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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, March 26, 2007

Derailed or Back on Track?

If the "Straight Talk Express" were a train, all but the most ardent supporters of GOP presidential candidate, Senator John McCain (REPUBLICAN-AZ) would have considered it to have been derailed long ago. McCain, the man so besmirched by the Bushies during the 2000 campaign (remember the "Manchurian candidate remarks followed by the phone calls relating to his fathering a black child out of wedlock, and much more) that he couldn't even look at then-Governor Bush as they sat on the same stage is now following him around seeking any scraps which GW could send his way.

And, yes, I know that this "Express" is a bus.

Today, McCain seems to be attempting to get his "Express" back on track.

"I hope there's a statute of limitations on saying stupid things,"
-McCain

Sorry, Sen.. McCain... there isn't. However, you could help stem the tide which sees you 20-something points behind "America's Mayor", Rudy Giuliani (the guy whose own kids won't vote for him) by start speaking the truth and stopping your brown-nosing of the Bushies. yeah, In know that where GW is the money can't be far behind, but your credibility has to be worth something.

Every once and a while, McCain lets a Freudian slip get away.

"One of the reasons Republicans lost the war — excuse me, lost the election,"
-McCain, in Iowa
"My friends, we lost the war — we lost the election, we lost the election because of spending."
-McCain in New Hampshire

Oops!

Maybe the "Straight Talk Express" needs a teleprompter or something.

"I would not enjoy, in any way, the seclusion and keeping the media away. It just wouldn't be any fun and it's got to be fun."
-McCain, lying between his teeth

That statement reminds of former baseball star(?) Bobby Bonilla, the Bronx-born player who signed as a free-agent for a lot of money with the New York Mets in 1992:

"I know you all are gonna try, but you're not gonna be able to wipe the smile off my face. I grew up in New York. I know what it's all about."
-Bonilla to New York Sportswriters and broadcasters upon signing that big contract

The press took it as a dare, and they won. McCain's similar dare, so far, is prompting similar results.

But it is all the Arizona Republican's own fault. Considered at one time to be a "maverick", McCain has been tamed by his perception that he needs the Bush-Rove Political Machine to get his party's nomination. The question then becomes, "What about AFTER the election?" How beholden would a President McCain be to the preceding regime? And what about his VP, more than like to be former Florida Governor, Presidential son and brother, and dyed in the wool Neo-Con? Does McCain think that if he won in 2008, and didn't play ball through his first term, that there would actually be a second term?

Fat chance.

McCain, the guy in the middle's dream candidate in 2000 is just another party hack for 2008. Believing that he would be that same "maverick" who wowed moderate Democrats and Republicans in 2000 is just out of the question. After all, you are who you volunteer to be.

-Noah Greenberg



Al's Hot (and Getting Hotter) Seat

 

NBC NIGHTLY NEWS' PETE WILLIAMS: what is it that you would like people to know about this controversy?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES: Let me begin with the attacks on my credibility, which really have pained me and my family. You know, I have grown up — I grew up with nothing but my integrity. And someday, when I leave this office, I am confident that I will leave with my integrity.
MADMAN: Isn't there a sign at the DoJ door which reads, "Please check your integrity at the door"? There's nothing like a man who hides behind his family. "Boo-hoo-hoo... Those big bad Democrats and (finally) the main stream media are telling the truth about me. My children will need therapy.

WILLIAMS: An email that came out Friday night that showed that ten days before the firings there was a meeting in your office which you attended to discuss the firings. And yet when you talked to us here at the Justice Department two weeks ago, you said you were not involved in any discussions about the firings. Can you explain what seems like a contradiction?
GONZALES: (After a whole bunch of explaining that he was informed about discussion by his Chief of Staff, Kyle Sampson - the next recipient of the Medal of Freedom, no doubt, and a follow up by Williams, the AG had this to say:) The president — the White House has already confirmed that there was a conversation with the president, mentioned it to me in a meeting at the Oval Office — in terms of concerns about — about the commitment — to pursue voter fraud cases in — in three jurisdictions around the country.
Let me — let me be more — more precise because I know that — with respect to this particular topic, people parse carefully the words that I use. (LAUGHTER)
MADMAN: This guy's the freekin' top law enforcement official in the whole US! He's a lawyer, he was a Texas Supreme Court Justice, the lead counsel to the President of the United States, the Attorney General and a politician! If anyone knows about "parsed words", it would be this guy. Gonzales never says a word he doesn't mean, whether they're the truth or a lie.
GONZALES: I don't remember that conversation
I don't recall being involved.
MADMAN: Finally we know what the problem is with this whole administration. No short term, or long term memory. Maybe they should be medically checked for Alzheimer's Disease.

GONZALES: there's nothing improper about the White House communi- communicating, as a general matter, complaints about Department of Justice employees. I want to know if, in fact, the White House has received a complaint or has con-- concerns about the performance of a department employee, I would wanna know about it. And I'd like to hear — I'd like to hear it from the White House.
I was not involved in the deliberations during the process as to who-- who should or should not be — asked to resign.
I depended on the people who knew about how those United States attorneys — were performing — people within the department — who — who would have personal knowledge of — about these individuals, who would have, based upon their experience, would know what — what would be the appropriate standards that a United States attorney should be asked to — to achieve.
MADMAN: Just to get this straight, Alberto Gonzales didn't know anything. The complaints came to the White House and went directly to the AG's underlings. The President knew all about it and the AG knew nothing? I thought we were done with the Hogan's Heroes - Sergeant Schultz Defense, "I know nothing, I see nothing."

WILLIAMS: If you didn't review their performance during this process, then how can you be certain that they were fired for performance reasons?
GONZALES: I — I've given — I've given the answer to the question, Pete. I know — I know the reasons why I made the decision. Again, there's nothing in the documents to support the allegation that there was anything improper here. And there is an internal — department review to answer that question, to reassure the — the American people that there was nothing improper that happened here.
MADMAN: Wouldn't "Duh, I dunno," been a better response here?

 

-Noah Greenberg



More on Pace

Last week, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace compared homosexuality to adultery, calling it “immoral.” He later explained that he was expressing his “personal moral views.” But as Newsweek points out, in a 2005 speech on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Pace also said, “The U.S. military mission fundamentally rests on the trust, confidence and cooperation amongst its members. And the homosexual lifestyle does not comport with that kind of trust and confidence.”

So much for Pace meaning peace.

-Victoria Brownworth



SCANDALGATE
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.


Sometimes a whole week will go by without a scandal from the Bush Administration. This, however, was not one of those weeks.

The Bush Administration is likely the most scandal-ridden Administration in history. There are big scandals, medium-sized scandals and small scandals. Scandals that fall by the wayside because newer, more intriguing scandals come to the fore. Scandals that involve lives, as in the false claim of sales of nuclear materials to and existing WMDs in Iraq that has led to the second-longest war the U.S. has fought on foreign soil. Scandals involving money, like the Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay influence-peddling and money-shuffling scandals. Scandals involving power, like the scandal two weeks ago about how the FBI had been spying on ordinary Americans without their knowledge, abusing the powers granted through the excessive Patriot Act.

Increasingly, the scandals in this Administration involve a deconstructing of the Constitution.

In the college courses I teach, the term deconstructing is used in an academic context to mean taking things apart with the idea of seeing how they work. But in the hands of the Bush Administration’s hierarchy of anti-constitutionalists, deconstruction means something quite other:

It is, pure and simple, a taking apart with the idea of diminishing or even destroying the basic tenets of our democracy as defined by the Constitution.

What the Bush Administration does nearly every day now in one form or another is attack the rule of law put into place by the founding fathers of this nation: the brilliant minds of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and others.

The current scandal is a case in point.

This scandal involves the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys across the country. Yet the Administration–the President included–assert this is not even a scandal. No cause for even a scintilla of attention.

Had Bush fired the eight at the start of his term in office–when he fired 91 of the 93 serving U.S. attorneys–there would have been little complaint and less ire raised. Bill Clinton fired all 93 when he took office–two more than Bush.

But this is where the scandal part comes in: It is *expected* that new presidents will appoint new U.S. attorneys as these are political appointments and the U.S. attorneys serve at the President’s behest. Therefore it is unsurprising that either Bush or Clinton would take this standard route and replace the previous administration’s people with their people.

That is not what happened here. What happened here is that U.S. attorneys in the midst of their terms in office and doing their jobs were summarily fired for reasons that have since been exposed as being, well, utterly bogus.

For example—and this example would be the most obvious even to a third grader who isn’t sure what a U.S. attorney is or what he/she does–Patrick Fitzgerald was among those on the early firing list. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had “not distinguished themselves” on a Justice Department memo that the White House received in March 2005 when the firings were being planned.

In case the scandal overload has caused you to lose track, this was when Fitzgerald was in the midst of a rather intense prosecution–of the CIA leak known as Plamegate, another Bush Administration scandal. Fitzgerald’s prosecution resulted in the conviction two weeks ago of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and former aide to the President himself. Libby could face up to 30 years in prison.

It would appear that Fitzgerald was not only distinguishing himself, but in a fashion that was perhaps antithetical to what the Bush Administration would have liked to have seen done in the Plamegate case—a swift sweeping under the rug of the facts and the scandal itself. Instead, Fitzgerald proved he was more than just another Republican appointee: he actually chose integrity and that pesky rule of law over political expediency.

You can see how that might be misinterpreted by the Bush Administration’s Justice Department as a problem.

The eight who eventually *were* fired lost their jobs for the same reason Fitzgerald was slated to lose his: they simply were not toeing the Bush party line. They were prosecuting wrong-doing regardless of party affiliation, leading in one case–Carol Lam–to the prosecution of Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham (R-CA), who was indicted for influence peddling.

In case your eyes are beginning to glaze over and you are about to turn the page, read on just a little further.

Most Americans have indicated this particular scandal doesn’t interest them. After all, the housing market is bottoming out, health care is an ever-growing problem, the President is demanding more money and more troops for Iraq as if the November election never happened. Who cares about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys who do indeed serve at the behest of the President?

It’s not about the firing so much as it is about the lying.

Most Americans are used to the Bush Administration lying. Fewer than 30 percent trust the President or his Administration. So one more lie may not seem to be that important. Unless, of course, it is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There is not an issue with firing U.S. attorneys for cause. But there was no cause, except that the Administration didn’t think that the eight U.S. attorneys in question were showing enough fealty to their politics. That may be a reason to oust the U.S. attorneys when you take office, but not mid-term. What’s more, everyone involved in the firings has a paper trail or email trail of lies that follows them.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have lied under oath. At the very least Gonzales mismanaged his office.

The lying is key, however, and cannot be dismissed no matter how many times Bush’s top advisor, Karl Rove waves his hand dismissively, as if Congress were an unimportant governmental body.

Violation of the rule of law is, well, a crime. And there are criminal charges lurking in much of this scandal. In the testimony Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty gave before Congress, each asserted that the Justice Department would never fire U.S. attorneys for political reasons. Each cited cause. However–and this is where those paper trails come in–emails to the Justice Department refute that assertion.

Lying to Congress is illegal. There’s no equivocation or “wiggle room” on that.

Like every other member of the Bush Administration who has been taken to task of late for failure to do his or her job properly or for lying, Gonzales has blamed “inaccuracies” his own testimony and that of McNulty on someone else, in this case, his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Like Scooter Libby before him, Sampson appears to be the fall guy in this particular scandal; he resigned last week after Gonzales insisted that his former chief of staff had provided “incomplete information” to senior Justice Department officials.

However if this were actually true, Sampson would be under arrest right now because: "Federal law provides that if Sampson knew that he was causing DOJ officials to make inaccurate statements to Congress, he can be prosecuted for the federal crime of lying to Congress even though he did not personally make any statements to Congress."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) even addressed the issue by saying outright, “Kyle Sampson will not become the next Scooter Libby, the next fall guy.”

Egregious as it may be, however, the lying is not actually the only issue. The reason for the firings really is important. According to the law, if these eight U.S. attorneys were fired to interfere with a valid prosecution or as punishment because they prosecuted members of their own political party, then that does fall under the criminal code.

Carol Lam, San Diego U.S. attorney involved in the Cunningham investigation, was fired the *day after* she notified the Justice Department that she was executing search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Feinstein said, “The timing of the e-mail suggested that Lam’s dismissal may have been connected to the corruption probe."

Remember the Jack Abramoff scandal? That was several scandals ago, but involved numerous members of Congress and, despite denials, the President himself. One of the U.S. attorneys involved in the investigation of Abramoff was Frederick Black; he was fired soon after initiating the investigation of Abramoff.

Yet according to the law, anyone involved in firing a U.S. attorney to obstruct or influence an official proceeding could be prosecuted themselves.

As has been the case with so many scandals in the Bush Administration, Karl Rove appears to be at the core of this one as well. Emails from the White House and Rove indicate that he was involved in the firings. He has been asked to testify before Congress on the matter, but President Bush has balked that the request, citing separation of

Ironic, given that the entire scandal involves Bush’s refusal to acknowledge the separation of powers.

Bush insists that White House aides cannot testify before Congress, and has cited historical precedent. The President has his facts wrong. During the Clinton Administration alone there were numerous requests during the probe by the Republican-led Congress into Clinton’s extra-marital affair with Monica Lewinsky to have White House aides testify. More than 30 of those aides did testify before Congress on nearly 50 occasions. Without interference by then-President Clinton.

Head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), has requested that Rove and other top White House aides like former U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers testify under oath about their roles in the firings, but the White House is stymieing that effort.

Why?

If these firings are not political and were not meant as an end run around investigations into high-level Republicans and lobbyists with close ties to the Bush White House, then what is the problem with having Rove, Miers and others testify? If none of Bush’s aides have done anything wrong, why is their testimony under oath a problem?

Could the problem be that lying under oath is perjury and would create yet another scandal for the Bush Administration because Rove and Miers would *have* to lie?

Key Clinton aides, including the President’s assistant and staff secretary John Podesta, testified before Congress. President Bush, however, has consistently refused to allow any of his aides to testify in the numerous scandals as they have arisen. Nor did he allow testimony before the 9/11 Commission.

According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “although White House aides do not testify before congressional committees in a regular basis...under certain conditions they do. First, intense and escalating political embarrassment may convince the White House that it is in the interest of the President to have these aides testify and ventilate the issue fully. Second, initial White House resistance may give way in the face of concerted congressional and public pressure."

Rove’s dismissive attitude toward the current scandal is troubling, but consistent with the arrogance he has shown in the past. His near-indictment in the Plamegate scandal caused President Bush to remove him from his position as chief advisor and put him in a more general–and therefore less obvious to outsiders–role in the White House.

The blogosphere is rife with speculation that Rove and Gonzales might both be replaced, but on March 23rd, Gonzales insisted he would not resign. Rove has ignored the media and the Congress entirely, as he generally does. White House sources assert that it would be “highly unlikely” that either man would be replaced as the President “relies on both men heavily for advice and considers Gonzales to be one of his closest personal friends.”

Friendship aside, how Gonzales has operated in his various roles within the Bush Administration does beg the question about Bush’s choices. The current questions raised by Gonzales’ involvement in the firings and his possible lies to Congress signal that more scandals are ahead. After all, Gonzales is not a man like Rove who operates behind the scenes. Gonzales is a front-man for the Bush Administration. As White House Counsel, it was Gonzales who advised the President that ignoring the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture would be acceptable with regard to the war on terror. If Karl Rove is known as “the architect,” Gonzales is “the expediter.” In Texas, it was Gonzales who expedited death warrants for then-Gov. Bush. Now he expedites other things for Bush in Washington, from torture to the firings of U.S. attorneys doing their jobs.

Many people inside and outside the Beltway who follow politics think the U.S. attorneys firings will be the final scandalous nail in the Bush Administration’s coffin. But having covered this Administration since it wrangled the presidency away from Al Gore in 2000 through manipulation and pressure–to the detriment of the entire nation and most of the world–it is my perception that this scandal will just stack up with the dozens of others. How do these firings and the lies of the Attorney General and his deputy measure against the other Bush scandals: the initial 2000 election fraud, the war, the torture, the influence peddling, the outing of CIA agents, the investigations of ordinary Americans in violation of the Patriot Act, the forced resignations, and so many others?

For those of us who respect the rule of law and the Constitution, this Administration will continually represent the antithesis to what democracy is supposed to be. The arrogance of this Administration is exemplified by Rove’s continual shrugging off of each subpoena, each impending indictment.

The current scandal tells Americans everything they need to know about this Administration. Harry Truman noted of his presidency “The buck stops here,” meaning all responsibility for anything that went wrong was, in the end, his and his alone.

In the Bush presidency the motto remains “Pass the buck.” And in the end it is us, the American people, who end up picking up the tab for that passed buck–paying with the lives of American soldiers, billions of tax dollars and incursions against our Constitution. The eight U.S. attorneys paid with their jobs, the people responsible for their firings paid with their integrity and whether you choose to pay attention to this particular scandal or not, you too have paid–with another ugly besmirching of our national reputation from an Administration which knows no shame, regardless of how much it rains down upon us all.


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-Noah Greenberg