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America Under Siege, But It’s Just Politics

gonzales_wideweb__430×291.jpgThe other night on Hardball/Countdown, panelists were discussing the Senate’s 53-38 vote to end debate on the resolution to express no confidence in Alberto Gonzales. Though the cloture vote “failed” because it needed 60 votes, every Democratic Senator present (Obama and Biden were absent) and seven Republicans had just publically indicated that the Attorney General of the United States had so badly served the nation and disgraced the Justice Department that he should be humiliated into resigning — or be fired by the President. All this had become necessary because Gonzales had neither the decency nor honor to resign voluntarily, and because President Bush needed Gonzales in place as a firewall against the White House’s own involvement in subverting the rule of law.

But that’s not the way it was reported. Here was a prominent national reporter, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman — but it could have been any of dozens of Beltway reporters — wisely and seriously explaining that the no confidence vote was “just politics,” just as the Republican leadership, who also hold Gonzales in contempt and wish he would just go away, had framed it. It was “politics” because it was mostly Democrats, and it was “politics” because it was just designed to embarrass the President, and it was “politics” because a no confidence vote would not automatically remove Gonzales, and so Senator Kyl must be right when he said that no confidence votes simply have no place in our form of government.

And I thought, how can a seasoned reporter like Fineman (or any of his like-minded Beltway peers) not see how important these “political” events are? Don’t they see the connection to impeachment? And don’t they understand that the rule of law is under siege on every front, and that Gonzales has become both enabler and perpetrator of that danger?

I wanted to ask Fineman, what exactly is wrong with the Senate expressing no confidence in a member of the President’s cabinet who has so dismally failed the American people and betrayed his office? Why can’t we use this tool, especially when all the checks and balances of a well functioning government that in the past functioned to uphold the rule of law have been so severely damaged by this aggressively lawless regime — and the indifferent and complicit Republican Party — that the normal methods of righting the ship and restoring justice have become unavailable. And part of the reason for this crippling condition is the media’s refusal to take this seriously. It’s “just politics.”

The Justice Department has become so politically compromised that no one can assume its criminal prosecutions are based on facts instead of political motivations and furtherance of one-party rule. The civil rights division has turned into a perpetrator of civil wrong. Career attorneys who were dedicated to protect Americans’ right to vote have been pushed out and replaced by political operatives hell bent on denying likely Democratic voters the ability to even register. Honorable prosecutors have been replaced by White House loyalists and incompetent cronies. Men and women with integrity who would never sanction wholesale lawlessness by the executive or massive invasions of citizens’ privacy or sanction torture have been “retired” to make way for political operatives who justify felonies, illegal surveillance, torture, illegal kidnapping, indefinite detention and the imposition of military law on US residents. These thugs simply don’t care that what they’ve created is a daily embarrassment to the American people. And those are just the outrages we know about. All this happened on Gonzales’ watch at DoJ or his stint as WH counsel; he looked the other way as his White House masters trashed the justice system and disgraced America before the world.

That’s the story, Howard, and you and your colleagues should be reporting it, because this is the most important “political” story to come along in decades. This is not “just politics,” Howard. It’s about the Constitution, the rule of law, about what kind of a country we’re becoming. And “politics” is not a bad word, Howard. Politics is what makes America work, what separates it from dictatorships. It’s how we translate the “consent of the governed” into lawful actions by the government.

Americans want their Justice Department back. We want an Attorney General with integrity and courage to stand up to lawlessness. “No confidence” votes are a legitimate, logical way for elected representatives to express the people’s will in a democracy. And Howard Fineman should know that.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley