Verniero's Days are Numbered
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
He was condescending, forgetful and seemed perturbed that he had
to be there at all. That was my impression of the recent testimony
of Peter Verniero, former Attorney General now a member of the Supreme
Court, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee examining
the role he and some of his colleagues played in the racial profiling
The racial profiling problem was around long before Verniero became
Attorney General. From recent statistics it appears that blacks
and Latinos are still being arbitrarily stopped by state troopers
on our highways while Verniero sits on the Supreme Court. Yet, fair
or not, Peter Verniero has become the poster boy for the failure
of state government, particularly the Whitman administration, to
acknowledge racial profiling, much less try to stop it. In my view,
former governor Christie Whitman should have been called back from
her job as EPA Administrator in Washington to explain her cavalier
and laissez-faire handling of this most difficult problem.
Clearly, Whitman knew racial profiling was going on, but had no
desire to do what it would take to stop it. No desire to take on
the state troopers who escorted and protected her as governor. They
were pals and companions. Why rock the boat? Why press your Attorney
General to press the state police to admit what they were doing
and demand that it be stopped? That could get sticky. People could
get hurt. It would get embarrassing.
Fact is, the state police have long been addicted to the practice
of stopping blacks and Latinos in their cars as a method of trying
to find illegal drugs on our major highways. Whitman knew that if
they couldn't stop minorities the number of arrests the troopers
made for drug possession would go down. They would look bad. So
Governor Whitman did what she tended to do a lot-stick her head
in the sand and close her eyes. See no evil, hear no evil.
Christie Whitman should have to explain in detail before the Senate
why she was so out of it in dealing with the racial profiling problem.
As a loyal soldier Peter Verniero was carrying out the direction
given by his boss, Governor Whitman. And what about Verniero's predecessor,
Attorney General Deborah Poritz, who now serves as Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court? Poritz was never asked, much less compelled,
to testify before the Senate. Yet she did provide a written statement
to the Committee confirming that on her way out as Attorney General,
she warned Verniero about the racial profiling problem. Poritz made
it clear that racial profiling was very real and that it should
Poritz handed Verniero to the Judiciary Committee on a silver platter.
She made him look deceptive at best for insisting that the racial
profiling problem hadn't "crystallized" for him until
well after she alleges she warned him about it. Verniero's former
aides testifying before the Committee made him look bad, but Poritz's
written statement was a dagger to his heart. I can't imagine Poritz
and Verniero doing a brown bag lunch together any time soon in their
black judicial robes.
Further, if it was so clear to Deborah Poritz that racial profiling
was alive and well in New Jersey, why didn't she as Attorney General
do more to stop it? Why does it all fall on Verniero? We'll never
know because like Christie Whitman, Deborah Poritz dodged a bullet
in not having to testify before the Senate Committee in public,
in front of the cameras-warts and all.
So, Peter Verniero is the fall guy for the Whitman administration
on racial profiling. He thought he had gotten out in time. Elevated
to the Supreme Court after testifying before this same Senate Committee
two years ago and getting a pass. Now, it's only a matter of time
before Verniero is either impeached or forced to resign from the
state's highest court. The pressure is mounting. Someone has to
publicly pay for this fiasco. Peter Verniero's recent testimony
in which he "couldn't recall" so many critical pieces
of information, only made it worse. For thirteen hours the Committee
grilled him. For thirteen hours he never once acknowledged that
he and the Whitman administration failed to deal with this issue
in any remotely responsible way. Not a scintilla of candor or remorse.
Now, Verniero refuses to come back and testify in person at the
Committee's request to answer more questions. Fact is, there are
no more questions. The only question that really remains is when
and how the Senate together with other power brokers in Trenton,
force Peter Verniero to take off his black robes and leave the Supreme
Court. That is, unless he resigns first. Like I said, Peter Verniero
is a very loyal soldier.
Steve Adubato, Ph.D. is a commentator, lecturer and former state
legislator. Dr. Adubato is also an Emmy Award-winning television
anchor and syndicated columnist.
He can be reached by fax (973) 509-1659 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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