Legal Speaks Home Debbie Hines Bio Blog TV Clips Practice Areas Res Ipsa Loquitur Links Contact
Blog Home

Posts Tagged ‘GOP’

Lynching Statement by GOP Senator is no Laughing Matter

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Everyday bold racist statements emerge in the media. A recent appalling racist statement was made by Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. She praised support for someone by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” As an African American who is a descendant of slaves, I can never get used to the bigoted statements and bigotry in the U.S.  In response, Hyde-Smith says “any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” She’s running in a run-off election against Mike Epsy, an African American and former Congressman.

I don’t know what Hyde-Smith thinks about a public lynching. But I can tell her that it’s no joking matter—now or never. It is a negative part of U.S. history.   Billy Holliday sang Strange Fruit in which the lyrics describe lynching of Blacks in the south. Those words in part were:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”

“Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh”

During the 1800’s and well into the 1900’s lynching of Blacks in the south and beyond was almost like a national past time. The forms of lynching varied from hanging, burning, tarring or splitting with a hatchet, to name a few. The purpose was to punish and terrorize African Americans. African Americans were lynched due to hatred by whites and a distorted fear of Blacks refusing to stay in their place.

Senator Hyde-Smith is consciously using her hanging analogy to remind racist white supporters that Espy is not in his place. The lynching of community leaders were most common in the period of 1915 and 1940 to remind Blacks to stay in their place—of below, beneath, behind and after white Americans. That is the essence of white supremacy.

Lynchings often escalated into large-scale violence targeting the entire African American community in places such as Mississippi. The Equal Justice Initiative researched and found 4084 racial terror lynchings in 12 southern states and 300 in other states, including California from the period between 1877-1950. Mississippi had the highest number of lynchings. Counties in Mississippi were sites of mass killings of African Americans in single-incident violence.

Senator Hyde-Smith’s racist remarks harkens back to a time in history when lynchings were mainstream and whites wanted a front row view just to see a Black person lynched. In places like Mississippi, during the height of lynching, public lynchings often held white spectators of 500-1000 and sometimes upwards of 2,000 or more. Hyde-Smith is saying if she lived during this time that she would have been on the front row.

During the high period of lynchings in the U.S., many were carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim’s body parts collected as souvenirs. This is what Hyde-Smith wanted to watch. And during the height of lynching in the U.S., spectators watching included elected officials and prominent citizens while white press coverage regularly a lynching. No one was brought to justice for a public hanging of a Black person.

These killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a clear message that African Americans were less than human. The message behind Hyde-Smith’s statement is clear and resonates with many whites today. These bold racist statements have no place in politics or anywhere else in the U.S. Ever since the election of Trump, many white persons feel emboldened to publicly make such racist comments.

On November 27, 2018 Mississippians should send a clear message to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. The message to Hyde-Smith should be the joke is on her by voting her out of office.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Why a Decades Ago Attempted Rape Should Derail Kavanaugh

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was on to smooth sailing to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court before Professor Ford came forward with allegations of an attempted rape by Kavanaugh when he was 17. Ford at age 15 attended a party where Kavanaugh attempted to rape her on a bed and in the process placed a pillow over her head to prevent her from screaming. Now years later, Ford is scheduled to testify publicly about these allegations.

As I appeared on DC Fox 5 this evening, I was asked why would Professor Ford come forward so many years later. Most women, including Ford would prefer to forget the details of a sexual assault. However, the reality is most can never forget the assault or in Ford’s case an attempted rape.

While I cannot speak for Ford, she likely came forward now because she has a civic or moral duty to convey significant information about Kavanaugh’s character and fitness to serve on the highest court. And it doesn’t matter that the incident took place decades ago. No one should get a pass for attempted rape. And the issue should not be lightly dismissed due to the length of time. What should be judged is substance over timing.

Fox 5 also asked how me does one decide a “he said, she said” controversy. Normally, in a sexual assault case, it is viewed as he said she’s lying and that’s the end of it. But the MeToo movement is slowly changing all of the previous perceptions. A funny thing has happened. Women are now being believed. But the stakes are high here. So Professor Ford took a lie detector test given by a former FBI agent. Even with lie detector test, it may not be enough.

The determination of what will happen depends on how well Prof. Ford testifies; how believable she appears; Most will need to judge if there is any ulterior motive or if anyone has anything to gain by testifying. In this instance, Prof. Ford has everything to lose and nothing to gain. And if there is any doubt, folks should read up on what happened to Prof. Anita Hill after she testified. She almost lost everything in her academic career. Kavanaugh has everything to gain—a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.
The parallels to Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas are misplaced. Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the work place. Professor Ford accuses Kavanaugh of a serious crime—-attempted rape. And those allegations deserve a serious look at Kavanaugh’s past. The FBI should be investigating him to locate persons who may have further information about the party, the judge and the professor.

Kavanaugh’s vote should be delayed until a full and complete investigation of these serious allegations. With the Republicans, that is not likely to occur. They want to ram Kavanaugh through the process before the midterms. What may occur is the Senate Judiciary committee may vote against a full Senate vote after hearing the testimony. There are 21 senators on the Senate Judiciary committee. 11 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats.

Most Republicans knew about Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial taste for women. That’s why he was selected in the first place—to turn back the hands of time for women; to vote against abortion rights. And now what stands between him and a lifetime appointment is a courageous woman. And her life will never be the same for her act of courage. All women’s lives will never be the same if Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice.

Kavanaugh must be blocked at all costs. The stakes are too high for an alleged rapist to sit for a lifetime on the Supreme Court. We are better than this.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and member of the Supreme Court bar.

Trump’s Wins are Major Losses for the U.S.

Sunday, February 4th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

When Donald Trump campaigned in 2016, he stated that he planned to win on every single issue for Americans.  And one year after taking office, Trump has won hands down on every single issue that seeks to divide rather than unite us as a country and lower our standing in the world.

Trump got off to a running start on January 27, 2017 by hastily implementing a Muslim travel ban on 7 Muslim countries.  The ban barred citizens of the Muslim countries from entering the U.S. After a federal appeals court struck down the first ban, a second ban ensued.  Later after litigation, a third ban was enacted. On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed a third version of the travel plan to go into effect banning individuals from eight Muslim countries.   Citizens from the effected countries will not be able to immigrate, work, study or vacation in the U.S. while the ban is in effect. Litigation is still ongoing.

The propaganda of “America First” touted by Trump has resulted in a loss of travel business and jobs in the travel industry. An analysis shows that the travel ban could cost $18 billion dollars in U.S. tourism over two years.  In just the first week after the travel ban, business travelers canceled $185 million in travel bookings.

By January, 2018, Trump continued his attacks on other non-white countries by calling Haiti and all countries in Africa “shithole countries” in decrying against immigration from these countries.  The derogatory remarks further show the open bigotry advance by Trump.

On May 31, 2017, Trump declared that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred and ninety-five countries support the agreement. Only Syria and Nicaragua didn’t join—and now the U.S exited. The purpose of the Paris Climate Accord was to help prevent further global warming and to use clean energy.  Most of Trump’s base and likely Trump, himself, do not believe in the science of global warming. The Trump administration’s policies on world issues have diminished the U.S. in the eyes of the world and its standing among most countries, except Russia.

On August 12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists, Klu Klux Klan members and Nazi’s marched at a rally in Charlottesville, VA.  The rally resulted in the death of one woman as a car plowed through peaceful anti-Nazi protestors and injured 35 other individuals.  Trump instead of denouncing the bigotry, racism and divisiveness of the rally, defended the white supremacists.  Trump stated there were “very fine people” on both sides.

White supremacists have existed throughout our country’s history.  Trump has allowed a renewed platform for their bigotry and hatred. According to research by the Anti- Defamation League, white supremacy propaganda has increased by almost 300% at college campuses –up from 2016.

In the fall with the beginning of NFL season, Trump weighed in on the protests by NFL players on police brutality and mistreatment against African Americans.  The protests began in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick.  By 2017, some NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest.  Trump referred to Kaepernick and others as “sons of bitches” in defiance of players’ first amendment rights.  During his State of the Union address, Trump again stressed the importance of standing during the national anthem.  He never addressed the underlying reasons for the protests—police brutality against Blacks and Black mistreatment in the criminal justice system.

 

Just in time for Christmas, Trump gave the best winning Christmas gift to the rich— an overhaul of the tax code resulting in increased wealth for the wealthy. On the tax increase, Congressman Paul Ryan boastfully stated on Twitter on February 3, 2018 that the tax increase resulted in one high school secretary to receive an additional $1.50 per week—as if that was something to be boastful about.

Previously Trump and the GOP—tried to repeal and “replace” Obamacare on at least two occasions. With the tax law, Trump ended up settling for repealing the individual mandate requirement to purchase health insurance—all but insuring that insurance premiums will soar in 2019.

Some other wins for Trump are appointments to lead federal agencies whose ideology are in direct conflict with the agencies they lead, nominating federal judges for a lifetime appointment who have little or no trial experience, casting doubt on our system of checks and balances otherwise known as the rule of law and his relentless attack on the media and journalists except Fox News —referring to the media as “fake news”.

 

Assuming if Trump is impeached, indicted or otherwise put out of office before 2020, he will still be winning in 2020 and thereafter. The dismantling of our norms, distrust of our media, loss of world standing and divisiveness caused by Trump’s first year in office will likely last for decades—long after 2020.   Trump’s wins are our losses as a society.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former prosecutor.

Hillary Clinton Can No Longer Play it Safe

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAccording to a recent CNN poll conducted September 1- 4 of this week, Donald Trump is in the lead for the Presidential race. All other recent polls show that Hillary Clinton is in the lead and in some polls leading by a decent margin. However in politics as in sports, apparently most voters and especially the media hates a run-away game. If the game is too close to call, it becomes more exciting. CNN’s poll may be a good thing for Hillary Clinton. It shows Trump’s lead by 2 percentage points- albeit within the margin of error.  Despite the polls, most voters, myself included, are somewhat apathetic to this election.

The apparent reality is most voters, except perhaps the minority of fear mongering Trump folks, appear lethargic by this election cycle. Voter apathy is an understatement. Who the apathy curve will benefit remains to be seen. The media is trying to infuse some excitement in an otherwise dull apathetic election by constantly putting Trump on display and bringing up Clinton’s past issues with the private email server or the Clinton Foundation. Meanwhile Trump is playing by his own racist, narcissistic, misogynistic and xenophobic rules. And Clinton is playing by her own play it safe rules. Clinton unlike Trump tries to remain out of the media’s way for likely possible fear that the media will badly misquote her or do even worse harm to her election chances.

 

An election win for Trump is a scary proposition, one that could become true. November in political days is still a long way away. But what is even scarier is Hillary Clinton playing by her own old rules. Avoiding the media by refusing to give press conferences and answer questions in over 275 days and counting.

 

In politics, as in sports, one does not usually end up winning by playing it safe. In my sport of choice, football, the Super Bowl is not won by the team that plays it safe. It is usually won by the team that goes all out and plays to win at all costs and against all odds. Hillary is playing –not to lose. And there is a difference as many sports aficionados know. The one who plays it safe in a championship game is often the one who loses the game.

Hillary Clinton needs to step up her game. Unfortunately, the stakes are way too high for the country for Clinton to play it safe or by the old Clinton set of rules. Staying away from the media while Trump bombards the airwaves with mostly false propaganda is not being safe. It’s running scared. Whether one calls it running scared or playing it safe, Clinton must change her strategy.

My advice to Hillary Clinton and her team is that she must change. All this talk about change for the country and the one person who seems adverse to any change is Hillary Clinton. If Clinton is going to change, the time is now.  The best sports team as judged by sports analysts does not always win. It is not enough to be the best team or candidate. Hillary Clinton needs to be winning candidate in November.

I suggest that Hillary Clinton bring her “A” game in the remaining days. A “B” game is not good enough. The stakes for our country are way too high for Hillary Clinton to continue to play it safe.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political analyst and former prosecutor. She often appears on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, PBS, Fox 5 DC, MSNBC among others. Her writings appear in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Huffington Post.

Gun Violence, Gun Control and Gutless GOP Politicians

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Gun

A week following the Orlando Pulse nightclub mass shooting and killing of 49 persons, it’s business as usual for many of our GOP politicians. Despite four Senate bills advanced by both parties, no gun control law passed this week. A homegrown terrorist living in the U.S. may still buy an assault weapon and hundreds of cartridges to kill innocent Americans. And many of our Republican lawmakers lack the guts to pass any common sense laws to protect innocent lives from being taken at the hands of a mentally ill or homegrown terrorist. Inaction means more lives will be taken.

The bills voted down on Monday ranged from the tepid GOP bill to ban potential terrorists from buying a gun but here’s the caveat—only if, a judge found probable cause to determine the person is actually involved in terrorist activity. Of course, by then, the alleged terrorist would have sufficient time to buy guns and take multiple lives. Our lawmakers couldn’t even agree to bar persons already suspected of terrorist activities or on the “no fly” list from buying guns. Of course, the bill to ban assault weapons failed.

The context of guns and gun violence is deeply embedded in our country’s DNA. Mass killings by guns didn’t just start in the 21st century. Our country was founded on gun violence, beginning with the American Revolution. And although the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) bears a lot of responsibility for our present day gun control failures, the NRA is not wholly to blame. A great share of the blame goes to the NRA and GOP politicians’ reluctance to make any meaningful reforms. The NRA is in the back pockets of many politicians who might vote on gun control. And despite the fact that politicians should represent their constituents’ interests, many politicians represent their own self-interest in staying in office albeit with the help of the NRA. And so now we live in a country where no one is immune from mass gun killings whether in churches, elementary schools, colleges and universities, airports, clubs and bars, movie theaters, shopping malls and everywhere people congregate.

 

Senator Chris Murphy (D. CT) stated he intends to bring the attention of those GOP lawmakers who lack the guts to protect Americans to the public’s attention. While most Americans support common sense gun control measures, many Americans continue to vote for those same politicians who refuse to pass gun control legislation. While Senator’s Murphy stance is commendable, it will not bring reform. Ditto for the House sit-in staged on June 22 by House Democrats organized by Representative John Lewis (D. GA).

The power to change the gun control debacle lays within the same activist groups that were responsible for the passage of gay rights and civil rights legislation. It will take a grass roots effort. We can no longer rely on many of our gutless GOP and some Democrat politicians to protect us. The Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) announced that it will become active in the gun control battle as many in the LGBT community are overwhelmingly affected by gun violence. It is the first time the HRC has taken a stance on an issue such as gun control. There are many gun control activist organizations. They must align with other major campaigns such as civil rights organizations, LGBTQ community activists, women’s rights activists, Black Lives Matter activists and many other activists who care about protecting human life.

The gun control issue can no longer be left to our politicians, particularly our GOP leaders, to lead the country in the right direction. They have failed us miserably. Our lawmakers mourn the loss of life taken by mass gun violence until the next one occurs. Then they refuse to pass laws to help prevent mass gun violence.

Common sense tells us that doing nothing will result in more mass killings. And the blood will be on our gutless GOP politicians’ hands. I urge all activist groups to take an active stand in support of gun control measures. If we keep doing the same thing, we will get the same results-the loss of more innocent lives.

 

2171_48010694635_9179_n[1]Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor. She is also a gun laws expert and supporter of gun control.

 

 

Scalia’s Vacancy Brings Out GOP Rage

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

supcourt_buildingJustice Scalia’s death resulting in a vacancy to the Supreme Court brings out Republicans’ disregard for the U.S. Constitution.   In a letter that totally makes their position clear, the Senate Judiciary Republicans say they will not even meet to discuss President Obama’s eventual nominee to the Supreme Court—let alone hold a hearing or a vote on the nominee.  The position is despite the fact the U.S. Constitution makes clear that upon a vacancy to the high court, the President shall nominate with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The position is despite the fact there is almost eleven months until the next president will be sworn in.  This position is despite the fact there is no precedent for coming to their decision.

 

Republicans are now making up the rules as they go along—except this is not a game.  It makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution and our laws.  And the only reason is to ensure the balance of the court does not change hands.  The Supreme Court is now divided and split 4-4 with Justices Sotomayer, Bader Ginsburg, Kagan and Breyer voting on the liberal wing and the remaining four usually voting on the conservative side of rulings.  With a split in decisions, the U.S. Supreme court will be at a stall-mate—possibly for over the next year.

 

Cases that have already been heard may end in a tie. This means the case decision from the lower court would stand. In some instances, that will bode well for liberals as in the case of redistricting. In other instances, it may mean the Texas abortion law will stand and all clinics will close.  In other instances, it may mean that cases will be reargued at the Court’s discretion.  And it will undeniably mean justice delayed might be justice denied. None of that matters to the Republicans.

 

Since the 2008 election and day one of his presidency, the sole goal of the GOP has been to make President Obama a lame duck president.  And despite their efforts, President Obama has always acted with grace under fire—making accomplishments for the American people.  And so, this time will be no different.

 

I predict that despite the efforts of the GOP, a nominee will ultimately be confirmed.  And no matter what happens, it will be a win-win for President Obama and the Democrats.  For starters,  “Democracy Awakening” protests are planned on the Nation’s Capitol  for three days—April 16-18.  The rally consists of a Rally for Democracy with protests, a “Congress of Conscience” sit-in, advocacy at the U.S. Capitol and teach-ins.  So far, attendees are coming from twelve states to call for the vacancy to be filled—as well as other measures such as curbing money in politics.

 

The rally’s attention will help to underscore the importance of the Supreme Court.  Until now, the average voter may not realize the importance of the Supreme Court.  And it just may give enough attention to many of the State Senate and Congressional races on ballots this year. There are five Senate seats necessary for the Democrats to win back and control the Senate in 2017.  The  GOP actions in stalling and attempting to subterfuge the President’s constitutional rights may result in backfiring on them.

 

No matter what the future holds, eleven months is a long time.  And I would bet that President Obama has something up his sleeves to get his nominee appointed with or without the Republians.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines, a trial lawyer and former prosecutor, is admitted to the Supreme Court.