Thursday, March 22, 2007

Like the third-world where the rule of law is unknown

Josh Marshall focuses our attention on BushCo's "direct attack on the rule of law".

Okay, enough. The president fired US Attorneys to stymie investigations of Republicans and punish US Attorneys who didn't harass Democrats with bogus voter fraud prosecutions. In the former instance, the evidence remains circumstantial. But in the latter the evidence is clear, overwhelming and undeniable.

Indeed, it is so undeniable the president himself does not deny it.

The president himself says that in some cases US Attorneys were dismissed because they were too lax in prosecuting election fraud. What he does not say -- but what we know directly from the accounts of the players involved -- is that these were cases in which Republican operatives and activists complained to the White House and Republican members of Congress that certain US Attorneys weren't convening grand juries or issuing indictments against Democrats, even though these were cases where all the available evidence suggests there was no wrongdoing prosecuted. (It's all reminiscent of the bogus voter fraud allegations Republicans got caught peddling in the South Dakota senate race in 2002. Only in this case getting these charges into the press wasn't enough; they wanted to use US Attorneys to actual harrass people or put them in jail.)

We know that Republican members of Congress sought to pressure the prosecutors in question to push these indictments. And we know at least in the case of David Iglesias in New Mexico that Sen. Domenici's (R-NM) complaints after not being able to get Iglesias to knuckle under were directly tied to his dismissal.

Back up a bit from the sparks flying over executive privilege and congressional testimony and you realize that these are textbook cases of the party in power interfering or obstructing the administration of justice for narrowly partisan purposes. It's a direct attack on the rule of law.

This much is already clear in the record. And we're now having a big public debate about the politics for each side if the president tries to obstruct the investigation and keep the truth from coming out. The contours and scope of executive privilege is one issue, and certainly an important one. But in this case it is being used as no more than a shield to keep the full extent of the president's perversion of the rule of law from becoming known.

It's yet another example of how far this White House has gone in normalizing behavior that we've been raised to associate with third-world countries where democracy has never successfully taken root and the rule of law is unknown. At most points in our history the idea that an Attorney General could stay in office after having overseen such an effort would be unthinkable. The most telling part of this episode is that they're not even really denying the wrongdoing. They're ignoring the point or at least pleading 'no contest' and saying it's okay.

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