or, crazy as the politically incorrect Mr. Emanuel might say) etc. etc. Keep in mind that this specificity was not legally required – a sentence about honoring all federal employment laws would have sufficed. Going one step further, did the job-writing flacks consider what could happen if a mentally challenged, or blind, or deaf, or an epileptic lawyer argued the government’s case in a voting rights dispute? Imagine the reaction of African-Americans denied ballot access when their top gun DOJ advocate is led into court by his dog and demands the proceedings in Braille? The aim here, obviously, is being “good” though at the client’s expense. Put it this way: given a choice of hyper- inclusion or sending in the legal A-team, inclusion easily triumphs.
And can we be sure that only voting rights enforcement is being sacrificed on the PC altar? Will DOJ create water tight compartments depending on threats to national security so, for example, the lame and the halt will enforce credit card fraud while the best and the brightest ponder Miranda rights for apprehended terrorists? Perhaps, but don’t be too optimistic – recall the affirmative action progression in the private sector where AA hires in can’t-do-much-harm marketing eventually sued to gain access to better paying and more consequential positions in corporate finance.
Nor can we take comfort in the formal JD and experience requirement. Today’s universities go out of their way to “accommodate” anybody with a claimed disability, even if invisible. Ask any professor and they will recount these accommodations: extra hours given to complete an exam, in-class university supplied note-takers, access to the professor’s own lecture notes and various support services unavailable to ordinary able-bodied students. I personally recall one perfectly normal appearing student who shamelessly exploited every opportunity since he had a “mental disability” about which I could not ask and the university would not tell. This is not to argue against accommodation; rather, many of these special need students cannot perform regular work unless given support staffs and helpful exemptions, and these are seldom available in “real life” situations. Judges will not delay court proceedings since an attorney suffers from attention deficit disorder.
The issue here is not the possibility of a few one-armed manic-depressive DOJ lawyers botching a case. The real issue is corporate/ bureaucratic culture, the unstated values guiding workplace decisions, and here this mean an infatuation with inclusion at the expense of merit. The Department of Justice’s culture is horribly out-of-sync with today’s harsh reality and one can only imagine the damage done where thousands of personal choices escape public scrutiny. How many slow-witted agents are assigned to horrifically complicated cases so as to avoid future litigation about them not being allowed to handle high profile cases that ensure promotion? How many supervisors assemble legal teams as Noah filled the Ark? Obviously, we can’t answer these questions, but if this advertisement is any clue, Americans have much to fear.
Let’s end on a helpful note with a terrorist age-appropriate DOJ job announcement though the required skills are applicable everywhere. Wanted: super-smart lawyers with sufficient physical stamina necessary to work grueling hours while mastering arcane details to connect almost imperceptible dots. Successful applicants must be able to ask tough questions and use strong interrogation techniques. Preference will be given to those with talents for learning multiple languages, skill with computer technology and navigating foreign cultures on short notice. If you fear offending anybody’s politics, sexual identities, personal appearances or religion, please do not apply. Applicants are also advised that this is not the first step on a long bureaucratic apple-polishing career where advancement requires honoring reigning political orthodoxies; this is a chance to help defend America or otherwise enforce the law, and you will be judged only by that standard. If you are mentally impaired or crazy and don’t like this job description, just run for Congress and change the law.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Robert Weissberg is emeritus professor of political science, University of Illinois-Urbana and currently an adjunct instructor at New York University Department of Politics (graduate). He has written many books, the most recent include The Limits of Civic Activism, Pernicious Tolerance: How teaching to "accept differences" undermines civil society and the forthcoming, Bad Students, Not Bad Schools: How both the Right and the Left have American education wrong (early 2010). Besides writing for professional journals, he has also written for magazines like the Weekly Standard and currently contributes to various blogs.