Sunday, April 22, 2007

More on Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales

Four years ago, when I first started devoting considerable time to writing about Bush's flawed war plan for Iraq and the various wrongdoing that was coming to light, I was somewhat in despair because too many people writing about these things on the left were so shrill it was highly unlikely that they would get the attention of most Americans who very much needed to know about the nonsense that was becoming increasingly obvious. And the mainstream media was either drinking the Kool Aid like Judy Miller of The New York Times or they were shrugging as if they were watching some vaguely interesting but ultimately unimportant drama (Ted Koppel, as one example, though normally a very fine reporter was infuriating at times: it's a business, it's process, we have to make money, blah, blah, blah). Times have indeed changed. I don't know how much hope there is to change things but at least in 2007, as bad as things are, there is a glimmer of hope. When people begin to recognize we have a problem there is always a glimmer of hope because if you have the facts, there is a chance you can begin to change things for the better.

Indeed, things are bad and there are a growing number of people focusing on the catastrophe that is the Bush presidency. Frank Rich of The New York Times has an article (via Truthout) on some of this and, like me, he's now unavoidably using multiple adjectives and descriptive nouns that still aren't adequate for describing Bush and his presidency (bold emphasis mine):
...the president is also hobbled by the Iraq cancer's metastasis - the twin implosions of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. Technically, both men have been pilloried for sins unrelated to the war. The attorney general has repeatedly been caught changing his story about the extent of his involvement in purging eight federal prosecutors. The Financial Times caught the former deputy secretary of defense turned World Bank president privately dictating the extravagant terms of a State Department sinecure for a crony (a k a romantic partner) that showers her with more take-home pay than Condoleezza Rice.

Yet each man's latest infractions, however serious, are mere misdemeanors next to their roles in the Iraq war. What's being lost in the Beltway uproar is the extent to which the lying, cronyism and arrogance showcased by the current scandals are of a piece with the lying, cronyism and arrogance that led to all the military funerals that Mr. Bush dares not attend. Having slept through the fraudulent selling of the war, Washington is still having trouble confronting the big picture of the Bush White House. Its dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders.

In another article on Truthout, Elizabeth de la Vega, "a former federal prosecutor with over 20 years' experience, was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California," explains what's supposed to happen and why the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzalez and his White House handlers has become so dysfunctional and politicized:
Then there's the "Urgent Report" system instituted at DOJ in recent years. Section T3-18.200 of the US Attorney's Manual requires US attorneys' offices to send immediate reports to the highest levels of the Attorney General's Office whenever there are "major developments" - defined to include even procedural motions - in "important cases," which include any cases that present a "high likelihood of coverage in news media, or Congressional interest."

For cases involving public figures, the US Attorney's Manual requires that "appropriate officials, including the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, the associate attorney general, the deputy attorney general and the attorney general" be advised of the initiation of any case "in which public figures or entities are subjects of the investigation." Bottom line? The attorney general is notified immediately, not just when charges are brought in a public corruption case, but when the file is opened and every time that any activity, even procedural, occurs in the case. It was precisely such an Urgent Report that former San Diego US Attorney Carol Lam used to notify the Attorney General's Office on May 10, 2006 that search warrants were going to be conducted in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham case. The next day, of course, was when Alberto Gonzales's top aide wrote an email talking about the "very real problem we have right now" with Carol Lam.

Think about this for a moment. San Diego County is a generally conservative county, mostly Republican, with several Republican-leaning newspapers, including the San Diego Union Tribune, which broke the story on Duke Cunningham. The last time I looked most Republicans frown on bribery and corruption as much as anyone else, particularly when it is so blatant as it was in the case of Duke Cunningham. When Carol Lam, a Republican by the way, opened an investigation into Duke Cunningham, much of the evidence of corruption was already laid out by the newspapers. Opening the case and beginning the investigation was a no brainer and would be obvious in virtually any district in the nation where there is respect for the law. But Alberto Gonzales's top aide suddenly said they have a problem. If you're a criminal or trying to politicize everything, I suppose that would be one way of looking at it.

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