Prominent conservatives have expressed to me their alarm over the prospect that Harmeet Dhillon will be tapped for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. However, I have also received pushback from a few of her supporters. In this post, I will address the arguments they make in defense of selecting Dhillon.
But first, I will note that the supporters in question have not denied any of the statements of fact that appear in my original post. They do not deny that Dhillon served on the board of the ACLU-Northern California or that she declared: “I am committed to the values championed by the ACLU-NC.” They do not deny that Dhillon contributed to the political campaign of ultra-liberal Kamala Harris in 2003.
They do not deny that Dhillon expressed support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. They do not deny that she found troubling constitutional issues in the treatment of Gitmo detainees. They do not deny that she asserted the existence of “tremendous discrimination both in public employment as well as in private employment” after 9/11.
They do not deny that Dhillon said “the average male ego isn’t well suited to dealing with” someone as accomplished as her. They do not deny that she supports legalized abortion in the first trimester (a point I didn’t raise in my first post but that came up in some of the private back-and-forth).
What have Dhillon’s supporters said in response to my post? They point to her admirable role as a college undergraduate with the conservative Dartmouth Review and her impressive work while at law school as the leader of the Federalist Society chapter at the University of Virginia.
This is excellent evidence that Dhillon was a staunch conservative decades ago. But her career in San Francisco during this century, as described in my original post, shows that she has become, in the words of this profile, “a Republican with a San Francisco twist.”
Dhillon’s supporters trace her affinity for the ACLU to her time at Dartmouth when that organization supported her free speech rights (along with those of Dinesh D’Souza and Laura Ingraham) against the Dartmouth administration. They say the affinity deepened post 9/11 after hate crimes were committed against Sikhs (Dhillon is a Sikh). They say she joined the ACLU board to help with South Asian anti-hate-crime activism. They point out that her husband was shot in the chest by a Muslim who thought he was a Hindu.
It’s admirable that Dhillon felt grateful to the ACLU for helping her at Dartmouth. However, this is no justification for taking a major role in an organization as left-wing as the ACLU had become by the first decade of this century, including on voter integrity and voter ID — vital issues for the Civil Rights Division.
Were D’Souza and Ingraham ACLU members during this period? I doubt it.
I see several problems with the “anti-hate-crime against South Asians” defense too. First, Dhillon announced her support for the full range of ACLU “values,” not just its opposition to hate crimes against South Asians (or hate crimes generally).
Second, Dhillon subscribed to the ACLU’s critique of Gitmo. To my knowledge, no innocent Sikhs were detained there. Nor, under any rationale account, did Gitmo have anything to do with hate crimes (other than by the detainees).
Third, the hate crime against her husband was committed by a Muslim. During the relevant time period, was the ACLU making the U.S. safer for people some Muslims wanted to attack? I say the ACLU was making it more difficult to protect Americans against these Muslims.
Fourth, I doubt that the ACLU was the only organization through which Dhillon could have engaged in South Asian anti-hate-crime activism.
Dhillon’s defenders also argue that she performed good service for the Republican party in California and “made a big splash” at the 2016 Republican National Convention working on Donald Trump’s behalf. I acknowledged the second point in my initial post, and don’t deny the first.
The problem isn’t lack of good work on behalf of California Republicans or insufficient effort at the Convention on behalf of the presumptive nominee. The problem is her loyalty to conservative principles. During her time in San Francisco, that loyalty has not been consistent. Ideologically, she has played for both teams.
This inconsistency makes her a poor candidate for a job as important and intense as head of the Civil Rights Division. The pressure from civil rights groups (including the ACLU) on the individual who holds this job will be enormous. It’s crucial that he or she have a demonstrated history of conservatism on civil rights issues and of not bending.
Dhillon bent when she moved to San Francisco. She became a “Republican with a San Francisco twist.”
I’ll mention only briefly the other arguments made on Dhillon’s behalf because they are of the name-calling and ad hominem variety. One critic said “Power Line is guilty of fake news.” He made this accusation despite not disputing a single factual statement in my post.
He then accused Dhillon’s critics of being “a few on the fringe that have to be dismissed” and, in some cases, of being “holdovers from the Bush era [who] want badly to return to Main Justice to get jobs they’ve waited for.” Resorting to this sort of personal attack only demonstrates the weakness of the pro-Dhillon position.
A wise trial lawyer once told me that if you’re trying a case in which you have to make more than two “yes-but” arguments to the jury, you need to settle the matter. The defense of Dhillon amounts to a series of “yes-buts.”
Yes, she was an ACLU leader, but it was because she wanted to defend Sikhs from discrimination. Yes, she contributed money to Kamela Harris, but Harris’ opponent (allegedly) was even further to the left (I discussed this defense in my first post). Yes, in San Francisco she became “a different kind of Republican” and dismissed social issues because it is about winning rather than about philosophy. But she was very conservative in college and law school.
I haven’t seen the “yes-but” regarding her support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, though I’m sure one can be concocted.
“Yes-buts” shouldn’t cut it for a position as crucial as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. The Civil Rights Division has been Ground Zero for radical leftism. To reverse this, the Division must be headed by a rock-solid conservative — as close to the equivalent of a Neil Gorsuch as the administration can find.
Harmeet Dhillon, for all of her good personal qualities, does not fit that bill.