CommunityFDL Main Blog

Refiner’s Fire


(Photo of an iron bar being heated in a forge fire via StormyDog.)

When you start burning away the dross from the USAtty scandal, you are left with a few very obvious bits and pieces that keep popping up:  Karl Rove's political shop at the White House, "the math," loyalty litmus tests, and an utter disregard for tradition and the rule of law and an ethical and fiduciary obligation to serve the public as a whole over a need to serve a particular ideology without question.  This morning, as I read through a great article that Charlie Savage put together for the Boston Globe (H/T to dakine01 for the link on this), all of this kept popping out at me:

Schlozman is emerging as a focal point of the investigation into the firing of eight US attorneys last year — and as a symbol of broader complaints that the Bush administration has misused its stewardship of law enforcement to give Republicans an electoral edge.

No stranger to election law controversy, Schlozman previously spent three years as a political appointee in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supervised the voting rights section.

There, he came into conflict with veteran staff over his decisions to approve a Texas redistricting plan and a Georgia photo-ID voting law, both of which benefited Republicans. He also hired many new career lawyers with strong conservative credentials, in what critics say was an attempt to reduce enforcement of laws designed to eliminate obstacles to voting by minorities.

"Schlozman was reshaping the Civil Rights Division," said Joe Rich , who was chief of the voting rights section until taking a buyout in 2005, in an interview. "Schlozman didn't know anything about voting law. . . . All he knew is he wanted to be sure that the Republicans were going to win."…

At the time, the Bush administration was starting to take a greater interest in voting laws because of the photo-finish 2000 election. Control of Congress and the White House was turning on a handful of votes in battleground states — and thus on issues such as districting maps and turnout rates among party loyalists.

Republicans claimed that ineligible voters were a major problem and pushed for laws to require photo IDs. Democrats said there was no evidence of widespread fraud and that such requirements suppress turnout among legitimate voters who are poor or disabled, and thus less likely to have driver's licenses….

Schlozman and his team soon came into conflict with veteran voting rights specialists. Career staff committees recommended rejecting a Texas redistricting map in 2003 and a Georgia photo ID voting law in 2005, saying they would dilute minority voting power. In both cases, the career veterans were overruled. But courts later said the map and the ID law were illegal.

Bob Kengle , a former deputy voting rights chief who left in 2005, said Schlozman also pushed the section to divert more resources into lawsuits forcing states to purge questionable voters from their rolls. One such lawsuit was against Missouri, where he later became US attorney. A court threw the Missouri lawsuit out this year.

Schlozman also moved to take control of hiring for the voting rights section, taking advantage of a new policy that gave political appointees more control. Under Schlozman, the profile of the career attorneys hired by the section underwent a dramatic transformation.

Half of the 14 career lawyers hired under Schlozman were members of the conservative Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association, up from none among the eight career hires in the previous two years, according to a review of resumes. The average US News & World Report ranking of the law school attended by new career lawyers plunged from 15 to 65.

During Jim Comey's testimony last week, he was asked about the loyalty-approved hiring practices and how that impacts the DoJ for the short and long term. His answer was both poignant and painful, in that it is impossible to measure either — and in contemplating the seeding of folks whose loyalty is to a conscripted version of conservative ideology rather than to the rule of law and the Constitution? Well, how exactly do we trust anything that comes out of the DoJ for years now in terms of putting party over country?

I cannot even begin to detail how much that hurt to type.

And the fact that this did not even bother these people, that they pushed ahead with this at the DoJ — and every other Administrative agency across the board? Beyond painful. It is one thing to put your own policy and ideology priority stamp on executive agencies and policies. That is not only expected, but appropriate, in terms of prioritizing the actions and activities of the agency during the course of a Presidency.

But to do so by flouting the law, by subverting the legal process of modifying regulations and by simply ignoring every standard of behavior other than the ones that happen to suit your purposes? That could only happen in an environment where there was no oversight — where the Republican rubber stamp Congress allowed George Bush and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and all their tentacles in the various governmental agencies who were enforcing the laws as a means to hold onto power at any cost were never asked any questions about whether or not it was lawful or ethical for them to do so.

I keep going back in my mind to this (Huge H/T to nolo for putting this together.):

Consider, for a moment, that our Department of Justice is being geared not for finding the truth of where the evidence, the facts and the law lead you in any one case, regardless of the political affiliation or loyalty of any of the people involved — investigators, prosecutors, potential defendants, witnesses — but is, instead, being geared toward focusing all of its power toward a political end by whatever means are necessary.  And allow that to sink in for a moment.

And then contemplate how much could be done by focusing all of the power of every administrative agency in that same way — toward a political end rather than a truth and policy end, by whatever means are necessary.

More sunshine please.  In every single nook and cranny.  Because this cannot ever be allowed to stand unchallenged.  Integrity and decency are essential for governmental function, and the folks who work in public service — who truly do try to do their jobs to lift up the least among us or to empower the powerless or to enforce the laws as they are written by our elected officials and as they have been written for so long in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights — they deserve so much better than to be herded around by a bunch of people who see their purpose in life as being solely to zealously guard political and economic power for their side, whatever the cost.

We are better than this craven, twisted, hateful, warped ideology.  And in exposing it to as much sunshine as possible, we are saving our national soul.  Let the sun shine in, and the heat from that exposure burn away whatever dross and cover may be in the way of the truth…as much as is necessary for as long as necessary.  

UPDATEScott Horton at Harper's picks up on LHP's post on Comey yesterday, and pulls out a quote from Aristotle that hits this whole issue squarely:

As Aristotle writes in the Politics: “It is of the intrinsic character of the tyrant that he works to insure that his subjects everywhere are spied upon so that nothing of their dealings is a secret from him;… and he conspires always to set men against their own friends, the common people against the privileged and the wealthy, and so forth. And he will ruin the treasury to pay the military… levying great fiscal burdens upon his people; and finally, constantly does he foment war, to provide the matrix in which his power expands and every challenge of his misdeeds may be called treason.” “But no virtuous man will find success in such a reign.”

Paul Kiel at The Muck has much more on this. (H/T to reader TheraP for the link on this.)

Previous post

Next post

Pennsylvania AFA gasbag calls for a fundie boycott of Philadelphia

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com