Thursday, March 08, 2007

The long shadow of Bush v. Gore

There are just so many incidents of abuse on the part of the Bush administration coming to light these days, it's hard to know where to about today we'll just shine a light on the Republican interference in the independent operation of the judicial system. The Times editorial today, "The Gonzales Eight," on the firings of a number of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration highlights the actions not only of the Bush administration but also the attempts by influential Republican members of congress to use the power of their offices to achieve prosecutions of their political enemies.
David Iglesias, who was removed as the United States attorney in Albuquerque, said that he was first contacted before last fall’s election by Representative Heather Wilson, Republican of New Mexico. Ms. Wilson, who was in a tough re-election fight, asked about sealed indictments — criminal charges that are not public.

Two weeks later, he said, he got a call from Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, asking whether he intended to indict Democrats before the election in a high-profile corruption case. When Mr. Iglesias said no, he said, Mr. Domenici replied that he was very sorry to hear it, and the line went dead. Mr. Iglesias said he’d felt “sick.” Within six weeks, he was fired. Ms. Wilson and Mr. Domenici both deny that they had tried to exert pressure.

John McKay of Seattle testified that the chief of staff for Representative Doc Hastings, Republican of Washington, called to ask whether he intended to investigate the 2004 governor’s race, which a Democrat won after two recounts. Mr. McKay says that when he went to the White House later to discuss a possible judicial nomination (which he did not get), he was told of concerns about how he’d handled the election. H. E. Cummins, a fired prosecutor from Arkansas, said that a Justice Department official, in what appeared to be a warning, said that if he kept talking about his firing, the department would release negative information about him.
Does this sound like any kind of semblance of democracy you would want to live in? Where the Republican majority can seek to cajole prosecutors into investigating political opponents and manipulating criminal charges for political benefit? This is just the most obscenely improper kind of conduct that completely undermines any notions of an independent judicial system. This is what you expect from crackpot republics.

The very political Bush v. Gore decision of 2000 seems to have cast a very long shadow over the psyche of Republicans in power. It seems to have empowered Republicans to believe that if they get enough political partisans appointed to the bench - and now prosecutorial positions - that their politcal majority could be ensured for a very long time. The actions of Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici speak to this very attitude, demonstrating complete disrespect for an independent process, for the very rule of law! Talk about ethics violations! To say the very least. Wonder if they'd appreciate the same kind of influence being exercised by Democrats against them or a fellow Republican? Gee, somehow I just don't think they would.

There are echoes of this conceit that the judicial system is a Republican playground in the "pardon Scooter" movement as well. There was quite a lively exchange on Hardball Wednesday between Chris Matthews and Kate O'Beirne, with O'Beirne leading the pardon Scooter charge. She had the audacity to say that Bill Clinton should have been impeached and thrown out of the Presidency for his alleged perjury in the Monica Lewinsky affair...yet Scooter Libby, convicted of 4 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice is worthy of a pardon. Because he doesn't admit it. That's the Republican partisans' "bizarro world" position. Bill Clinton should be impeached for lying over a sexual affair - that had nothing to do with affairs of state. Yet it's OK for Scooter Libby to lie to the FBI and a grand jury about his interactions with reporters over an undercover CIA operative. Why is this OK? They cannot explain their hypocrisy. Here's the exchange:

Unfortunately for Republicans, for now anyway, there's a substantial conviction on the record that goes to the heart of why Bush, Cheney et al. led their nation into the Iraq war.

And thankfully, it remains impossible for Republicans to appoint their own jurors to sit on such cases. Although the next time the Patriot Act is amended in the middle of the night you might find out otherwise...