Fani Willis

Yesterday I watched an hour or so of Fani Willis’ testimony in Atlanta, and of course saw and heard much replay afterwards, which will continue through as many news cycles as it is interesting.

I have an opinion, before turning on the TV this morning.  I write 1100 miles from Atlanta, so I don’t plan to be on the scene.  There are lots of legitimate complaints about mass media today; there are benefits, and this, I think, is one of them.

If the name in the headline catches your attention, I don’t need to define Fani Willis or the issues surrounding.  You probably know more than I do.  So I’ll dispense with preliminaries.

Best I understand, Fani Willis didn’t have to testify yesterday.  Not only did she testify, but she voluntarily submitted to cross examination, which in the legal arena can be brutal.  The Law is, after all, an adversary process.  If it weren’t, there’d be no need for legislators and their outcome which is law which by its very nature is subject to interpretation and to judgement.  That is a subject for another time.


I only know Fani Willis from others opinions, expressed in print, or in snips of visual media.

My thinking is that her decision to testify personally was deliberate and heroic, and her intent was far beyond her self interest.

She is testifying in effect for women generally, and women of color specifically, and most appropriately in the midst of Black History month.

Anyone who follows human and world and U.S. history even a tiny bit can sort of get the drift of where I’m going with my own commentary:

It starts with a male centric power based society;  Kings and the like.

Abraham Lincoln made a brave stroke with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which at least made negroes persons and gave black men the right to vote.

Indigenous people were a cut out – they were given reservations which lasted so long as their land was deemed scrap and then was repossessed for the conquerors for mineral and other rights.

But as we learn, it wasn’t until 1920 that women secured the right to vote in our own country; and by then the Ku Klux Klan and others of their ilk put the non-whites back in their subordinate place.

I don’t have a clue why Fani Willis chose to testify, but what I see when I watch her is a very strong woman endeavoring to teach us all a lesson, and having a platform as large as Martin Luther King did in 1963.

My guess is that she knows the potential consequences of her witness, but she also knows the importance of being a witness, regardless of outcome, for not only her race but for her gender at a time when such witness is especially important.  She is an example to emulate.

She has earned and she deserves commendation, regardless of verdict.

9:21 a.m. Friday, February 16, 2024.

POSTNOTE: In a prior post I recommended the new film Killers of the Flower Moon, about the strategic and diabolic expropriation of Oklahoma oil lands from the owners, the Osage tribe.  It is a gripping film.  If you have the time, watch it.

On a more gentle note, here is a picture of Woodbury Minnesota in the morning of February 15, 2024.  We were snowless for almost the entire winter so far, and this snow is apparently not long either.  This is a mixed message – being so dry so late in the winter is not good news….

Personal:  Expect to see more posts about politics at this space.  There’s a bit less than 9 months to Nov. 5, and it doesn’t seem to be a gentle time ahead.  It will take lots of individual commitment to elect reasonable moderate people to hold this democratic republic together.  Minnesotans start with the Precinct Caucus on March 5.  Information about that here.  I follow the local, state, national and international business pretty carefully, There is so much that I only pick and choose a few items to comment about.  THINK and ACT.  It’s the future that’s at stake.

Easiest and best to check on latest post is to visit the archive for the current month (at right on this page).

I have gone through a mini=roller coaster time on health concerns.  The most recent medical assessment was on Valentine’s Day.  All indications are that I’ll be around for awhile yet.  I resumed my 2 1/2 mile daily walk this week.  In a few days, the dreaded annual senior citizen health assessment – the one where we all are assessed to our level of genius.  Then a calendar full of birthdays: an important 60th, and two 80th; and a Marine grandson home on leave, and on and on.  Apparently the snow will again disappear.  It has been a dry winter so far.  My winter always ends on February 1, but I’m also a realist.  The snowplow folks are not done yet….  But the snow on Feb 15 was really pretty.  I wish I was a better photographer.   (Behind the tables, at center, is my daily ‘command central’ from about 6-8:30 a.m., including today.

Have a great weekend.

COMMENTS:  (more at end of post)

from Steve:  I read your notes and enjoy the thoughtful conversation. We agree on lots of things. I do take issue with you, though, on the Fanni Willis issue. I won’t argue that a Black woman has a good deal of extra baggage when she checks in for a flight, but in this case, the issue is judgement. Bad judgement.

I was disappointed when John Edwards caused himself to lose support for a presidential nomination when his terrible judgement, inexcusable behavior, and questionable character was revealed. Bill Clinton lost four years of Democratic leadership (to say nothing about the Congressional inaction) due to his stupidity and presumptions. There are volumes of similarly disappointing stories of thoughtless personal judgement harming the public’s interest.
In Willis’ case, her public responsibilities and influence should be measured by her professional performance. (Her personal life, as far as I’m concerned, is pretty much her business.) Unfortunately, she and her colleague have severely damaged the case, now vulnerable to a loss of trust and confidence, against a public figure whose behavior—both personal and professional—have threatened the cause of democratic government and needs to be judged in an uncompromised court. Ironically, their indiscretion will be exploited by a defendant who’s the one who should be judged. Willis asked to be entrusted with this case and she lost it (to the Trumpers) before it got to court.
Harsh judgement, I know, but the whole kit-n-kaboodle is disheartening.

response from Dick: to the last word, above (“disheartening”).  Perhaps it is, but the conversation it is generating is important.  We need to take about this kind of stuff to not only understand, but to remedy.

I note that all the comments thus far, including from me, are from senior white men.

from Jim (who also has an earlier response below.  I had earlier asked a friend, identified in the first sentence below, to read what I’d written, and she responded with a single word “excellent”, which I had mentioned in a side note to Jim.):Dick,

I may not actually be in disagreement with your “retired white female activist” friend.  If your intention was to defend Willis against attack from the Trumpkin crowd, and from the Georgia trial Trump-and-friends Defense Team, because… y’know… we’re on the “other team”, and Fani’s Identity Politics subset of our team (black women) needs supporting in the most general of terms (i.e. – independent of the merits of any actual argument on some matter) – Why, then, rhetorically speaking, I, too, think you did an excellent job.  I probably would not have responded had you not done it so well!  But, the older I get, the more I am rejecting the our-side/their-side dualism that seems to be more and more popular in the culture as the years go by.  I find myself almost exclusively writing responses when it’s a member of “my own tribe” writing but I find “us” rather indefensible on the merits of the issue of the moment.


I was, though, a bit disappointed that you felt the need to assign “identities” to the correspondents who wrote, as if their being “older professional white men” made their observations less valid, or at least differently-valid – independent of what the merits of those observations were.


I was not only NOT an “early adopter” of Identity Politics; I was an early rejector.  I bailed on Liberals’ embrace of it in about 2014, after at least four years of questioning it.  It seems to me a dead-end strategy, one that turns almost all our issues into Zero Sum Games, which is very rarely a good idea.  As you are someone formerly involved in labor negotiations, I’d imagine you’d agree on that last point.


Identity Politics also leaves me with very little territory to occupy, personally.  I am not ONLY white, and male, and older, and formerly a “professional”, I’m also heterosexual, a native English speaker, a native born American, of northern European heritage, and a few other “identities” disliked by progressive activists today. (I had once made a list as part of a discussion with someone else, which I’ve lost, but I remember it came to twelve identity factors, ALL of which labelled me as “oppressor” and none of which could be used to claim membership among the “oppressed”.  Except perhaps “son of a ‘working-class/working-poor’ father who worked with his hands”, which, though I regard it as the single most important aspect of my “identity”, seems to be at best neutral in the eyes of most Progressive activists…)  Were I to play by the rules of today’s activist class (all Identity, all the time…!) I would be forced to be a “patriarchal neocolonialist white nationalist” or some such thing, and while Trump himself would probably then regard me as one of those “good people on all sides”, I find myself oddly not agreeing on much of anything with those who most proudly proclaim the Identity that I would have to claim as my own. Identity Politics is a game in which no team will have me.


Fortunately, I sense that we have reached, and perhaps recently passed, “peak Identity Politics”.  The inability of the traditionally oppressed American Jews and the traditionally oppressed American Muslims to agree on who’s entitled to claim the lofty perch of Most Oppressed Group At The Moment (or even whether the Jews have been or are oppressed at all – which just blows my mind…) seems to be accelerating the understanding, in the general non-activist public, that the whole Identity Politics concept is pretty much bankrupt.  The Israel/Hamas issue (not the violence there, but the controversy HERE) has already replaced my favorite example of dysfunctional Identity Politics from just a few years ago – the one in which South Minneapolis’ Somali, Hispanic, and Native American activist groups, all fell to arguing over the future use of a plot of land in a very poor neighborhood, whose actual occupants (comprising all three of those ethnic groups as well as some Hmong and non-Somali Blacks), wanted an outcome different than that desired by any of the three.  The utter inability to work together toward a disposition that might improve life GENERALLY would have been funny were it not so sad and unnecessary.  But everyone involved was playing the Zero-Sum Identity Politics game.  No one felt they could win unless all the others lost.  It was not a glowing moment for those Progressives who preach “intersectionality”.  The problem, or so it seemed, was that there was such a shortage of old white men involved in the issue – no obvious oppressors, so each group designated each of the others as oppressors-for-a-day, as it were.


This winter’s tempest-in-a-teacup in the St Louis Park schools, over Muslim parents (mostly Somali) wanting both pre-notification and an opt-out option when LGBTQ-sympathetic reading materials were to be used, is another example of the cracks showing in Identity Politics.  One can argue the issues here from multiple perspectives, and many have.  But the single vignette that really ‘grabbed’ me was when a School Board Member (white and female, if one thinks that matters, and judging from the things she said, not Muslim, but “more Progressive than God”…) very sternly LECTURED the Muslim parents during a school board meeting, telling them that she and the school authorities, generally, were disappointed in them because they had an expectation of “more solidarity from parents” from oppressed populations.  (The video of her speaking is breathtaking.)  Yes, a school board member lectured parents on what SHE expected, philosophically and politically, from THEM.  Regardless of the merits of the actual argument, I’d hope she pays at the polls simply for not understanding who is serving whom, and at whose pleasure.  The original issue was recently decided by the District granting an only slightly modified version of the parents’ request (the modifications came from the parent group’s own lawyers, and served merely to make granting the request more practical), while explaining in the formal announcement that they still found it very WRONG that the parents desired to retain some degree of control over what their own children were taught and/or indoctrinated with – especially when the rationale was that something conflicted with their religious beliefs – but that their hands were tied by state laws. …which they then took great pains to criticize.  <sigh>





3 replies
  1. norm hanson
    norm hanson says:

    Willis made a mistake i appointing a former lover to the prosecution team as she should have known that the Trump/MAGA folks would research her thoroughly to find something that could raise questions about her ability to prosecute Donnie no matter how unrelated her private life to the case was, that was just being dumb and professionally naive her part and might give Trump a big win as a result might be that Donnie may get off Scott free do to her amateurish mistake. If that happens, that will just give Donnie more red meat fodder for his supporters and others as he will claim it is an example of another political effort being made to stop him from regaining the White House. This was really a significant and important mistake on the part of Willis to appoint a former bed partner to the team prosecuting little Donnie. Very disappointing when I heard that she had done that!

  2. Dave Thofern
    Dave Thofern says:

    I’m always amazed when apparently very smart people do very dumb things. From all I’ve seen and read, Willis is whip-smart and was handed a case that had a good chance of obtaining a conviction prior to the presidential election. Choosing a prosecutor with whom she has/had a personal relationship was just plain stupid and minimally throws sand in the works of the election interference case. It hands a gift to the MAGA crowd as well as confirming many ordinary voters’ perceptions that all politicians are corrupt and feeds into the cynicism that keeps many on the sidelines come Election Day.

  3. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein says:

    Dick, I agree with Norm and with Dave, but I’d go farther. I found her testimony to be anything but heroic. I did not see it live nor on tape, but listened to the NYTimes “The Daily” coverage of it on public radio. My take is that the poor ethical judgment in hiring as her prosecutor someone who most observers thought at the time was vastly underqualified for the role, and the accusation of having done so at least in part due to a romantic relationship with him, needed to either be answered before the judge, or she needed to resign, taking her paramour with her. So it was not brave to testify, it was necessary, if she wanted to continue in her role, and keep him in his, AND keep the case moving with the minimum in disruption and delay.

    Unfortunately for her and for him, it was also short sighted – When presented with the questions relating to the vacation trips, who paid for what, and how, she chose to engage in breathtakingly obvious lying. There was a point where I started laughing in the car, but then I remembered what was at stake, and it became just painful to listen to, even with the NYT doing the editing, which I can’t imagine was anything other than as generous to her as it could be.

    They went on trips, he paid, she repaid him later, but in cash (no credit card or checking records!), and she didn’t even need to go to an ATM (which could have provided documentation of SOMETHING, at least…) because she keeps that kind of cash in the house. Except, not really, and not all the time, but don’t tell her Dad, because he raised her to keep at least six months of cash in her house at all times. I am not making any of this up, nor could I. As Joe Biden is wont to say, “C’mon, man!” This was a classic case of not knowing ALL of what “the other side” had, and having to constantly amend the fabricated cover story on the fly. It was embarrassing. First rule of climbing out of a hole: STOP DIGGING.

    And I’ve read too much coverage in the press in the days since, praising her to the heavens for aggressively going after the Trump associate’s lawyer over things that were in the filings, but that she hadn’t yet been asked about on the stand. Say WHAT?!? Listening to her, I found it hard to remember that she is actually a lawyer, and an accomplished one at that. I’d imagine it’d be hard to find even one professional litigator, who heard these exchanges, and has stopped snickering yet. First rule of testifying under examination by a hostile lawyer: Answer the question simply and factually, as briefly as possible, and say NOTHING more. Again, embarrassing to listen to.

    As “The Daily” pointed out, it’s not that any of this has anything to do with the merits of the case against Trump. It doesn’t. What’s important here is that if the Trump defense team successfully paints Willis and her boyfriend/prosecutor as dishonest, or as people who will do unethical but self-interested things, it makes what will be a difficult case even harder to win. After the Trump legal team is done, jurors are simply NOT going to be “101% sure” of the guilt of Trump and friends. I’m not sure that I’M that sure, and I haven’t just been seated because I convinced both side I could be fair, as will be the case for the jurors. So it will come down to what is “reasonable” doubt. It will take only one juror out of twelve to think to himself (or more likely, just vaguely “feel”…) “I’m 99% sure, but I’m also pretty sure that the prosecutors are sleazy too, so I’m callin’ that reasonable doubt and goin’ with ‘not guilty’.”

    Willis’s lack of good common sense here has greatly raised the chances for that happening. There is nothing commendable about what she has done.


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