By Mark Green
Erick Erickson and Eliot Spitzer debate the impact of The Trial on race and justice. Is refusing to even talk about race a form of "colorblind racism?" Then: amateur boxer Harry Reid TKO's Mitch McConnell on the filibuster and Eliot compares the week he resigned to his relaunch week -- "solitude" vs. "tsunami."
The trial is over but the malady lingers on. It wasn't OJ but opinions on Zimmerman-Martin too split along racial lines (78 percent of Whites supported the verdict, 34 percent of African Americans ) and it will probably have a more lasting impact on culture and justice than that celebrity murder case. Also: the change in Senate filibuster rules could start to deal with Washington dysfunction. Or not. Eliot and Erick both clash and concur.
*On the Trial and Racial Justice. We debate this premise: "Resolved: the acquittal was the right verdict based on Florida law and known evidence but justice was not done because a guy with a gun stalked and killed an unarmed black boy."
Eliot agrees more the second half of the formulation since "justice was denied him, his family and the larger community... There's a difference between the law and justice." By overcharging, the prosecutors lost credibility and perhaps the case. Erick doesn't disagree: "Everything about this case makes me angry -- the way the media treated it and how both sides made it political. A 17 year-old was killed -- what's political about that?"
What about the venue being the "Gunshine State" and the jury having no blacks -- did that prejudice the result? Does this trial and tragedy resonate in America, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Fruitvale Station? Eliot points to Juror B-37 saying that the victim was "acting strange" -- like how, wonders the former prosecutor? -- and asks why the prosecution let someone so naïve about race relations get on the panel. Erick agrees that the suburban jury pool reflected a lack of understanding of urban youth scared of the police. "But this was a jury of Zimmerman's peers, not Martin's."
Since only Zimmerman himself knows if he had a racial animus and he chose not to testify, it's not surprising that race did not explicitly play a role in the trial. But of course it does in the justice system and society. Erick tells us that his black intern Darryl hoped that Obama "would do what he hasn't done and talk about how our culture treats young black men. We're ripe for that discussion."
Host: Darryl, meet Barack. A few minutes after our taping, the president made his personal "I'm Trayvon" remarks in the WH Press Room.
Do critics who say that even talking about race is race is race-baiting perpetuating racism by omission? I doubt anyone thinks that talking about terrorism is terrorism. If a half-black, half-white president can't sensitively discuss what it feels like to be in black or white shoes, who can?
Now comes the trial's upshot: is there enough evidence of racial bias for DoJ to bring a civil case against Zimmerman? Do Stand-Your-Ground laws increase violence? Can we carve out an exception so that, if someone picks a fight, he can't kill the person and claim the defense? Can law enforcement reduce stop-frisk and sentencing disparities? Watch for a big national conversation leading up to the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's march next month.
*On the Filibuster Fight. Harry Reid bested Mitch McConnell on the narrow issue of requiring 60 votes for executive branch nominations as John McCain -- who's thought more about presidential prerogatives than most Senators -- bypassed McConnell to make the deal.
Erick thinks that Reid was bluffing since he didn't have 51 votes to change the rules; he likes Rule 22 since a) it "helps liberals and conservatives protect themselves from moderates in their parties," b) the Senate was originally supposed to represent the states (what about that 17th amendment requiring popular voting for Senate?) and c) likes the dysfunction that frustrates more laws. Eliot laughs at his impulse against problem-solving by legislation. He favors abolishing the filibuster since it's anti-majoritarian and since it nowhere appears in a Constitution that is explicit elsewhere about super-majority votes (treaties and amendments).
Erick adds that he likes actual "standing filibusters" of the kind that Senator Rand Paul engaged in last month. Also, he doubts that the GOP has the cajones to refuse to confirm any Democrat to replace a retiring Republican justice if that would shift the court majority...a s happened when Samuel Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor. "This is the Supreme Court and if a President wins..." (We now have that on tape.)
Will this filibuster fight and result play into the likely thematic struggle in November 2014 of GOP Obstructionism vs. Obama Big Government-ism? Erick hopes that this will be a no-big-theme election like 2006 and 2010 ones so that the GOP could prevail merely because D's have more Senate seats vulnerable and because gerrymandering insulates so many House Republican seats.
Amazing how the media cannot unlearn a good but misplaced metaphor like "nuclear option." For the issue this week related to, well, "filibuster proliferation" against executive branch nominees not against bills or judicial nominations.
Since there were 20 filibusters against presidential appointments in our first 220 years, and then 16 against Obama's in the next four years, it appears that McConnell lost because of a bad hand, not a misplayed one.
*Quick Takes: Boehner & Immigration. GITMO inmates. Rolling Stone.
^We listen to Bill O'Reilly say that if the GOP blocks all Immigration reform, they'll lose to Hillary and beyond. So if Obama bet his presidency on the bin Laden raid and Pelosi her speakership on Obamacare, might Boehner bet his on Immigration? It's Erick's turn to laugh. "Boehner never risks anything -- that's why he's Speaker!" But he goes on to guess that the leadership will schedule a vote on some kind of Dream Act... to allow a Conference Committee to produce a bill closer to the 68 vote Senate version. Eliot agrees that the "political imperative is overwhelming."
^With dozens of GITMO prisoners being force-fed due to a hunger strike, will Obama now, as a re-elected Commander-in-Chief, send 86 such prisoners cleared for release home abroad? Eliot says yes "and if some are deemed too dangerous, send them to [escape-free] super-max prisons in America." But what happens when the GOP opposes returning them to their native country (usually Yemen) since they might again prey on America? Erick frets that, on this one, "we have a tiger by the tail."
We also have a jury system built on the premise that "better 100 guilty go free than one innocent person go to prison." That same premise may ultimately mean that we can't hold prisoners indefinitely... and if some later engage in terrorism, that too may the price we pay for being a nation of laws.
^Rolling Stone. Did the now infamous cover "glamorize" a terrorist or was it just a magazine looking for buzz? Eliot thinks it not a big deal since cover placement doesn't imply an endorsement while Erick argues that the long piece inside didn't deliver the goods.
*Your Week: We end programs with each panelist describing something they did in the past week, public or personal, that listeners would be interested in. It came to our attention that Governor Spitzer a) released an e-book called "Protecting Capitalism" and b) announced he was running for NYC Comptroller. So the Host asks him a) how his "book tour" went and b) "how would you compare the week after you resigned as governor with the last week?" The former governor discusses his agonizing "solitude" when no one was calling and the introspection it produced... and compared it to "the unexpected media tsunami" (Leno, Fallon, This Week, Colbert, Morning Joe, Brian Lehrer, not yet the Weather Channel).
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.
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