By Sally ZelikovskyConservatives generally don’t respect Mitch McConnell and for good reason, but he sure did this country a favor blocking Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination. It turns out, the soft-spoken Attorney General carries a huge stick labeled “domestic terrorists” that he isn’t afraid to wield against average Americans to deprive them of a slew of civil rights.
To exact his pound of flesh from Trump and his supporters, Garland willingly abandoned the very principles that originally won him Obama’s support:
Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others. People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law. For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress. He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law — not make it.
Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years. If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course. [Emphasis added.]
But instead of fidelity to the Constitution, Garland’s fidelity is to the power accorded him as America’s chief law enforcement officer. He comports himself as a rank partisan, places targets on his political enemies, and uses the full power of his office to track them down and lock them up. His June 2021 National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism provided his DOJ with a roadmap for cracking down on constitutionally-protected speech and assembly, and the legitimate airing of grievances from a handful of individuals who rioted for a few hours on January 6th.
Nonetheless, Garland’s emphatic that his latest edict isn’t about ideology, but violence: “Espousing a hateful ideology is not unlawful. We do not investigate individuals for their First Amendment-protected activities.” Moreover, “safeguarding our country’s civil rights and liberties is itself a vital national security imperative.” Compared to other parts of the world, “there is no place for partisanship in the enforcement of the law [and this] Justice Department will not tolerate any such abuse of authority.”
But Garland is all talk. The strategy he’s put into practice involves targeting individuals precisely because of their ideology, support of Trump, and concern about election integrity. The disparate treatment of the January 6th attendees compared to BLM/Antifa rioters is further evidence of a strategy based more on persecution for beliefs than prosecution for misdeeds.
Throw in placing National Guardsmen and fences around the Capitol for months, lies about who died because of the riot, and withholding the identity of the Capitol police officer who murdered Ashley Babbitt, and it should come as no surprise that First Amendment liberties are on life support.
The DOJ’s assault against free speech became indisputably obvious on October 4th when Garland called on the FBI and US attorneys to investigate parents speaking out at school board meetings against Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ+ curricula and vaccine/mask mandates. Garland acted the National School Board Association’s vague, unsubstantiated allegations that parents were threatening school board members and their request that the DOJ invoke the Patriot Act against parent-citizens who might be domestic terrorists committing hate crimes. The man who would be a Supreme Court justice issued his statement without investigating the legitimacy of their claims, inserting the federal government into what falls squarely within state and local jurisdiction.
Nothing does more to destroy participation in the political process and self-governance at the local level than indulging the NSBA’s fantasies. It doesn’t just chill First Amendment rights; it puts them into a deep freeze. The only thing being threatened is the NSBA’s misperception that school boards have a monopoly over our children’s educations. Just as the People are the ultimate check on authoritarian government run amok, Parents are the ultimate check on authoritarian schools run amok…and on Democrats, the teachers’ unions, and school boards drunk with power and flush with funds don’t like that.
All of this makes simply laughable Garland’s professed commitments to refrain from investigating First Amendment-protected activities, safeguard civil rights, act non-partisan, and prevent abuses of authority within the DOJ.
In fact, when it comes to abusing authority, we now know that Garland is a pro. He’s targeting parents with no evidence of actionable threats to local school boards and enlisting the FBI to investigate them for First Amendment-protected activities because, it turns out, he has glaring conflicts of interest.
His son-in-law’s company, Panorama Education, has a $2 million contract with Fairfax County schools in Virginia—where parents have been pushing back against CRT and LGBTQ+ curricula and vaccine/mask mandates. With funding from Mark Zuckerberg, Panorama data mines students and collects their “psychometrics” using “SEL screens” that monitor the social and emotional learning of students, and provides schools with “culturally responsive training.”
Jerry Dunleavy explains that “Panorama pushes race-focused surveys and conducts trainings on systemic oppression, white supremacy, unconscious bias, and intersectionality—all under the rubric of ‘Social-Emotional Learning.’” The schools are legally allowed to share student data (are you feeling sad or gender fluid today?) with Panorama staff because they are designated “school officials.”
After a deep dive into this arrangement, Fairfax mom Asra Nomani explains that Zuckerberg and the Garlands are “data mining children’s most intimate emotions—and supposedly help [them] deal with the mental health issues Zuckerberg helped manifest” as Frances Haugen recently testified about before Congress.
Allowing government schools and a company that uses educational programs as a vehicle for social justice and equity, to monitor the social and emotional welfare of children without parental input or knowledge is the stuff of scary sci-fi novels. Garland cannot separate his family’s financial interests from the outcome of an investigation into the parents. If the DOJ successfully silences the Fairfax parents, Panorama and Garland’s daughter benefit; they lose if the parents succeed.
That’s not Garland’s only conflict of interest. His wife “advises government and non-profit groups on voting systems security and accuracy issues.” Leading a national campaign to punish people as “domestic terrorists” for questioning election integrity at a rally on January 6th, when his wife financially benefits as a consultant on election integrity, is the definition of a conflict or at least the potential for one.
When nominating Garland, Obama commented on his “dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American; a conviction that in a democracy, powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” Obama recounted this story:
As valedictorian of his high school class, [Garland] had to deliver a commencement address. The other student speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique of the Vietnam War. Fearing the controversy that might result, several parents decided to unplug the sound system, and the rest of the student’s speech was muffled.
And Merrick didn’t necessarily agree with the tone of his classmate’s remarks, nor his choice of topic for that day. But stirred by the sight of a fellow student’s voice being silenced, he tossed aside his prepared remarks and delivered instead, on the spot, a passionate, impromptu defense of our First Amendment rights.
Where is that Merrick Garland? Focused on self-enrichment, partisanship, and spite? Instead of being a staunch defender of one’s right to express beliefs others might disagree with, Garland has become the embodiment of all he warned against: A partisan enforcing the law and one who abuses his authority by unplugging the sound system to muffle the viewpoints of parents, Trump supporters, Biden opponents, and citizens concerned about the integrity of our elections—a powerful voice drowning out the voices of everyday Americans.