The U.S. Senate confirmed Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch as America’s next U.S. Attorney General on Thursday in a historic vote that makes her the first African-American woman to hold the post.
The five-month road to the confirmation that started Nov. 8, however, was shamefully pockmarked by partisan politics, led by senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. Ky.), who demanded a completely unrelated human trafficking bill be passed first.
You know, like one of those “earmarks” politicians like to rail against.
She had waited for a confirmation vote longer than the last seven attorneys general combined, Reuters notes .
Stunning. Especially considering the Harvard-educated Lynch’s qualifications, but more on that later.
The logjam broke when two things happened. One of them was the passage of that sideshow bill Wednesday.
The other development that seemed far more significant? Jeb Bush weighed in.
Bush, among the frontrunners for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, raised eyebrows when he said last week that the delay made no sense. He made the comments on the campaign trail last Thursday and again on the Michael Medved radio show Tuesday, Politico reports.
“I said that they should have a vote,” Bush told Medved. “I think the president is deserving of a vote.”
Bush also played on GOP dislike of Attorney General Eric Holder .
“Sounds to me like a victory” getting Lynch, he said. “I think the important thing is: Getting rid of Eric Holder’s gotta be a win.”
In the end, Lynch won confirmation 56-43. Ten of those votes were from Republicans of the more centrist ilk, like Bush. The one senator to miss the vote? Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, a candidate, like Bush, for his party’s presidential nomination.
RELATED : Two ISIS-inspired NYC women planned WMD attacks .
Cruz and the Republicans who actually showed up to vote no were furious that Lynch backed Obama’s executive order to institute reforms of the nation’s immigration system.
Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri put the whole thing in perfect perspective today when she decried the number of nay votes Lynch, a Patriot of the highest order, got.
“I am sad, I am depressed ...It doesn’t get any uglier than this,” she said. “Because there’s a new test: You must vote against a nominee for the cabinet for the duly elected president of the United States because she agrees with the duly elected president of the United States.”
“Think about the consequences of the vote ... How is any president going to assemble a cabinet” if he’s not allowed to have folks who agree with him, she asked, McClatchyDC.com reports.
“It is beyond depressing. It is disgusting,” she said.
“Lynch faced this unprecedented obstruction not because of her fitness for office, but because her nomination was inappropriately used in a proxy war against the President and his policies,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Setting aside the partisan nonsense in all this, Lynch has been a public servant with an amazing record of keeping America -- New York in particular -- safe.
She has led the prosecutions of several terrorist wannabes in recent months -- men and women looking to join Islamic State murderers overseas and here at home. In the past, she has won convictions in a frightening plot to blow up New York City’s subways.
She’s also been a no-holds-barred corruption buster who recently brought a tax evasion case against Republican ex-Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm, winning a guilty plea and his resignation.
In taking on computer hackers, she most recently charged a NYC auxiliary cop who broke into NYPD and FBI databases.
Lynch is most needed -- and another reason the delay in confirming her is outrageous -- to help foster better relations between cops and the communities of color that they serve.
It is an issue she took head on in her confirmation hearings earlier this year as the nation reeled from the fatal police shooting in Ferguson, and the chokehold death on Staten Island of Eric Garner on Staten Island, which her office is investigating.
“Few things have pained me more than the recent reports of tension and division between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Lynch said in her opening remarks.
“If confirmed as attorney general, one of my key priorities would be to work to strengthen the vital relationships between our courageous law enforcement personnel and all the communities we serve.”
Her commitment to supporting law enforcement while also holding them to the standards Americans expect is without question.
As an assistant U.S. attorney, she ran the successful prosecution of a white NYPD officer, Justin Volpe, who pleaded guilty in the beating and plunger sodomy of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997.
“The fact that she is the first African American woman in this office is a game changer,” the Rev, Al Sharpton said in a statement Thursday. “For her to continue the positive moves made by her predecessor Eric Holder around police reform and preserving voting rights is crucial."
While any praise from Sharpton may make some American’s cringe, it should also be noted that she had the strong backing of GOP former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
New York City’s current top cop is also a major fan and issue a lengthy statement congratulating Lynch.
“I congratulate Loretta Lynch on her landmark confirmation as the nation's 83rd U.S. Attorney General," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.
"With this appointment, she will bring with her a depth of experience and knowledge, honed from years of dedicated service and remarkable judgment. I look forward to seeing her serve in this position despite the fact that we will be losing a friend and ally who has worked closely with the NYPD to prosecute some of the most important cases for not only this city but also this country.”
He continued: “I am confident that during her tenure as U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch will prove to be an asset to both the U.S. criminal justice system and the American people."
Lynch, 55, is the daughter of a school librarian mom and a Baptist minister dad.
The Times reported this about her childhood :
She was born in 1959 in Greensboro, N.C., a year before the city became one of the battlegrounds of the civil rights movement as protesters tried to integrate a Woolworth’s lunch counter there.
Her father, Lorenzo, a Baptist minister, supported the sit-ins and opened his church to protesters. Her mother, Lorine, a school librarian, refused to use public restrooms that were set aside for blacks and earned money for college by working in a laundry, a summer camp and a cotton field.
“When I turned up my 12-year-old nose, as only an adolescent can do, and said ‘Eew! Why would you ever want to pick cotton?’ she looked at me and said, ‘So that you would never have to,’ ” Lynch recalled in a speech in 2001.
She is expected to be sworn in next week.
John A. Oswald is Metro.US Editor-at-large. Follow him on Twitter - @nyc_oz.