Category ►►► Laughable Lawyers
August 26, 2012
Charlie in Charge
One thing you can say about Charlie Crist, the erstwhile Florida-governor-cum-Senate candidate-cum-ambulance-chaser, he certainly is persistent. In that respect, he's rather like the Sunshine State version of Norma Desmond. The only difference is that one of them is an aging diva with a terminally inflated sense of self who can't leave the stage even though the welcome has long worn itself out, and the other was played by Gloria Swanson in the classic 1950 film.
In case you're late to the drama, Crist tried to get the Republican nomination for Senate back in 2010, but was bested by Marco Rubio when it became obvious that voters no longer cared for the mushy, middle of the road, Democrat-lite kind of Republican that Charlie so amply embodied. But instead of taking one for the team after getting beaten fair and square, Charlie turned around and tried to run as an independent -- recasting himself as a moderate voice amid all the bickering partisanship, even though he had spent the majority of his campaign up to that point trying to pass himself off as a Reagan conservative. Voters, naturally, didn't buy it and sent Rubio off to Washington. Charlie, meanwhile, now does late-night TV ads shilling for the personal injury firm of Morgan & Morgan, whose clientele consists mainly of plaintiffs claiming dog bites and whiplash from rear-end collisions. How pride goeth before the fall.
Anyway, Charlie has decided to inject himself back into the news by penning an op-ed for my hometown newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times:
I’ve studied, admired and gotten to know a lot of leaders in my life. Across Florida, in Washington and around the country, I've watched the failure of those who favor extreme rhetoric over sensible compromise, and I've seen how those who never lose sight of solutions sow the greatest successes.
As America prepares to pick our president for the next four years -- and as Florida prepares once again to play a decisive role -- I'm confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation. I applaud and share his vision of a future built by a strong and confident middle class in an economy that gives us the opportunity to reap prosperity through hard work and personal responsibility. It is a vision of the future proven right by our history.
Of course, Charlie is a little nebulous on exactly what "history" he's talking about. Perhaps it's the alternate history in which he actually won that Senate race, and is now Mitt Romeny's running mate instead of Paul Ryan. Or the one in which the stimulus actually worked and unemployment managed to get below eight percent. I tell you, even Harry Turtledove would have a tough time with that story.
Charlie went on to say:
Many have already forgotten how deep and daunting our shared crisis was in the winter of 2009, as President Obama was inaugurated. It was no ordinary challenge, and the president served as the nation's calm through a historically turbulent storm.
The president's response was swift, smart and farsighted. He kept his compass pointed due north and relentlessly focused on saving jobs, creating more and helping the many who felt trapped beneath the house of cards that had collapsed upon them.
Yes, Obama "relentlessly" focused on creating jobs -- except for the two years he spent ramming through Obamacare, fighting for tax increases on small business, and dumping money into green energy boondoggles like Solyndra. But wait, it gets better:
President Obama invested in our children's schools because he believes a good education is a necessity, not a luxury, if we're going to create an economy built to last. He supported more than 400,000 K-12 teachers' jobs, and he is making college more affordable and making student loans, like the ones he took out, easier to pay back.
He invested in our runways, railways and roads. President Obama knows a reliable infrastructure that helps move people to work and helps businesses move goods to market is a foundation of growth.
Of course, education spending had already expanded 58% faster than inflation under George W. Bush, so it's not like we hadn't been pouring money into that already. As for all that "investment" in America's "infrastructure" under the Obama "stimulus," most of that money went for union payouts and to shore up state budget deficits. Hell, even the president himself admitted there was no such thing as the "shovel ready jobs" that were supposed to put people back to work. You'd figure after nearly $1 trillion that we'd at least have a few bridges and dams to show for it, but alas no.
Face it, Charlie. Everybody knows that the only reason you penned this op-ed was because you're just itching to get back into politics -- only this time as a Democrat. You'd just love to run against Rubio in 2016 for the Senate seat that was supposed to be yours. Problem is, no matter how many times you tell Mr. DeMille that you're ready for your closeup, we've already gotten a pretty good view of what you're all about.
It's long past time you went away.
November 18, 2010
Although there is no hard evidence as yet, it's becoming increasingly plausible that Janet Napolitano, Capa di Tutti Capi of the Department of Homeland Security, has been giving -- or at least considering giving -- special exemptions from the highly invasive airport porno-scan and the even more highly invasive "custody search" of all passengers; these possible exemptions would only be extended to (drum roll) Moslem women in full burkas... and perhaps inadvertently to Moslem men in full burkas.
Or perhaps even women (or men who can "pass") just wearing the head covering, the hijab, plus the veil. Anything, that is, that so completely obscures the head, face, and/or body that identification is impossible; those passengers will (perhaps!) receive a "get out of humiliation free" card, a fact which Napolitano cannot seem to deny:
When asked today if she will insist that Muslim women wearing hijabs must go through full body pat downs before boarding planes, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did not say yes or no, but told CNSNews.com there will be “adjustments” and “more to come” on the issue.
“On the pat downs, CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] has recommended that Muslim women wearing hijabs refuse to go through the full body pat downs before boarding planes,” CNSNews.com asked Napolitano at a Monday press conference. “Will you insist that they do go through full body pat downs before boarding planes?”
(CAIR also helpfully suggested that Moslem women could "pat down [their] own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officers perform a chemical swipe of [their] hands.”)
Napolitano "responded" to Cybercast News Service's question thus:
“Look, we have, like I said before, we are doing what we need to do to protect the traveling public and adjustments will be made where they need to be made,” Napolitano responded. “With respect to that particular issue, I think there will be more to come. But, again, the goal here, you know, we’re not doing this just to do it. We’re doing it because we need to keep powders and gels and liquids off of planes that are unauthorized just as we need to keep metals off of planes.
Unless those powders, gels, and liquids are carried by Moslem women. Or Moslem girly-men.
Dear Secretary Napolitano;
How about instead trying to keep terrorists off of planes?
This freakish policy must be the synthesis of (1) confusing the actor with the inanimate object he uses in the action, colliding with (2) the overriding imperative to play the dhimmi to every nutty fatwa issued by CAIR, the Muslim American Society, Iran, Hamas, or any other radical Islamist group that practices either full-blown jihad or at least dawa, the use of preaching, threats, extortion, "lawfare," protests, organized whining and complaining, or any other means (short of actual slaughter) to push for world Islamic domination.
Rational people already know what to do: The most effective and least invasive security protocol would be to a system of behavioral profiling, accompanied by facial and body recognition of suspected terrorists by electronic scaning and by human "spotters" who roam the airport concourse, men and women exceptionally good at recognizing people from a photograph.
But liberals like Napolitano (and her own boss, Barack H. Obama) utterly refuse to consider these methods, probably because they treat passengers as individuals responsible for their own behavior, rather than representatives of groups with varying degrees of aggrievedness... and also because it smells a bit too much like Israel, which the Obama administration considers a pariah state, and every Israeli policy thus tainted and unusable.
At the very least, to speed up the process and minimize the angst, we should implement an "opt-in" system, where frequent fliers can submit to a fairly deep background check, pay a modest fee, and be issued a picture I.D. with biometric information on it, such as a thumbprint. At the airport, they would show their cards, submit to a quick facial-recognition scan and electronic thumbprint, and bypass the security line altogether. But that, of course, is pure elitism; and the top-level Obamunists cannot tolerate any such elite group... except for themselves, of course; you'll never catch Janet Napolitano having to go through the porno-scanner! (Except perhaps as a one-time publicity stunt, though so far, she has refused even that.)
With the obvious security measures swiftly and soundly rejected, Secretary Napolitano instead concocts an astonishing invasion of privacy for all airline travelers, without regard to their likelihood of posing a threat -- and then considers exempting the very people most likely to pose just such a threat: Moslems, whether male or female, who are so intensely religious (or so intensely comitted to jihad) that they must conceal their features and form from all security officers and scanners.
We apply the most intrusive, offensive, humiliating, and degrading imaginable security scrutiny to those least likely to commit terrorism, and then apply virtually no scrutiny at all to those most likely to want to blow up an airliner or fly it into a building. What could possibly go wrong?
Dennis Prager is fond of saying that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives think liberals are wrong and need to be convinced, but liberals think conservatives are either evil or insane (or both) and need to be put away. But as we are subjected more and more to liberal-progressives in full cry, and we see the natural end-result of the cult of liberalism (see When Prophecy Fails), it becomes impossible not to see the death-spiral of sanity inherent in leftism. When an ideology starts from a fundamental disconnect from reality, it eventually must either collapse upon itself -- or else deny and reject that reality in increasingly strident and ultimately hysterical pronunciamentos and surreal policies.
At that point, conservatives and other anti-liberals face their own dilemma: How do we inform the electorate of the sheer madness into which the Left has fallen without sounding delusional ourselves?
Of course, maybe that's the progressive plan of Barack Obama. If this month's elections are any guide, it ain't working.
July 15, 2010
Why Did Obama's DOJ Botch Roman Polanski's Extradition?
When the Swiss denied the extradition request for child-rapist Roman Polanski, they explicitly gave as their primary reason the refusal of the Department of Justice to release a transcript of several days of "secret testimony" by one of the prosecutors, Roger Gunson:
The Justice Department said the transcripts couldn't be provided, according to a letter from Swiss officials to the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. The letter was dated Monday and obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday night.
The Swiss officials said that the denial of access to the information was the key factor in the refusal to extradite Polanski.
The testimony was taken, it appears (though the reporting is quite vague), during a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing this last January, held to determine whether Polanski could be sentenced "in absentia;" eventually, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled that he could not be, that he had to be physically present for the hearing to occur.
The request was particularly risible and frivolous in this case -- given that Polanski already fled from a previous sentence, which he seems to have believed was only an additional 48 days of "diagnostic study." What are the odds that, were he sentenced in absentia today for a more reasonable term in jail, he would actually show up to serve it? Obviously, the only purpose of such a hearing would be for Polanski's lawyers to refight the original charge -- then only allow him to return if he was victorious and "vindicated."
Retired Prosecutor Gunson's testimony during that hearing remains sealed, per the DoJ; however, it's easy to guess what Gunson said: I presume he repeated the claim he made in a statement in June, 2008 -- and earlier that year in a pro-Polanski documentary -- that the original judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, had been "coached" during the original trial in 1977 by another prosecutor, Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Wells. I'm not quite sure what "coached" means in this case, probably the allegation that the prosecutor and judge colluded against Polanski.
Gunson also claimed in documentary and statement that in 1997, twenty years after, he and Polanski's attorney Douglas Dalton met in chambers with Judge Larry Paul Fidler. Fidler, they say, agreed that Polanski could return to the United States and be sentenced only to probation with no prison or jail time.
But President Barack H. Obama's Justice Department denied the Swiss request for that testimony. They must have known that withholding it guaranteed that Swiss authorities would reject extradition: Swiss law allows extradition only in cases where the defendant would be sentenced to at least six months in jail; yet the Gunson testimony went to the question of whether Polanski faced any jail time at all. Obviously, without being allowed to read that testimony for themselves and weigh it against other, more pertinent evidence, the Swiss were bound to err on the side of Polanski, who owns property in Gstadt, rather than the distant United States.
I see only two plausibilities, neither of which redounds to the credit of Attorney General Eric Holder or President Obama:
- The Justice Department reflexively withheld the testimony because top personnel were afraid the Swiss would seize upon it as proof that Polanski didn't qualify to be extradited under Swiss law. This is "teen logic," like a high-schooler having a fender bender, then parking the car on the street so Dad would think it was a hit-and-run in the middle of the night.
- Justice deliberately withheld the testimony to ensure that Polanski would not be extradited, would not stand trial again for the brutal rape and for fleeing prosecution, and would not be punished. It is at the very least curious that Polanski hired a new attorney, Reid Weingarten, four days after his arrest in Zurich... an attorney who is a "close friend of Attorney General Eric Holder."
The Weingarten angle is tantalizing; did Holder's pal broker a Washington deal to keep Polanski free? Did Holder agree -- he does have a history of killing prosecutions, doesn't he? -- in order to keep faith with Obama's supporters and donors among the Hollywood Left?
Polanski, 76, was arrested last weekend at Zurich’s airport on a 31-year-old fugitive warrant issued after he skipped sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The addition of Weingarten, who has known Holder since the two worked together in the department’s Public Integrity Section in the 1970s, means Polanski now has a powerful advocate in Washington.
The New York Times reports:
The recruiting of Mr. Weingarten was a strong signal that Mr. Polanski’s legal team intends to push hard on the Washington end of the case. Mr. Polanski was arrested on his way to the Zurich Film Festival after Swiss authorities received a letter from the Department of Justice requesting that he be held for possible extradition to the United States.
The question now is, from how high up the chain at Justice came the decision to refuse the Swiss request for the Gunson testimony?
Under the first hypothesis, it was just a boneheaded mistake by either Eric Holder himself or one of his top deputies. There is ample evidence that Polanski actually faced far more than six months, possibly as much as twenty years. As Patterico pointed out in early May, both Polanski's plea transcript from 1978 and a Christmas Eve Day decision in 2009 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rebut the urban legend that Roman Polanski had a sentencing "deal" with Judge Rittenband to "serve" only 42 days of a diagnostic study as his sole "punishment." In fact, Patterico notes, such studies are not punitive at all and cannot constitute a "sentence;" they're meant to help determine what sentence the convict should receive.)
Nobody, not even Polanski's attorneys, claims that the defendant was legally authorized to flee the country to avoid further court proceedings; so at the very least, he should be subject to prosecution for unlawful flight, which would likely net him at least six months on that charge alone. Too, serving some sort of sentence following the full 90 days of evaluation -- even if only probation -- was surely part of any plea agreement; since he failed to fulfill his side of the agreement, the plea bargain is off -- and Polanski is now subject to the full set of charges, including oral, vaginal, and anal rape of a minor by drugs and force. If convicted, and I suspect he would be, I'm sure he would be eligible for life in prison (de facto if not de jure, as he turns 77 years old next month).
Instead of refusing to hand over the ramblings of an obviously biased witness, Roger Gunson, Obama's Department of Justice should have released it and simply made the argument that Gunson's testimony is not dispositive anent the punishment that awaits Mr. Polanski upon his return. It's possible the Swiss law-enforcement officials would have found some other excuse not to extradite; but it's also possible they would decide, if the petition was strong and all documents included, that they couldn't brush it aside so easily.
And of course, the other hypothesis -- that Holder once again quashed prosecution of a politically favored defendant in a sensational case -- is even more reprehensible. It forms a pattern of biased conduct verging on political bribery at the DoJ that would further erode any confidence among the American people that Barack H. Obama is fit to serve as President of the United States... or at the very least, that Eric Holder is fit to serve as Attorney General. (But who appointed Eric Holder?)
The botching of the Polanski extradition case -- or its corrupt quashing -- opens yet another vista of the Democratic culture of corruption, an inexhaustible oil spill of moral rot and political turpitude seeping throughout all three branches of the federal government.
Drip, drip, drip.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
January 28, 2010
A "seminar commenter" on a previous post made an extraordinary claim; he wrote:
Tort reform is a non starter, not because Dems have no backbone, but because tort is a very small factor in health care cost issues. Unless you consider 0.01% of total health care costs an issue.
Actually, tort reform is a "non starter" because of the truly staggering level of political donations (mostly to Democrats) lawyers make to candidates who oppose tort reform; as RealClearMarkets reports:
The reason the president and congressional Democrats don't address malpractice is clear. In the 2008 election cycle, lawyers gave $233 million to political candidates: 76% went to Democrats and 23% to Republicans. Politicians know better than to bite the hand that feeds them.
That seems a more likely explanation of Congress' inaction than the explanation offered by the commenter and his trial-lawyer sources, that "tort is a very small factor in health care cost issues."
Defenders of defensive medicine
The commenter appears to get his talking points from trial lawyers (I have no idea whether he personally is one); oddly, however, he gets them wrong.
A very recent release from the American Association for Justice -- which used to call itself the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), until they realized how most of us view John Edwards and his cronies -- claims that:
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total spent defending claims and compensating victims of medical negligence in 2007 was $7.1 billion -- just 0.3% of health care costs.
So even the trial lawyers admit the direct costs of medical-malpractice trials are 30 times what the commenter claims. We can chalk this error up to faulty memory; however, the ATLA itself plays fast and loose with its own figures.
ATLA uses the figure of $2.2 trillion for the size of the health-care industry, comparing the $7.1 billion they claim is the direct cost of malpractice-litigation judgments, settlements, and lawyers' fees. But that total-cost figure includes many areas of health care that don't need malpractice liability insurance; they either need other types of insurance or no insurance at all.
According to a Kaiser Foundation report (source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, National Health Statistics Group), only 52% of the $2.241 trillion goes to Physician/clinical service (21%) or Hospital care (31%); the rest comprises:
- Government public health activities
- Program administration
- Retail - Rx drugs
- Retail - Other products [I'm guessing medical devices -- DaH]
- Home health care
- Nursing home care
- Other professional services
This pie-chart illustrates the breakdown:
National Health Expenditures Distribution 2007
So comparing apples to apples, the direct cost of malpractice judgments, settlements, and attorneys' fees on those entities that are subject to malpractice lawsuits is 0.6%, not 0.3%. That's still a small percent, of course -- but it's only the beginning of the story.
What the trial lawyers dance around (and what the commenter ignores entirely) is that the direct costs of malpractice litigation are but a tiny fraction of the total costs imposed upon the health-care system by the threat of litigation.
What are the missing components in the lawyers' calculations?
- Skyrocketing malpractice-insurance rates
- The costs of defensive medicine
Insurance: malpractice aforethought
The monetary cost of the risk of a huge verdict far outweigh the actual awards themselves; a high-risk litigation environment causes insurance companies to jack up their rates -- for the same reason that living on a flood plain or in "tornado alley" jacks up your insurance rates for those disasters.
Doctors pay stunning premiums for malpractice insurance, in some cases more than $200,000 annually for physicians in certain specialties, such as obstetrics or anaesthesiology -- and far more for hospitals -- even for doctors and hospitals with excellent records; see the RealClearMarkets piece linked above.
Virtually every doctor and hospital is guaranteed to be sued several times in his career... no matter how good and careful a doctor he is. This is due not only to shysters like John Edwards pushing bogus cases to force a settlement, but also to the unreasonable expectation of perfection that too many Americans hold about our admittedly wonderful health care: Even when told that a certain procedure carries a certain risk, if that risk becomes a reality, the pressure is on to go ahead and sue anyway. With a sympathetic plaintiff and a runaway jury, who knows how many millions of dollars the patient might win in "jackpot justice?"
Several estimates have found that the cost of malpractice insurance alone is about 10% of the total cost of doctor and hospital care in America, or $110 billion; again, see RealClearMarkets. This is money directly out of the pockets of doctors and hospitals... which naturally means costs directly passed along to all patients.
But the heaviest costs of malpractice litigation are indirect:
- The actual monetary cost of "defensive medicine;"
- The opportunity cost of overtaxing medical resources by unnecessary use of equipment and needless prescribing of scarce pharmaceuticals;
- The doctor-patient time lost to increasingly onerous paperwork... documentation required to make a strong defense in court in response to the inevitable lawsuit;
- Doctors refusing to accept high-risk patients, knowing they will incur far more lawsuits from such patients than from low-risk patients;
- And worst of all, doctors abandoning entire specialties (such as obstetrics) associated with an unreasonable number of lawsuits -- and doctors fleeing states that strongly encourage malpractice lawsuits, or retiring early. Likewise students opting for another profession, one that's actually thriving... such as being a lawyer.
"Defensive medicine" comprises unnecessary tests, procedures, documentation, and hospital stays ordered, not because the doctor honestly believes they will help treat the medical problem, but rather to "immunize" doctors and hospitals from bogus malpractice lawsuits.
As far as actual money out of the system due to defensive medicine -- that is, due to the threat of malpractice litigation -- estimates range from huge ($60 billion per year) to gargantuan ($200 billion per year). Consider those the "direct" indirect costs imposed by trial lawyers.
But there are even vaster and more indirect damages caused by the congressional majority's love affair with lawyers. The first hidden cost is in resource depletion: Simply put, we have limited resources available for medical tests, such as X-rays or CAT scans. While a patient with no serious injury is being CAT scanned, just so that the doctor and hospital won't be dragged into court later, that particular sanner is unavailable to other patients with more serious injuries. From the Washington Times piece:
Medical resources are scarce In a hospital There are only so many CT scan machines and only so many radiologists to read them. When fear of lawyers causes practically every patient with a bump or bruise who enters the emergency room to get a CT scan whether it's clinically warranted or not, critically ill patients who need the scan inevitably must wait their turn.
While radiologists read unneeded tests, precious minutes tick by with patients suffering from possibly fatal conditions such as subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) or septic shock (overwhelming infection) waiting quietly in the queue.
Similarly, if a doctor prescribes drugs for patients who don't really need them, because the doctor fears that some persuasive lawyer will convince a jury that he knows best, and the drug would surely have saved the patient's life -- then supplies of that vital drug will become scarce, and it may not be available for patients who really do need it. (It also drives up the price of drugs by the elementary rule of supply and demand.)
One hidden cost that few think about is that doctors must overdocument everything he does, just in order to defend himself when he's sued; all the paperwork extensively cuts into the time he can actually spend with his patients. From the Washington Times piece:
Another opportunity cost of jackpot justice is its effect on the time doctors can spend with patients. Patients often may wonder why doctors spend so little time with them in the hospital. Doctors are not out playing golf or eating bon bons. They are in back rooms writing notes, documenting everything they have done and everything they plan to do.
Every day, a detailed assessment and plan is needed to outline all actions and the reasoning behind them to protect doctors from lawsuits, acknowledging every lab value, test, consult. If nothing changes from one day to the next, doctors must take the time to write the same thing again. If it is not written down in the chart, it never happened.
While some medical cases can be quite complex and such inordinate documentation can help organize the case more clearly in the doctor's mind, often this is not the case. Primarily this degree of documentation is done out of necessity to keep the pesky lawyers at bay. In fact, by wasting valuable physician time that could be better spent actually seeing patients, it can be counterproductive to a patient's well-being.
Finally, fear of litigation produces yet another nasty effect... defensive dumping: Doctors are already refusing to accept high-risk patients, those with serious ongoing conditions or many allergies to drugs and "contrast agent" dyes, because they know a higher percent of them will have problems and complications from treatment -- and that means a corresponding increase in malpractice lawsuits, no matter how proper the treatment was.
Similarly, some medical specialties (obstetrics, for example) are inherently more legally risky; veteran doctors staring at spiraling malpractice premiums -- and especially newly minted doctors right out of residency, who haven't yet chosen a specialty -- will be driven to pick those that don't carry quite as much risk of spending several weeks (or months) in court. Worse, some potential med-school students will look at the costs and legal risks associated with being a doctor and opt for some other career entirely.
Malpractice tort costs amount to a "tax" on the practice of medicine -- and a subsidy for malpractice trial lawyers. What you tax, you get less of; and what you subsidize, you get more of; does America really want fewer doctors and more lawyers?
Finally, states that are litigation-happy, like New York and California, will watch as a flood of doctors leave and head towards states that have already enacted tort reform, like Texas. Great for citizens of Texas; bad for the rest of us. Make the pain universal enough, and we may have to start importing doctors from third-world countries, as the United Kingdom must now do.
It's impossible to make a precise estimate of how much money, resources, and doctor-patient face time tort reform would save; it depends upon what reform, how strong, and where the reform applies: Reform in California, where the health-care industry is virtually run by lawyers, would save a lot more money than a similar reform in Texas, which has already limited the extent to which lawyers can loot the system. But most academic estimates are in the range of $100 billion to $300 billion per year.
That makes tort reform one of the top targets for reducing the cost of medical care in the United States -- and well worth demanding in any so-called "reform" bill.
Unless the American people are willing to cough up donations in the hundreds of millions of dollars range, Democrats are not going to act on that demand; therefore the only viable strategy is to defeat those Democrats in the voting booth, where the opinion of an ordinary American voter is worth just as much as the opinion of a John Edwards clone.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
April 28, 2008
ID (the Other Kind): Beginning of the Death of the Democratic Party?
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court -- in a shock 6-3 decision (shocking because Justice John Paul Stevens was on the side of the angels!) -- held that states could indeed require voters to show photo-ID before voting... causing Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 90%) to eructate, "This decision is a body blow to what America stands for -- equal access to the polls" (for senior citizens, minorities, and the poor... most of whom, apparently, carry no identification).
The Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter-identification law on Monday, declaring that a requirement to produce photo identification is not unconstitutional and that the state has a “valid interest” in improving election procedures as well as deterring fraud.
In a 6-to-3 ruling in one of the most awaited election-law cases in years, the court rejected arguments that Indiana’s law imposes unjustified burdens on people who are old, poor or members of minority groups and less likely to have driver’s licenses or other acceptable forms of identification. Because Indiana’s law is considered the strictest in the country, similar laws in the other 20 or so states that have photo-identification rules would appear to have a good chance of surviving scrutiny.
The ruling, coming just eight days before the Indiana primary and at the height of a presidential election campaign, upheld rulings by a Federal District Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which had thrown out challenges to the 2005 law.
It's not just Chuck Schumer who is incensed by this ruling, and more generally, by the voter-ID laws that sparked it; almost the entire Democratic party seems up in arms about the very idea of requiring government-issued photo-ID before voters are allowed to vote.
So why are they so adamant? Let's consider a few points that may edge us away from their stated reasons -- concern that "legitimate voters" will be disenfranchised -- and towards what I think is their real motivation.
- While I agree that the "poor or members of minority groups" are less likely to have government ID, that is entirely by their own choice (or more likely, their own apathy).
Mere lack of money can't stop a voter from getting identification; although the Times doesn't consider it the kind of news "that's fit to print," the related AP story is more forthcoming on this point:
Indiana provides IDs free of charge to people without driver's licenses. It also allows voters who lack photo ID's to cast a provisional ballot and then show up within 10 days at their county courthouse to produce identification or otherwise attest to their identity.
So money is no object; government ID is literally "priceless."
- Where is the evidence that registered voters who are senior citizens are less likely to have photo-ID from the government than younger voters?
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they're more likely, not less, to have identification. I suspect this unsourced claim is intended to broaden the pool of putative "victims" of voter-ID laws... and especially to broaden it to include as many Republicans as possible.
The Times article ends a heart-rending story about a black woman, a senior citizen, turned away from the polls in Indiana for lack of ID. The last line: "Ms. Williams, in her early 60’s, is black -- and is a Republican." (Cue melodramatic music.)
Last and most important point. When I say this decision, and the legislation it will spark, could spell the death of the Democratic Party, I don't mean because it will somehow -- metaphysically, perhaps -- make it harder for senior citizens (who are more likely to vote Republican anyway), the poor, and minorities to vote. It won't; even though the latter will still vote in lesser numbers than those who are more well off and those who are not "federally protected minorities," that has nothing to do with any supposed inability to get a photo-ID.
Rather, I think it will inflict a deep wound in the Democratic Party because:
- Such bills will, when fully implemented -- for example, when extended to the rest of the United States and to include absentee balloting -- make it much, much harder to commit voter fraud... and today's Democratics depend so heavily on fraud, they probably can't survive without it.
Critics of the law make much of the fact that there have been so few prosecutions for voter fraud in Indiana. But that's Indiana, where Republican election officials pretty control the elections. I doubt that voter fraud has ever been a serious problem in that state.
But how about Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, New York City, Compton, East L.A., New Orleans, Miami, and other cities and even entire states where Democrats control the "standards" required to vote? That is where you're going to find massive voter fraud that turns the Democratic majority into a supermajority -- and the Republican minority into political impotence.
Take Loretta Sanchez: She first won California's 46th district in 1996, beating "B-1" Bob Dornan by 984 votes. California officials threw out 124; and when Congress investigated, they found 624 more votes that were definitely fraudulent... which reduced Sanchez's lead down to 236 votes (out of about 100,000 votes cast). At that point, not being able to prove that the voter fraud Congress found was enough to flip the election, the House for political reasons voted to end the investigation.
But look here... according to a column by Wall Street Journal writer John Fund, the INS subsequently found that as many as 4,023 ballots were cast in the 46th district by "illegal voters." But since there was no way to know for sure whether these four thousand Hispanic non-citizens and unregistered Hispanic voters voted for Loretta Sanchez or Bob Dornan, that could not be used in the investigation of her "victory."
(Much of this work was done after the House voted to terminate the investigation, and the full House finally shut down the committee and INS investigation before it could find even more voter fraud, thus embarassing Newt Gingrich even further.)
But there is more in that same John Fund column:
In 2002, Dean Gardner, a losing GOP candidate for California's state legislature, sent out a survey to 14,000 first-time voters. A total of 1,691 surveys came back. The results were startling: 76 people admitted that they weren't citizens but had voted, while 49 claimed not to have registered at their correct residence, as the law requires. Gardner lost by only 266 votes.
In the 2000 election, as the Missouri secretary of state later discovered, 56,000 St. Louis-area voters held multiple voter registrations. No one knows how much actual fraud took place, but it may have played a role in the Democratic defeats of incumbent Republican senator John Ashcroft, who lost his seat by 49,000 votes, and gubernatorial candidate Jim Talent, who lost by 21,000 votes....
A Post analysis [of the 2000 presidential election vote in Florida] discovered that 5,600 people voted whose names matched those of convicted felons. "These illegal voters almost certainly influenced the down-to-the-wire presidential election," the Post reported. "Of the likely felons identified by the Post, 68 percent were registered Democrats."
Note that this only counts actual, bona-fide election fraud; Democrats also have an array of legal or quasi-legal ways to prevent enemy votes from being counted, ranging from closing polls in Republican-leaning districts earlier than those in Democrat-leaning districts, to hypercritical challenging of Republican votes by elections boards, to selective recounts, all the way to actually filing lawsuits attempting to suppress the Republican vote (as in the Florida cases filed in Martin and Seminole counties in 2000, seeking to disenfranchise 25,000 absentee voters). None of these would be affected by voter-ID laws.
I believe that voter fraud increased substantially after President Bill Clinton signed the motor-voter bill in 1993 -- which I vigorously opposed from the very beginning: If a person has so little interest in the franchise that he won't bestir himself to register unless he's practically forced, then I don't want him voting at all. Fund evidently agrees:
Why is such activity proliferating? It flows from the success of Democratic lawmakers in pushing aside clear, orderly, and rigorous voting procedures in favor of elastic and "inclusive" election rules that invite manipulation. A machine for corruption is the 1993 "Motor Voter Act," the first bill that President Clinton signed. The law requires government officials to allow anyone who renews a driver's license or applies for welfare or unemployment to register to vote on the spot, without showing ID or proof of citizenship. It also allows ID-free registration by mail. The law also makes it hard to purge voting lists of those who've died or moved. All this makes vote fraud a cinch, almost as easy as when Tammany Hall handed out pre-marked ballots.
In California, it is actually against state law for polling places to demand any form of ID that indicates citizenship. Not even Democrats try to defend that on its own grounds; it was simply pushed through the legislature in a power play. There can be no other purpose for such a bill than to make committing voter fraud as easy as taking a pie in the face.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), a socialist group that agitates for various left-wing causes, is the king of registration fraud, I suspect, having registered thousands and thousands of fake voters. But they have many competitors, including the Public Interest Research Group and Project Vote... nearly all of whom lean very far to the left.
I am convinced that it is this fact -- not weird speculation about the poor and certain minorities and their lack of interest in obtaining IDs -- that actually animates and drives the intense Democratic opposition to voter-ID laws across the country. But why would Democrats be so anxious to lock into place a system that practically begs for fraudulent voting -- unless they believe they really and truly need election fraud to stay in power?
I take their own obvious opinion of themselves and their election strategy very seriously. Thus I say again: If voter-ID bills sweep the rest of the country (the 30 states, plus D.C., that have no requirement to show a photo-ID before voting), and especially if it is extended to absentee balloting, then the Democratic Party as we know it today could collapse. It would most probably be replaced by a new and much more moderate Democratic Party. (It's much less likely to be replaced by a different party, since we have been stuck with these two for more than 150 years.)
But either way, the heyday of the contemporary, ultra-leftist Democratic Party of 2008 -- that can dither between nominating Hillary Clinton (left) or Barack Obama (lefter); that can openly call for America to declare defeat and go home from a war we're winning; that responds to a possible recession by proposing staggering tax increases (economic policy which even John Maynard Keynes rejected); that is willing to ally itself with America's enemies (and Islamic religious fundamentalists), applauds Communists like Oogo Chavez and Raul Castro, and argues that the CIA cannot interrogate captured foreign terrorists held abroad any harsher than police can interrogate an American citizen suspected of robbing a convenience store; that is so radical, it cannot gain power except through voter fraud -- that kind of Democratic Party is soon to pass from history.
It will not be missed.
October 17, 2007
Is AG Designate Mukasey Already Kowtowing to Pat Leahy?
Ever since the drumbeat to "fire Gonzales" shifted from Democrats and RINOs (about whose opinion on the subject, who cares?) to conservative Republicans upset that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales opposed the mass deportation of illegal aliens, I have warned that if Gonzales went, it would be virtually impossible to find someone that most Republicans would consider "better."
It would be trivially easy to find someone we would consider worse... and I'm starting to worry that that's exactly what President Bush, abandoned on the issue by Republicans as well as Democrats, has done: replaced King Log with King Stork:
Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey said Wednesday the president doesn't have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects, a stance not taken by predecessor Alberto Gonzales and considered key to the nominee's confirmation.... [But how is "torture" defined -- the Bush/Gonzales way, or the Leahy/Schumer way?]
Within minutes of convening the hearings, Leahy elicited specific assurances from the nominee that had been sought by liberal interest groups and senators who had endured months of Gonzales' faulty memory during congressional hearings and highly parsed statements.
Under questioning by Leahy, Mukasey promised to bar all but the top Justice employees from taking calls or making calls "to political figures to talk about cases," a problem under Gonzales. [A "problem" to Democrats and RINOs like Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%); I don't recall conservatives complaining.]
"Partisan politics plays no part in either the bringing of charges or the timing of charges," Mukasey said....
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from Mukasey's home state of New York, said he already had heard the answer he wanted in a private meeting with Mukasey a day earlier. Schumer said he asked the nominee, "Will you have the courage to look squarely into the eyes of the president of the United States and tell him 'no,' if that is your best legal and ethical judgment?"
Mukasey, Schumer said, replied: "Absolutely. That is what I am there for." [The Attorney General is "there" to tell the president he can't implement policy that Democrats don't like -- not to prosecute the laws of the United States?]
The White House has seldom, if ever, placated prickly Democrats into the kind of support they are exhibiting for Mukasey. But in the troubled twilight of Bush's second term, Mukasey's nomination is a political peace offering. [Was that what conservatives were hoping for when they demanded Gonzales' ouster... that his replacement would be a "peace offering" to Democrats?]
Did Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 95%) also elicit a definition of prohibited torture from Mukasey that includes waterboarding, stress positions, a raised voice, the attention grab, or that crime against humanity, the belly slap?
Did they gain a promise from Mukasey to resign only if his personal ethical standards were offended by the president -- or also if Leahy's ethical standards were offended?
And does another promise Mukasey made to the Democrats mean that local congressmen and senators cannot even call U.S. attorneys to inquire whether there is an investigation about some local issue, and whether it's progressing or stymied? That hardly seems like undue interference by politicians in legal issues. And while we're on it, did Mukasey also pledge not to dismiss any USAs -- unless Democrats on the Senate J-Com approve the firings in advance?
We don't know the answers to any of these vital questions. But the New York Times adds one more "interesting" policy that Mukasey definitely pledged to Democrats and RINOs on the J-Com that he would implement:
Moreover, the nominee said, “Hiring is going to be based solely on competence and ability and dedication and not based on whether somebody’s got an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to their name.”
I notice he excluded basing hiring on the willingness of candidates to follow the president's legal priorities and agendas, rather than ride off on their own quests. Does this mean Mukasey has pledged to hire as a US Attorney or Assistant Attorney General the next competent, legally astute, and dedicated Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer who comes along?
But besides mere competence, ability, and dedication, ideology and the willingness to be the president's voice, not a wild card with a wild hair, must play a role in selecting top officials at the Justice Department, as well as United States Attorneys.
What if a candidate has all the proper attributes on paper, but he makes it clear that he thinks the most urgent issue to pursue, to the exclusion of virtually everything else, is the unsupported accusation of massive suppression of minority voting by the wicked Republicans -- rather than well-founded allegations of voter fraud by Democrats? What if he announces, in the interview, that he plans to launch an immediate investigation of the "vital unanswered question" of what the president knew about 9/11, and how long before the attack did he know it? Or if a nominee for USA of some border-state declares that the most important task of his office will be to assist state and local law enforcement authorities track down and prosecute policemen who cooperate with federal immigration agents, in defiance of local "non-compliance" and "sanctuary" laws?
On its face, this pledge would seem to directly contradict the very idea of the unitary executive -- supported by conservatives and originalists, but hated and despised by the Left (at least when a Republican is in the White House): the theory that the elements of the Executive branch of government are extensions of the president... not completely independent agents whose real job is to confront and thwart the president at every turn.
For example, the Secretary of State does not set her own foreign policy; she implements the foreign policy of the president. But does the incoming Attorney General believe he and his hirees set legal policy, and to hell with the president?
Maybe I'm just paranoid; but when both the Times and AP simultaneously write entire stories gushing over how many concessions the Attorney-General designate has already made to Democratic senators on the opening day of his confirmation hearing, I don't feel easy or comfortable that we've made a good swap.
On the other hand, maybe Mukasey is just saying whatever it takes to get confirmed, and he doesn't really mean it... in which case, he's a liar. As Sancho Panza says in Man of La Mancha, "Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it's going to be bad for the pitcher."
So I would appreciate it if conservatives could please tell me why it was such a wonderful, productive idea to force Alberto Gonzales out -- if his replacement sees his primary role as saying "No" to the president whenever Pat Leahy frowns.
August 1, 2007
Gonzales, Intelligence, and Perjury: the Penultimate Word
Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales received his best testimonial yet from the pen (all right, word processor program) of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell (all right, from some flunky who actually does the typing).
Our previous reporting on this issue can be spelunked here:
As the post is fairly long -- but absolutely fascinating, riveting! -- I'm tucking the rest into the "slither on;" I urge you to read it; I can personally vouch that the author is brilliant when sober.
McConnell sent a letter to Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), ranking Republican on Chairman Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Senate Committee on the Judiciary, trying to explain to Specter -- as if to a retarded seventh grader -- why Gonzales, in telling the truth, therefore did not lie:
In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."
"This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell said....
McConnell's letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales from allegations by Democrats that he may have committed perjury by telling Congress that no legal objections were raised about the TSP. Gonzales said a legal fight in early 2004 was focused on "other intelligence activities" than those confirmed by Bush, but he never connected those to Bush's executive order.
Gonzales had been asked point blank, during Senate J-Com testimony, whether the argument in the hospital was over the TSP; he therefore, honestly and accurately, said no, it was about a different program... and he then offered to go into secret session to describe exactly what program he and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft discussed.
Chairman Leahy, however, had zero interest in finding out; he was only interested in screaming "perjury!" and demanding a special counsel (all right, manipulating four other Democrats on the committee, plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 90%, into screaming perjury and demanding a special counsel; see links above.)
This seems pretty conclusive. So why "penultimate?" Because I cannot imagine that the Democrats -- and their RINO acolytes, such as Arlen Specter -- will discard the perjury card merely because Gonzales told the truth. I sense another shoe about to drop.
As it happens, I'm not just whistling past the gravy train; revisionism has already started. Now it turns out that even if Gonzales fully and truthfully answered the question, he still "misled Congress" because he did not immediately disclose every classified intelligence program in our arsenal... on national TV:
Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who was among a group of four Democratic senators who called last week for a perjury investigation of Gonzales, said: "The question of whether Attorney General Gonzales perjured himself looms as large now as it did before this letter.
"This letter is no vindication of the attorney general," he said.
Is it just me? Shouldn't the revelation that a statement thought perhaps to be perjury was in fact completely truthful at least make it implausible that it was also perjury?
And what about our esteemed RINO from Pennsylvania? Arlen Specter is witholding comment, as the Democrats have yet to give him a lead:
Specter was noncommittal yesterday on whether McConnell's explanation resolved his questions about the accuracy of Gonzales's previous testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Specter is the ranking Republican. Specter said he was waiting for a separate letter from the attorney general to provide additional clarification.
"If he doesn't have a plausible explanation, then he hasn't leveled with the committee," Specter said on CNN. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that "the department will continue to work with Senator Specter to address his concerns" but declined to comment further.
Pssst... Sen. Specter: Perhaps Gonzales' "plausible explanation" for why he said that there was no dissent on the TSP, that it was on a different intelligence program instead, is that there was no dissent on the TSP... it was on a different intelligence program instead. You think?
Finally, the Washington Post indulges in one of liberalism's favorite ploys; they quote an allegedly unbiased expert to "analyze" the situation -- which analysis, oddly enough, always seems to point exclusively in one direction:
Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that Gonzales and other administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts.
[Sidebar: Am I the only person who has no recollection of Gonzales or President Bush ever claiming that the TSP was the only surveillance program we had? I would certainly hope we have many more than one -- and in fact, many more than are known by the editors at the elite media.]
"They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"
The "Center for National Security Studies" is a bitter, relentless partisan in the conflict between Congress and the White House over who should run this war (and previous wars, even back to the Clinton administration): From their website, it appears they invariably take the side of Congress in trying to extract information, no matter how heavily classified, from the Executive. Too, Kate Martin is a professor at ultra-liberal Georgetown University.
So we are shocked, shocked to discover that she is 100% on the side of Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) in demanding that Albert Gonzales brief all members of both houses of Congress on every last intelligence surveillance program under the NSA, CIA, or any other intelligence agency.
Martin and her fellow Democrats demand that Leahy, et al, of the Senate Judiciary Committee be briefed -- including the fifteen J-Com members who are not members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... and there is a reason it's called "select;" J-Com Chairman Leahy in particular was expelled from the Intelligence Committee... for leaking classified information (hence his nickname).
I guess Kate Martin has never heard the words "need to know."
And the Democratic House is now competing with the Democratic Senate to see who can make the most outrageous demand. On Monday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 100%) -- who had evidently read the New York Times and Washington Post articles revealing that the Gonzales-Ashcroft main event really was about a different program than the TSP -- fired off an angry letter to Attorney General Gonzales insisting that Gonzales spill the beans about every intelligence program we have... to John Conyers, who is not a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and never has been:
We have two potential concerns with the disclosure. First, at a time when the Administration is seeking to make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is imperative that all members of the House Judiciary Committee be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs, and any related programs....
We now request copies of all opinions, memoranda, and background materials, as well as any dissenting views, materials, and opinions regarding the same, concerning the database program disclosed by the media yesterday.
Yow. Why doesn't the White House just burn a few hundred CDs containing the complete NSA and CIA databases and pass them out to all 535 members of Congress?
(All right, 540 -- counting D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegates to the territories of American Samoa, Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, and the United States Virgin Islands, Donna M. Christian-Christensen, and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño.)
And all their aides, of course; mustn't forget the congressional aides, including those who are still teenagers. After all, if you can't trust a teenaged girl with a deep and vital intelligence secret, well who can you trust?
The ultimate word of the Penultimate Word is this: Democrats in Congress will not rest until we have no secrets, none whatsoever; everything we know, every program we undertake to develop actionable intelligence against past, current, and future terrorist threats, should be instantly and unreservedly shared with thousands of senators, representatives, delegates, aides -- and anyone else that anyone else might choose to enlighten.
The insanity (and inanity) of this position is manifest and requires no explanation. But the implication is chilling. This demand isn't just surrendering in Iraq; the Democratic Party's overt position has now become one of utter American defeat in the broader war against global hirabah ("unholy war"). Because if we were to reveal all that we were doing to collect intelligence... well, then we might as well not bother doing it, because none of it would work anymore.
Leahy is not an idiot, and neither is Schumer nor Conyers. They know the logical consequences of what they demand. So why do they demand it?
Straightforward question, simple answer: They believe "Nixoning" Bush, accusing him of a coverup, will help their political fortunes in 2008.
What I cannot answer is whether the motivation is core hatred of America as it currently exists... or depraved indifference to what, if we lost this war, America might become.
March 29, 2007
Still the Fever
So the fever continues to rage; the entire Left (and elements of the Right) continue to demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resign for... well, for some nameless offense to be filled in later.
"Let the jury consider their verdict," the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first--verdict afterwards."
Despite the scary lede in the AP story (and in the New York Times, as well), there is actually nothing new in Kyle Sampson's testimony about Gonzales' involvement in discussions about firing eight U.S. Attorneys who flagrantly ignored the administration's prosecutorial priorities:
Contrary to his public statements, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was deeply involved in the firing of eight federal prosecutors, his former top aide said Thursday, adding that the final decision on who was to be dismissed was made by Gonzales and President Bush's former counsel.
"I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate," Kyle Sampson, who quit this month as Gonzales' chief of staff, told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign."
Get it? Sampson says Gonzales discussed the process, not the specifics of who would go and who would stay. The state of play is unchanged from our earlier post last Saturday, What the Meaning of "Fizz" Is. We wrote then:
Any ordinary person, when asked if he was involved in discussions about firing the attorneys, would understand the question to mean, "Did you participate in discussions about which attorneys -- if any -- to fire?" And he would honestly say "No, I did not."
Nobody but a Democrat in full cry, anxious to find something, anything, to justify more scandalmongering, would imagine that the original question would also include any ancillary discussions about the best way to break the news to the press!
And we're sticking by it... no matter how gravely Blake Dvorak over on Real Clear Politics shakes his hoary locks... more in sorrow than in anger, you understand.
We agree with Paul Mirengoff: So far, there is no "there" there, no evidence of any lying to or misleading Congress, the American people, or anybody else. Here is the sequence of events, best as I can suss it out:
- Around the time of the 2004 election and for some time afterwards, President Bush, Alberto Gonzales, and others receive complaints about some U.S. Attorneys: They've got a different set of prosecutorial priorities than does the administration; they're bad managers; they're unresponsive.
- Bush tells Gonzales to do something about it. Such appointments aren't eternal; some people should go, others should stay.
- Gonzales considers this a completely non-controversial issue (as it was and always had been), so he dumps it in the lap of his assisstant, Kyle Sampson.
- Sampson proposes firing them all, but Gonzales rejects that idea. It's positively Clintonian.
- Sampson has some discussions with Gonzales about what process to use to figure out who to sack, how to select replacements, how to go about getting the new attorneys confirmed (or whether to use the USA Patriot Act to bypass Senate confirmation), and finally how to announce the sackings.
- Sampson and others in the Justice Department hold discussions, meetings, send e-mails back and forth, talk on the phone, pore over records, all about which attorneys stay and which are asked to leave. There is at this time no evidence that Gonzales was any part of this process.
- The Justice Department group draws up a final list of people they want to replace. The list is sent to the AG.
- Gonzales signs off on the final list and gets the president's approval. He is still unaware that, notwithstanding all the other times U.S. Attorneys have been fired for similar reasons -- and notwithstanding President Bill Clinton's firing of all 93 U.S. Attorneys when he first took office in 1993 (one, Michael Chertoff, slopped over to 1994) -- this time, it will be played by the press as a horrific and unprecedented abuse of power.
- Democrats get hold of the list and gin up a fake controversy by falsely alleging that U.S. Attorneys were fired to stop prosecutions of Republicans. There is no evidence of this, but the Democratic Party's media wing promotes it as inarguable.
- Gonzales is asked whether he participated in discussions about the fired attorneys. He evidently interprets the question as asking whether he participated in the discussions about which attorneys, in particular, to fire; he says no, he left that to Sampson.
- Gonzales subsequently pours gasoline on the fire; when he is assailed in the press by nasty sound-bites from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, Gonzales apologizes, clarifies, offers to testify, and showing other signs of weakness. Democrats scent blood in the water.
Democrats threaten to subpoena top presidential advisors, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, for political show trials -- which would likely violate the constitutional separation of powers doctrine. Nevertheless, Sen. Pat "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 95%) obtains the authority to issue those subpoenas... on a party-line vote in the J-Com. But he seems to have quietly dropped the idea of issuing them.
(Was it all a bluff, just blustering to make Leahy look stronger than he really is? We'll know after a couple more weeks, I think.)
- Democrats release documents showing that Gonzales participated in some process meetings; the elite media takes the cue, running the story as if this "contradicts" Gonzales' earlier statement.
- Numerous members of Congress -- mostly Democrats but a few rancid Republicans, such as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%) -- accuse Gonzales of "lying" and "misleading" Congress when he said he wasn't involved in the attorney-firing discussions. Again, Democrats cast disagreement about the scope of the question as a federal felony, hoping to send the Attorney General of the United States to prison over political differences.
- (Not so) shockingly, several conservative commentators and bloggers ("I name no names..."), who never liked Gonzales in the first place, seize upon these accusations to join with Democrats in calling for Gonzales' ouster... hoping, evidently, to ensure he won't be named to the Supreme Court.
- Kyle Sampson voluntarily testifies before the J-Com, saying pretty much all of the above. The Democrats leap upon the table and perform the Grand Triumphal March from Aida, acting as if this proves everything they had alleged. (Academy awards are seriously being considered.)
The same conservatives noted above previously demanded and received Harriet Miers' withdrawal as Supreme Court nominee and Don Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense.
Many of them currently also demand the resignation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, Michael Chertoff as Secretary of Homeland Security and the dismantling of that department. And they have complained bitterly about Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA Director, John Negroponte as the first Director of National Intelligence, and Mike McConnell as current Director of National Security. (I'm not sure what they do during the brief moments when they're not attacking the Bush administration.)
To some, this event-line provokes a non-stop threnody of the horrific "incompetence" and "dishonesty" of Alberto Gonzales. To me, it provokes nothing but annoyance that the traditional reactions and responses of bureaucrats must always be cast as demanding humiliation, dismissal, and incarceration for everyone even remotely connected... but only when the bureaucrats in question are Republicans.
Oh dear, have I discovered another Democratic double-standard... complete with conservatives eager to accept, in order it to trash their hated neocon rivals? Never mind!
Here, feast on this delicious irony instead. From the AP article linked above:
Democrats rejected the concept of mixing politics with federal law enforcement. They accused the Bush administration of cronyism and trying to circumvent the Senate confirmation process by installing favored GOP allies in plum jobs as U.S. attorneys.
"We have a situation that's highly improper. It corrodes the public's trust in our system of Justice," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. "It's wrong."
Yeah. And Webb Hubbell was appointed Associate Attorney General in 1993 solely because of his stellar record of legal achievement... and not at all because he was Hillary Clinton's partner at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas. And of course, those 93 U.S. Attorneys that Clinton fired (that would be all of them) were fired strictly for job-performance issues: Each and every one of them was a lousy lawyer. No politics there!
March 24, 2007
What the Meaning of "Fizz" Is
Now that's a scandal!
I don't mean the firing of eight United States Attorneys who had agendas and priorities that differed from the president's; I mean the scandalous abuse of the English language by Senate Democrats, aided and abetted by their unindicted co-conspirators in the elite media. See if you can follow this:
Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys.
On Friday night, however, the Justice Department revealed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.
Ooh! Sounds bad, eh? Let's get a few more details...
At that meeting, the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.
There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week....
The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.
(AP fails to inform us what the fifth step was; sacrificing some liberal toddler on the Cthulhu altar in the bowels of Karl Rove's office, no doubt.)
[Justice spokeswoman Tasia] Scolinos said it was not immediately clear whether Gonzales gave his final approval to begin the firings at that meeting. Scolinos also said Gonzales was not involved in the process of selecting which prosecutors would be asked to resign.
On March 13, in explaining the firings, Gonzales told reporters he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.
So let's parse this:
- Gonzales says that he was not involved in "any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys." He was not involved in selecting which USAs would be let go.
- Kyle Sampson was in charge of the actual selection process.
- Gonzales may or may not have signed the final document.
- But now we find out that he was, in fact, a party to discussions about how to go about revealing to the world that they had been fired.
And the Democrat's response at this "contradiction?"
Nonetheless Democrats pounced late Friday.
"Clearly the attorney general was not telling the whole truth, but what is he trying to hide?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings.
Added House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers:
"This puts the attorney general front and center in these matters, contrary to information that had previously been provided to the public and Congress."
Mindful of the language restrictions on this blog, I will constrain myself to acronyms: GMAFB.
Any ordinary person, when asked if he was involved in discussions about firing the attorneys, would understand the question to mean, "Did you participate in discussions about which attorneys -- if any -- to fire?" And he would honestly say "No, I did not."
Nobody but a Democrat in full cry, anxious to find something, anything, to justify more scandalmongering, would imagine that the original question would also include any ancillary discussions about the best way to break the news to the press!
Here is the analogy:
You order your subordinate Chris to go out and buy some new computers for your department; it's up to Chris how many and what kind, and who gets which computer.
Later, Chris has a meeting with you and a couple of guys from CIS, and you have a lively discussion about setting up whatever computers Chris decides to buy. The big question: Should you pay extra to have the CIS technicians set them up over the weekend, or should you have them set up during weekdays, potentially disrupting people's work. You do not discuss what Chris plans to buy.
Later, someone asks you, "Were you involved in any discussions about purchasing those eighteen Sun micros that Chris ultimately decided on?" And you say, "No, I was not involved in any such discussions. I left it entirely up to Chris."
Then the VP of your corporate rival finds out about the meeting to discuss whether they would be installed on the weekend or weekdays... and he calls a press conference to denounce you as a notorious liar and demands you be ousted from your company.
This isn't even as solid as clutching at straws; the Democrats are clutching at strands of gossamer.
To fire him over this utter rot would be almost as bad -- as if the Brits were to agree to vote against sanctions on Iran in exchange for the release of their Royal Marines. Heaven forfend that either should come to pass.
February 20, 2007
D.C. Circus to Detainees: Drop Dead
Perhaps the most important ruling of the Bush era (Boumediene v. Bush) was just released today: the D.C. Circus has ruled, by a 2-1 majority, that unlawful enemy combatants detained by the military do not have the right to appeal to the civilian courts to be released:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding the prisoners - a decision that will strip court access for hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending.
"The arguments are creative but not cogent. To accept them would be to defy the will of Congress," wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph in the 25-page opinion, which was joined by Judge David B. Sentelle. Both are Republican appointees to the federal bench.
Judge Arthur Raymond Randolph was appointed by the first President Bush in 1990; Judge David Sentelle was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985. The third member of the panel (who dissented with the ruling) was Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, was appointed by President Clinton in 1993.
The New York Times adds a few interesting fillips:
The court’s majority, citing Supreme Court and other precedent, held that the right of habeas corpus does not extend to foreign citizens detained outside the United States -- the prisoners covered by the new law. A lower court in December followed the same logic to the same conclusion in a related case, involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, whose earlier appeal to the Supreme Court had led to the overturning of the previous Congressional attempts to limit the prisoners’ avenues to the federal courts.
The decision today, Lakhdar Boumediene v. George W. Bush, involved a consolidation of the cases of 63 detainees, all from foreign countries, who had sought review in two separate federal district courts in Washington. One federal district judge had ruled in 2005 that she had the authority to consider the cases, while another judge ruled that he did not, and granted the administration’s motion to dismiss the cases.
In the earlier case referenced above, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Salim Hamdan petititoned for a writ of habeas corpus (seeking release) last December to D.C. District Court Judge James Robertson; but under the new Military Commission Act, he denied the petition.
Robertson, appointed by Clinton in 1994, had granted Hamdan's first habeas corpus petition in 2004. The decision was overturned by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit (which included then-Judge John Roberts) in 2005; but the Supreme Court overturned the D.C. Circuit.
Today's ruling in Boumediene v. Bush is only a way-station en route to the Supreme Court, where it will all come down to a single justice: Anthony Kennedy, who, in the Hamdan case (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S.Ct. 2749, 2006), voted with the liberal justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter to strike down the earlier version of President Bush's military commissions, overturning the Roberts (not Robertson) decision of the D.C. Circuit.
(Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from Hamdan, because he had ruled in the appellate court case before being nominated to the Court; thus, Hamdan was decided by 5-3 instead of 5-4.)
Justice Kennedy joined Justice Stevens' opinion only in part: he agreed that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction, and he agreed that the military commissions lacked constitutionality -- primarily because they were set up entirely by the executive branch of government. Kennedy left the door hanging wide for pretty much the same commissions (with some cosmetic changes) if they were enacted by Congress... which they were last October, as perhaps the last major legislation of the 109th Congress.
Thus, it's reasonable to hope that Kennedy may well uphold Boumediene, now that Congress has spoken. His main concurrance with Stevens was that, since the commissions were not formed by Congress and also differed from the military's procedure in the case of courts-martial, they were not "regularly constituted courts," as required by the Third Geneva Convention, Article 3, section (d), which prohibits --
-- the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
But even here, Kennedy dissented in part with the latter's extended exegesis on the Geneva Conventions, disagreeing with Justice Stevens whether those "indispensible" "judicial guarantees" gave a detainee the right to see all the evidence against him -- including highly classified information that would reveal intelligence methods and assets. Stevens and the other three liberal justices appear to want detainees to have all the same protections that would apply to an American gang-banger accused of carjacking or pickpocketing.
The dissent by Judge Rogers argues that the military commissions are unconstitutional because they restrict habeas corpus petitions and because they might include evidence derived from what she calls "torture." From the Times article:
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Judith W. Rogers said that the Military Commission Act had violated the constitutional provision that restricts the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. She reasoned that the suspension clause limits Congressional powers, rather than conferring a right on the accused.
“Prior to the enactment of the Military Commissions Act, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the detainees held at Guantánamo had a statutory right to habeas corpus,” Judge Rogers wrote. “The MCA purports to withdraw that right but does so in a manner that offends the constitutional constraint on suspension.”
But the constitutional clause in question, Article I section 9, obviously can only apply to persons under the jurisdiction of the Constitution. Lakhdar Boumediene is not a citizen or resident of the United States, was captured abroad, and has never been held on U.S. soil. The only nexus to America is that he is guarded by U.S. forces.
He clearly is not subject to the protections of the United States Constitution... unless Rogers would also argue that U.S. civilian courts have jurisdiction over Iraqi prisoners held by an Iraqi Army unit that happens to include a couple of embedded U.S. Marines.
"District courts are well able to adjust these proceedings in light of the government's significant interests in guarding national security," wrote Rogers, a Clinton appointee. "More significant still, continued detention may be justified by a CSRT on the basis of evidence resulting from torture."
Despite Rogers' dissent, this ruling is an excellent step towards restoring judicial sanity to the wartime powers of the president. Clearly, we have always in the past believed that enemy combatants can be detained indefinitely ("for the duration of hostilities"); there is no reason why the civilian courts, which have never been involved in such decisions, should suddenly have jurisdiction over POWs, whether lawful combatants -- enemy soldiers -- or unlawful combatants, non-military, ununiformed spies, saboteurs, and terrorists.
Let's hope that Justice Kennedy is now satisfied that the military tribunals are "regularly constituted," and we can get on with the job of fighting the war against global jihadism.
November 21, 2006
Ban it, Janet!
Oh ho! Janet Reno -- you remember her? -- has gone to court, leading a bunch of lesser legal accolytes to make it look like a movement, to overturn the anti-terrorism Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA).
The MCA was passed by Congress at the end of September 2006; it created the military commissions... you recall, the law responding to the Hamdan decision by the Supreme Court. It passed in the House by 253 to 168 (with 34 Democrats supporting it), and in the Senate by 65 to 34 with 12 Democrats supporting. (In the House, 7 Republicans voted against the bill; in the Senate, the only Republican to vote against it was -- wait for it -- Lincoln Chafee. (Aren't you sad that he's gone?)
Anyway, Stretch Reno really, really dislikes the MCA, and she wants it gone. She and her seven new best pals insist that terrorists can easily be tried in the ordinary criminal-justice system, alongside carjackers and welfare defrauders:
"The existing criminal justice system is more than up to the task of prosecuting and bringing to justice those who plan or attempt terrorist acts within the United States -- without sacrificing any of the rights and protections that have been the hallmarks of the American legal system for more than 200 years," the attorneys wrote.
They are of course correct that terrorist suspects can easily be tried by the CJS; what they can't be is convicted, which is fine by Reno and the Seven Consiglieri.
The problem with the CJS is discovery, of course: any smart lawyer (probably supplied by al-Qaeda) will demand all sorts of highly classified documents, claiming they are all vital and essential to his client's defense. Since there is no way that the federal administration can release such mission-critical information to terrorists and their terrorist shysters (think Lynne Stewart), they will refuse... and that will immediately trigger many federal judges to dismiss all charges and order the terrorist freed. Simplicity itself!
Thus, if Janet Reno, the last Democratic Attorney General, has her way, the carefully crafted work of Congress over the past year plus will be thrown out the window; instead, terrorist suspect will be tried by ordinary civilian courts in a "catch and release" program that will take our breath away. Perhaps quite literally.
So the real question before the house is... will the incoming Democratic majority in Congress support this lawsuit filed by their top cop? Will they agree that terrorist suspect should only be tried by civilian courts, where the terrorists' rights can be fully protected (and to hell with the rest of us)?
Or will they diss Hillary Clinton's closest ally and confidant among President Clinton's cabinet and argue for some form of military commissions... even if they don't particularly like the law that was actually enacted?
Or the most likely, in my opinion: will Democrats duck this issue, focusing instead on such urgent national business as raising the minimum wage and getting Alcee Hastings situated as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence?
No predictions today -- "only time will tell!"
October 7, 2006
Stephen Jones: Threat Or Menace?
The Big Lizards Let the Cat Out of the Barn Award for this week goes to attorney Stephen Jones, of Jones, Otjen [Otjen?], Davis, Nixon [!], and Juhl in Enid, Oklahoma, who sent a nasty lawyer letter to some blogger named William "Wild Bill" Kerr, who runs Passionate America.
Evidently, Passionate America was the blog that broke the story that ABC accidentally identified one of the pages in the Mark Foley scandal as one Jordan Edmund. Edmund lawyered up, and now Stephen "Wild Steve" Jones is threatening Wild Bill with a gazillion-dollar lawsuit if'n he doesn't pull his post identifying Mr. Edmund.
I just Googled on "jordan.edmund foley"; the search returned better than 40,000 hits.
Now, I'm sure some of those are overlaps: some website mentions Jordan Edmund in two different posts, it pops up twice on Google. So let's cut it by four: let's say 10,000 distinct sites that mention Jordan Edmund in the context of the Mark Foley scandal. Including the Washington Post, the Washington Times, CNN, and more news sites than you can shake a leg at, if that's your idea of good time.
10,000. Maybe more. Some of them with even deeper pockets than Stephen "Barn Door Locker" Jones.
Counselor Jones, have you considered investing in a bulk mail permit?
Hat tip to Patterico, masquerading as one of his more obvious sock puppets, Justin Levine. (No, really, has anybody ever seen them together? And if you have, for God's sake, don't tell Patterica!)
September 21, 2006
It's hard to think of a sillier lawsuit than this one, filed by California's Democratic Attorney General (and candidate for treasurer in November) Bill Lockyer, with the undoubted connivance of Republican Governor and globaloney-lover Arnold Schwarzenegger:
California sued six of the world's largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.
The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles' emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.
In fact, it's not even a real lawsuit. It's a front. Its purpose is to force car makers to obey equally silly emissions rules, promulgated by California, to try to cram the Kyoto Protocol down everyone's throats -- and not just in California:
California has also targeted the auto industry with first-in-the-nation rules adopted in 2004 requiring carmakers to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks.
Automakers, however, have so far blocked those rules with their own legal action -- prompting one analyst to say California's lawsuit represents a way for California to pressure car manufacturers to accept the rules.
"That's the objective," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organization that provides public research and forecasts about the industry. "They want to get the automakers basically to bow down and pay homage to the (emissions) law."
Since auto manufacturers are not going to make a completely separate line of cars for California than the rest of the nation, if the state wins this lawsuit, it means diesel econoboxes for everyone!
The absurdities of the lawsuit are manifold:
- The auto manufacturers are being sued for obeying the law and all EPA regulations; if this becomes the norm, then nobody is safe from the most insane among us, no matter what he does. The public-policy implications are staggering.
- Scientists are in disarray over the unanswered questions of "global climate change" theory, including how much (if any) is caused by human activity and whether it's on the whole bad or good for people: will the lawsuit explore whether increased CO2 yields larger, tastier, faster growing, and more pest-resistant crops?
- How will damages be calculated? In figuring how much "global warming" has cost the state, will Lockyer deduct how much extra tax revenue the state has gotten from cheaper cars than it would have gotten if cars had been forced all along to include cockamamie, expensive anti-carbon-dioxide systems?
- Will the defense be allowed to call expert witnesses who dispute globaloney theory, or will the judge rule that only scientists who agree with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) be allowed?
- Which temperature figures will the judgment be based upon: the ones promulgated by the IPCC at the beginning of the case, or the revised (downward) estimates issued several years later, at the end of the case?
Finally, if the state wins, it will have succeeded in dramatically raising the cost of gasoline and cars in California, choking off the first glimmerings in the previously doleful California economy, as we recover from one economic catastrophe (Gray Davis), only to stumble into another: Bill Lockyer.
It will be a disaster for the Democrats, as it will be rightly painted as a massive regressive tax on the working poor and middle class, launched by limousine liberals "in a hurry" to fix something -- quick, before we might find out that it doesn't need fixing after all.
It pits the liberal elitists against the unions. It's anti-car, therefore unAmerican and especially unCalifornian. It's Rose Bird-ian legislating from the bench, substituting the bludgeon of the courts for the free choices of democracy.
The case is nonsense cubed. It's "junk science" in its worst form, attempting to legislate the 2006 understanding of climatology for all time, regardless of what may be discovered in 2008, 2020, or 2050.
And here is the kicker:
Lockyer -- a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in the November election -- said the lawsuit states that under federal and state common law the automakers have created a public nuisance by producing "millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide."
What is the normal response to a public nuisance? To ban it, of course: so unless Bill Lockyer calls for the abolition of all cars, he makes himself into the Compleat Hypocrite (not to mention a complete ass). He is actually trying to sue Detroit out of business!
But in the end, the ludicrous lawsuit may have a very beneficial effect. Mull this:
Ford deferred comment to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which said the lawsuit was similar to one a New York court dismissed that is now on appeal.
"Automakers will need time to review this legal complaint, however, a similar nuisance suit that was brought by attorneys- general against utilities was dismissed by a federal court in New York," the industry group said in a statement....
But Sean Hecht, executive director of the Environmental Law Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the lawsuit has a "reasonable" chance of succeeding.
He also noted the judge in the New York lawsuit cited rarely-used legal doctrine in ruling that the question at issue was political rather than legal and should therefore be addressed by the legislature and not the court.
I think it very likely this "rarely-used legal doctrine" will prevail -- if not in Oakland, where it was filed, then when the 9th Circus Court hears it... and when the Supreme Court decides it. And this oddball legal theory -- that courts mustn't usurp the power rightly left to the legislature -- will suddenly become much more prominent.
Count on it. The reign of the robes draws to a close.
September 9, 2006
Bill Clinton: Pull The Path to 9/11!
So now it's come to this: former President Bill Clinton has formally demanded, through his attorneys, that ABC simply shelve its 5-hour, $40 million docudrama, the Path to 9/11.
Well... maybe; I'm a little suspicious, given that the source for this claim is a blog that was linked on Drudge. None of the elite media is carrying this story, though all of them carried many other stories about the Democrat protest against the flick... and many others have demanded that it be pulled and not aired.
While I have no reason to doubt the accuracy (or veracity) of Greg Sargent, the author, I'm still skeptical about this. Sargent appears to be a sincere liberal who has posted many similar letters on his TPMCafe blog (some of which were straight from his host, Joshua Michah Marshall of Talking Points Memo) as well as other anti-Bush, anti-GOP posts; and this letter would certainly be in keeping with Clinton's personal attack on the movie yesterday.
So it's probably true and accurate; but bear in mind that this letter is not yet well sourced.
But what the heck... let's run with it anyway!
No reason is given to pull the movie other than the lawyers' claim that the movie departs from the partisan Democratic version of recent history. (Oddly, I don't recall them having any particular problem with Erin Brockovich or All the President's Men.)
The idea that a Hollywood movie, even one touted as being a "true story," must be held to rigorous historical standards is flatly comical. The Amityville Horror was promoted as a "true, factual story;" and what about Schindler's List? The real Oskar Schindler gave his Jewish workers guns, telling them that if they were discovered, it would be better to die in combat than be sent back to the death camps. Did we see that in the Steven Spielberg movie?
More recently, we have the movie Munich. Several of the Mossad agents -- who are still alive -- stepped forward to say that the movie was totally wrong in many respects... the most important of which was portraying them as tortured souls who doubted the morality of what they were doing (executing, one by one, the architects of the 1972 massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, committed by Black September -- a front group for the PLO). To a man, they said they never had any such qualms about their mission.
Where were these finicky Democrats back then? I'm straining my brain to the white meat, but I can't think of even one who stepped forward to chastise Spielberg for either of those two a-historical "historical" docudramas.
The question is never whether a movie must be a strictly factual account; that would be a "documentary." By definition, a docudrama makes some stuff up, rewrites events, and combines characters, all for dramatic purposes. The question should be, how close to reality is the movie?
And from everything I've read about the antiterrorism history of the past few decades -- which is probably considerably more than Bill Clinton or his lawyers have read -- the Path to 9/11 is about as close to reality as Hollywood is ever likely to get. Live with it.
I have to wonder: suppose, as a thought experiment, a movie were made that simply blamed everything on President Bush, instead of insisting that Bill "Party Time" Clinton shoulder his much larger fair share for eight years of malign neglect. Suppose a movie were made that falsely claimed that Clinton was a dynamo of antiterrorist fervor, a zealous GWOT warrior who went to bed every night angry at the terrorists and woke up even angrier.
Suppose this movie also portrayed Bush as a dunce, controlled by vast, shadowy puppeteers -- multinational corporations (Halliburton, the oil barons, Coors), the neocons (but only the Jewish ones), and the military industrial complex. Suppose the movie portrayed Bush as callous and uncaring, eager to send young Americans to die just to line his own pockets. Suppose it even hinted darkly that Bush was somehow complicit in, or at least had foreknowledge of the pending 9/11 attack, but let it go forward anyway because it furthered the Blofeldian schemes of this feeble-minded evil genius.
If such a version of the attacks were presented in movie form, would these Democratic voices, so solicitous today of the "historical record" and the 9/11 Commission report, be as quick to leap forward, insist upon changes, and finally demand that the movie be yanked from distribution and never shown?
Somehow, in this purely hypothetical example, I doubt it. I suspect instead that they would honor and fête the filmmaker, call him one of the most important political voices of the twenty-first century, and maybe even give him a box seat at the next Democratic National Convention.
Sitting right next to Jimmy Carter, perhaps. You think?
June 28, 2006
Spare This Man Or We'll Shoot This Country
Former American Ramsey Clark, now one of Saddam Hussein's defense lawyers, threatened more murder, mayhem, and anarchy in the streets unless his client is spared the death penalty:
Executing Saddam Hussein would fuel more sectarian violence in Iraq, a U.S. lawyer for the deposed Iraqi leader said on Tuesday.
"That execution would inflame a country that's already incinerating," former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said. "I hope the American people can realize that if there is ever a time to call for an end to executions, it is in this case."
"It'd sure be a shame if something were to, you know, happen to ya... capice?"
Well, now that Ramsey Clark's courtroom antics include blatant extortion -- publicly signalling the Fedayeen Saddam that a massive show of violence might spare the Dear Leader's life -- what is the next level of basement he can fall into? Will he smuggle an IED into the courthouse and hold everyone hostage unless his client is released? Or will he merely tamper with the evidence, as his colleague Leslie Abramson did in the Menendez Brothers trial?
How many defense lawyers suffer from some variant of Stockholm Syndrome, getting so involved in defending their clients -- guilty or innocent -- that they actually become accessories after the fact themselves?
At the end of this trial, I would dearly love to see Counselor Clark arrested... by the Iraqis. After all, we try the consigliere of the Mafia family right alongside the Don; why should the Iraqis let slip this golden ticket to do the world such a favor?
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