Obama Targeted by Medal of Freedom Recipients Over Georgia Judicial Nominees

President Barack Obama
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has once again found himself at the center of a nominations battle—but this time he’s being targeted by civil rights icons, the Huffington Post reports.

The tension is over two of the president’s picks for the federal courts in Georgia. Former state legislator Michael Boggs, one of the nominees, was against removing the Confederate insignia from the state flag. Another nominee, Mark Cohen, an attorney, defended the state’s voter-ID law, which civil rights groups say disenfranchise black voters.


Both men were part of an all-or-nothing deal between Obama and Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (both Republicans from Georgia) that involved six judicial picks—four picked by Republicans and two by Democrats. Activists Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)—all of whom were presented with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, by Obama himself—simply can’t see eye to eye with Obama on these concessions.

Lowery, who was active throughout the civil rights movement in the 1960s, said that Boggs and Cohen were "not worthy of being a federal judge," the Huffington Post reports, chalking the picks up to some sort of administrative error.

"I think [Obama] must have left it to somebody else," Lowery said. "It was a mistake."

Other Democrats are also angry with Obama and are threatening to let the deal fall apart altogether rather than take the controversial deal. The White House says this is not an option, according to the Huffington Post.


Lowery, Vivian and Lewis, along with others, were in Atlanta last month asking the president to withdraw the nominations. Lowery has even spoken to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Huffington Post notes, and is expected to talk to Obama fairly soon about the potential harm these picks could cause the black community.

"The example of what just happened with the Voting Rights Act is one thing that we can point to that can happen when you get the wrong people in office," Lowery said, pointing a figure at the Supreme Court, which struck down a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act last year. "Long after the president has gone back to Chicago or wherever in Hawaii, they will still be on the bench."


Another concern of Lowery’s is that only one of the six nominees is black, even though Georgia has one of the highest black populations in the nation. 

If Obama refuses to listen to pleas to pull his picks, the three civil rights leaders are willing to go as far as testifying against them during the Senate confirmation hearing.


"That was a part of our strategy … to get all of these medal winners together," Lowery said. "The president has to pay some attention to the people he awards the medals to."

Read more at the Huffington Post.

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