(image courtesy of Democracy Lost)
Once again we have a scandal surrounding the current White House and once again we have the right-wing talking heads out there with towing their typical defense of “well Clinton did it”. This time the excuse is being applied to the U.S.A. purge. A lot of Bush apologists are out there using this claim that “Well Clinton got rid of all 93”. That is true, but not valid when talking about the current purge. If they want to use that excuse then they might as well say Bush 41 did it and so did Reagan. When ever an administration takes over they generally fire all U.S.A.s and start fresh. This is a practice that has gone on for a very long time, and a practice that really should be changed. I’ll have more on changing it in a bit, but first I want to discuss why this incident is not the same as Clinton’s firing of all 93.
The entire purge story had the potential of becoming a non-story really quick. Back in January all Gonzales had to do was tell Senate the truth as to why they were replacing the attorneys. Instead he went before Congress and lied by saying these were all performance issues, and not related to any political moves. Well, as recent evidence shows, that was a bold face lie. Congress does not like being lied too; it hinders their power to provide oversight. We have laws against lying during testimony. These laws apply to all three branches of our government. We saw Scooter Libby get convicted on two of these laws – obstruction of justice, which covers the executive branch, and perjury, which covers the judicial branch. There are also crimes of lying to Congress, as Glenn Greenwald explains:
Of course, the reason that lying to Congress is a felony is because Congress is composed of the representatives of the American people, and when executive branch officials lie to Congress, they are lying to the country. They subvert the entire constitutional order by preventing the American people from exercising overisight over the executive branch through their representatives in Congress, and it turns the President into an unchecked, unaccountable ruler. That is precisely why lying to Congress is considered to be virtuous and an entitlement by this administration and the movement which spawned it (the truly bizarre demands for Lewis Libby’s pardon further reflect not merely an indifference, but this same admiration, for those who lie in pursuit of The Right-Wing Cause).
Glenn even goes into further detail of how this has become a Republican practice dating back to the Nixon years.
This is all relevant because Gonzales did lie to Congress. If he would have simply told the truth in January then people would not have had to dig for the truth. The reason these firings raised any questions in the first place is because the White House was using a new provision snuck into the Patriot Act to appoint new U.S.A.s without confirmation from Senate. That is where this became an abuse of power.
Probably one of the most significant firings was that of Carol Lam. She is the one who brought down former Representative Randy Cunningham. She also brought forth indictments on two other key players in the Cunningham scandal. One was a defense contractor and the other was the former number three guy at the CIA under the Bush administration. Funny how she gets these indictments one week and the next week she is fired. That is a massive setback to a major investigation involving corruption in our government – or for the Bush administration it is “poor performance”.
Another lie that has been exposed was that the White House had nothing to do with these purges. Just this week we found out that Karl Rove was deeply involved, after repeated claims to the contrary. Of course Rove is one of the key players out there using the ‘Clinton did it’ defense.
Now ask your self this very serious question. If the White House was operating well within their rights, then why did they feel the need to lie about it? As I said, all this could have been avoided if Gonzales and the White House was truthful about the actual firings. There might have been a little flack over the reasons, but that would have been short lived. Instead the administration chose to lie to Congress, and in effect the American People, about what happened and now they have the fire storm we see today. This part alone is enough to debunk the ‘Clinton did it’ defense.
Another problem that has been exposed with this scandal is with out actual Justice Department. For more explanation on this, we turn to one of America’s most prominent civil rights attorneys, Alan Dershowitz:
The time has come to recognize that the framers of our Constitution made a serious mistake by creating the single office of Attorney General to serve two conflicting functions. We should break these two functions into two discreet offices, the way most of the rest of the democratic world has done. We can begin without tinkering with the constitution, by simply having Congress create an Independent Office of Public Prosecution within the Justice Department. The director of that office would be a civil servant appointed for a fixed term by the President with the consent of the Senate. By tradition, that person would be outside of politics and an eminent lawyer of great renown and acceptability to both parties. He or she would not be answerable to the Attorney General on issues of prosecutorial policy or on specific cases, and would be removable only for good cause. He or she would decide which United States attorney to appoint and sack based exclusively on professional criteria.
It is not certain whether the Constitution would have to be amended to accomplish this change. Article II grants to the President the responsibility to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” but that responsibility may be delegated–as it has been–to the Attorney General.
If Congress were to pass, and the President sign, a law creating a permanent, nonpartisan office of Director of Public Prosecution, I believe it would be held constitutional.
Alan’s article deserves a thorough reading, as it makes some very valid points. I have been outspoken on the fact that our democracy is broken and we need to make changes starting with our Constitution. The framers of that brilliant piece of work did not account for people rewriting it in their own minds and practices. That is something that has become every day in this administration. They envisioned three branches of government that were equal in power. Instead we have an executive branch that believes strongly they should be the absolute power in our country.
Instead the GOP looks at rewriting our Constitution to do something it was not meant to do – further limit the rights of Americans. They want to put things in like a ban on gay marriage. Our Constitution needs serious attention and this is an issue that will do nothing but further the damage to it. Instead we need to work on it to prevent one branch of government from overpowering all other branches. We also need the ultimate form of checks and balances placed into it – the power of the people to recall any elected official. This would help prevent the problems that we see today if rogue administrations knew the people could call for a recall and kick them out of office at any time.
The purge is starting to put focus back on our Constitution in crisis and now is the time to act upon those warnings. If we don’t start fixing them now then our democracy will truly become lost.