While Jeff was sleeping
If Jeff Goldstein was in a coma between the years 1992 to 2000, well, I humbly apologize in advance (although it would explain a great deal about him).
Of course, part of the importance of the Libby indictment was that it added a shell of substance to the Democratic mantra that Republicans are suffering under a â€œculture of corruptionâ€â€”an ironic statement coming from just about any politician, regardless of party affiliation. And the Democrats continue the ploy: the charge is the thing. Because thatâ€™s what the American public will remember, Democratic leaders realize, especially given that the sensationalism and scandal attendant to the charges are the major media are likely to give an abundance of their coverage to. A case petered out months later? Yawn. Youâ€™re not likely to see Nancy Pelosi giving a press conference on those occasions.
Sadly, I suspect the Republicans, when they find themselves out of power, are likely to respond in kind. Which is why the concept of a loyal opposition is, like a handshake after a first date, is becoming almost quaint.
The Republicans being rank amateurs at the politics of personal destruction. Just ask Mike Espy:
Former agriculture secretary Mike Espy, forced out of office in 1994 by allegations that he improperly took gifts from businesses and lobbyists, was acquitted yesterday of 30 corruption charges brought against him by an independent counsel whom Espy likened to a “schoolyard bully.”
Espy pumped his fist in jubilation as the jury forewoman announced the verdicts in U.S. District Court. Thirty times she looked at the verdict form and declared “not guilty” as independent counsel Donald C. Smaltz and his team of lawyers sat in silence at the prosecution table.
Moments later, outside the courthouse, Espy called the acquittal a long-sought vindication. He declared it a repudiation of Smaltz, who spent more than four years and $17 million on a wide-ranging investigation, and said his case illustrated flaws in the independent counsel law that should be reformed.
“He’s not unlike any other schoolyard bully,” Espy said of Smaltz, one of seven independent counsels appointed to investigate the conduct of officials in the Clinton administration, and the first to bring one to trial. “You have to stand up to him. You have to let him know you’re not going to back down, and sooner or later it’s going to be okay.”
Once viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party, Espy took office in January 1993 as President Clinton’s first agriculture secretary. He made history as the first African American to hold the spot. He also was the first USDA secretary from the Deep South and the youngest on the job — 39 when he started, after three terms as a Mississippi congressman.
After months of media scrutiny, Espy announced his resignation in October 1994 under pressure from the White House. The move came within weeks after Smaltz was appointed to investigate his acceptance of gifts from companies and lobbyists who fell under USDA regulations.
Although Espy left office in December 1994 and returned to Mississippi, Smaltz kept up the probe, winning Espy’s indictment last year.
The jury acquitted Espy, 45, of illegally taking tickets to sporting events and other benefits from Tyson Foods Inc., the Arkansas-based poultry giant; Sun-Diamond Growers of California, a large fruit and nut cooperative; Oglethorpe Power Corp. of Georgia; Smith Barney Inc., the international banking and securities firm; EOP Group Inc., a political and business consulting firm in Washington; and Quaker Oats Co. of Chicago. Jurors also acquitted him of charges that he lied to investigators and on financial disclosure forms.
Although Smaltz showed Espy received the gifts, he failed to demonstrate that Espy did anything in return for them. The law permits officials to receive gifts out of friendship or a desire to establish warm feelings, so long as the items are not “for or because of official acts.”
Defense lawyers said many of the items came from longtime friends and others were given as harmless acts of hospitality. Day after day, Smaltz’s own witnesses described Espy as a good leader who made all decisions on their merits.
Defense lawyers Reid H. Weingarten and Ted Wells chose not to present a defense after Smaltz rested his case, contending that prosecutors had not inflicted any damage.
Since this has probably never come up in any of Jeff’s conversations with the snackfoods with which he converses daily, I’m sure he will find this a surprising precedent. To avoid any other omissions of history, may I introduce my good friends Joe Conason and Gene Lyons: