If a tree falls in a forest and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound? That's the question on the mind of Georgia Rep. David Scott who is asking why civil rights organizations have seemingly been silent on two controversial judges that President Obama has nominated for the federal bench in his state.
"They need to remember the first of our civil rights leaders, Frederick Douglas do if he were here. What would Harriett Tubman or Sojourner Truth or Martin Luther King Jr. be doing about a judge who supported the Confederate battle flag to be put on the court for life by an African-American president," he said in an interview with BET.com. "We've got to understand that this isn't about President Obama. Don't be fearful of that."
The nominations were made following a tradition known as "blue-slipping," whereby the president confers with the state's U.S. senators about candidates. In this case, both of Georgia's senators are Republicans, which have led others to question why he didn't also seek support from members of his own party in the House. The Congressional Black Caucus expressed its concerns about the nominating process in a letter to Obama last month.
In addition to how he believes decisions made by Michael Boggs, who voted to keep the Confederate emblem on the Georgia state flag, and Mark Cohen, who successfully defended the state's voter ID law, would impact generations of African-Americans, Scott says he's also concerned about the "black mark" that the appointments will leave on Obama's legacy.
"The presidential legacies are left by their appointments to federal and the Supreme courts. History says that," he said.
Scott said he has reached out to civil rights groups, including the NAACP, and wants them to publicly express their opposition.
"What else is the NAACP for but to stand up and fight for people of color? What is the National Urban League there for except to do this?" he said.
An official of one organization, who did not want to be named, said that the group had spoken privately with the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss ways to prevent the nominations from moving forward.
"I think they cut a deal to get four of the six they really want in place, who are decent nominees. Two are the price they're paying to move the four forward," the official said.
The head of another civil rights group, speaking on background, agreed with that assessment.
"The issue came up during the [recent meeting civil rights groups] had with the president. I don't know what deal was made but obviously the toughest decision the president has to make is if he gets a slate of judges that aren't diverse does he not fill the positions. There are a lot of seats that have gone unfilled for a long period of time because the candidates were unacceptable," the leader said.
Scott says civil rights leaders must go to Reid and the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose the nominees.
"Why Obama wants to go down in history as a Black president who put a man on the court for life who supports the Confederate battle flag is beyond me," Scott said. "I say leave him alone. Go to where the action is. That now rests with the Senate Judiciary Committee. If they're afraid of Obama, don't be afraid of the Senate. Go to them and say they want to speak against the nominees in the confirmation hearing. Then they can reclaim some of the dignity that they have."
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