On One Hand

March 6, 2007

Lawmakers “Pressure” Federal Prosecutors

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:48 pm
Tags: ,

Ex-prosecutor says lawmaker tried to leverage him

This CNN article reports that ousted federal prosecutors are complaining that various Republican Senators and Congressmen pressured them to indict Democrats for corruption before the midterm elections of November 2006.

The article is hard to decipher in places, but its lede puts the focus on Republican politicians, namely Senator Pete Domenici and Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who called then Federal Prosecutor David Iglesias asking him to speed the high-profile indictments of Democrats on corruption charges. The Republicans wanted to speed the indictments, Iglesias implies, because the news coverage would hurt Democrats before the Midterm election, and increase the chance that Republicans could keep the House or the Senate.

The CNN article is good journalism and I wouldn’t suggest reporters shouldn’t cover the topic – I don’t have anything against the article itself except that it is difficult to follow. (In one case it reads: “The Bush administration also applied a heavy hand after the firings of eight prosecutors became public…” What the heck is a “heavy hand?” That doesn’t mean anything to me, and the article never explains it. The article is ridden with stuff like that.) One important detail is that the federal prosecutors quoted in the article have all lost their jobs. If the article is referencing the possibility that the prosecutors were fired by the Republican White House Administration for political reasons, this is certainly a big deal. But inasmuch as “pressure” on prosecutors from congressmen is concerned, I don’t buy Iglesia’s complaint. Perhaps someone else knows more about this or can decode the news story better than I can.

From what I can decipher in the article, this is a free speech issue for me. The Constitution gives all citizens the right to petition government. Federal prosecutors are part of the government. Nowhere does the Constitution say that that right to petiton ends when you are in elected office, or that that right to petition ends when you are doing it for self-serving political reasons. If Republicans want to call up a federal prosecutor and urge him to indict Democrats soon because it will help them in the midterm elections, this falls under protected speech under the Constutution. No matter how “pressured” anyone feels about it, no one has done anything wrong.

If there was extortion or threatening involved (such as the threat that the prosecutors could be fired if they did not comply with the Republicans’ wishes), this becomes a serious legal issue. But Congress doesn’t have he power to fire members of the Executive branch. Pressure from Republicans in Congress might be evidence in a case that the also-Republican Executive branch fired the prosecutors for political reasons – which is well worth making public – but a tenuous connection. Otherwise, this is a free speech issue and the Republican office-holders did nothing wrong.

Much to the chagrin of some of the Republicans I am defending now, I am an advocate of interpreting free speech as liberally as possible, which in this case works in their favor.

On a slight change of topic,

I hope a prominent Democrat points all this out. I know Republicans have played a lot of dirty games with making allegations in recent years, *coughPatrickMcHenrycough*cough*, and that it has likely helped them win certain close races. But I just don’t think Democrats should stoop to that level. Ever. They should defend the good guys everywhere because liberalism is all defending the good guys, even when they’re different than you, and liberalism is about not punishing the good for the sake of punishing the bad. It’s worth it to treat your political opponents with fairness, even if it sometimes hurts, and I think that if Democrats really made this their mantra, to be exeedingly self-critical and avoid double standards, they would win. It would hurt for one election cycle, because all the negativity from the other side would result in painfull losses for elected Democrats. But then they raise the bar of rhetoric across the board, and the debate is about ideas and solutions rather than character assasinations. And I think, and I hope you’ll agree, that the Democratic agenda is the winner when it comes to ideas and solutions.

I think that’s what happened in 2002 and 2004 – the Democrats played fairer than Republicans, so suffered for a few years under the assaults of “the terrorists win” rhetoric from Conservatives. But we saw them bounce back, we saw the Republican’s allegations about a Democrat-Terrorist alliance seem more and more absurd to average people, and now Democrats have enough political momentum that they stand of chance of getting a woman or person of color in the Oval Office. If they Democrats can keep doing that, they can convince the middle-roaders that Democrats are the more reasonable party, and achieve long-term success.

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3 Comments »

  1. I disagree on the “let’s just be nice” front. Politics is not a nice game, to start with. Republicans should be held fully accountable for their various crimes and dirty tricks, and Democrats should exert what power they have now to do that. I’m not saying that we should stoop to the same dirty tricks, but I think Dems could stand to play a little more hardball. It’s no more than telling the truth and pulling no punches: saying, for instance, that most of these guys on the right are racist, lying, venal scumbags wouldn’t go amiss. And not giving them the kind of outs that Congress is giving Bush on the war right now.

    But then, I guess I think that would be perfectly fair.

    Comment by erinya — March 6, 2007 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

    • You can criticize a Republican for everything that he/she does wrong while remaining rationally consistent in your politics. Consistency is key – Democrats cannot, in fairness, lash out at Republicans for things that they themselves do. But if they refrain from engaging in dirty politics, they can call out dirty politics when they see it.

      Having a core of beleif is one way to be sure that liberals have a consistent platform to criticize others for breaking. Political analysists overwhelmingly give the reason Democrats were not “on top” from 2000-2006 as that they lacked a “message.” That “message” would be the unifying idea that ties members of the party together – even while actual Democrats have extremely different viewpoints on things.

      Comment by ononehand — March 7, 2007 @ 12:30 am | Reply

    • I would suggest that the values that Liberals share are:

      1) Coexistence; why is it that liberal Muslims and liberal Christians can get along so well, while Conservative Christians and Conservative Muslims want to blow each other to bits? Even though the Conservatives have consistencies in ideology, such as strict adherence to faith, they still hate each other. The difference is that that Liberals want all cultural groups to have their comfortable place, including those who are culturally different. For American liberals, giving every culture it’s place even meets preserving small-town settings that are, in essence, “Conservative.” But Liberals also want to be sure that ALL minority groups are fully respected as citizens – despite the fact that the core beleifs of one group might oppose the core beleifs of the other. That means we even respect Evangelicals and their values, but ignore their values when they infringe on GLBT people or women.

      2) Intellectual honesty; Liberals accept the truth of scientific discoveries even when it’s not what they want to hear. They accept that Global Warming is a threat even though we all wish it wasn’t. They accept that we cannot democratize the Middle East even though we wish we could. They accept that human beings aren’t always the perfect instruments of justice even though we wish they were, especially when it comes to capital punishment.

      3) Compromise; Liberals beleive that compromise between people is the essence of government. When the first two humans got in a fight and tried to kill each other, one person thought he should live while the other should die. The second thought he should live while the first should die. The compromise was that both can live; killing became illegal, and that established the first law. Much later on, Calvinists in America thought everyone should be Calvinist, while Anglicans thought everyone should be Anglican. The compromise was that they could let each other be Calvinist and Anglican respectively, and this freedom of religion was protected by government. Today, Conservatives think that everyone should be in heterosexual marraiges. I wish there were a parallel – but there isn’t; the parallel would be that gay people think everyone should be in homosexual marriages. It is here that we see how Liberals and Conservatives are truly different; Liberals have already found the “compromise.” The compromise is that some can be in same-sex marriages and others can be in opposite-sex marriages.

      4) Not punishing the innocent for what the guilty are doing; When faced with decisions like whether to legalize medical marijuana, Conservatives fear that what benefits one suffering cancer patient could end up causing teenage kids to get access to pot and smoke it. Liberals think the person suffering with disease is more important than the chance that some “naughty” kid could use drugs. When faced with the possibility that some women could abuse abortion rights by using abortion as “birth control,” Conservatives throw out the whole concept of abortion using religious language. Liberals think the needs of desparate women are more important than the “sins” of others who may have abortions for the wrong reasons. When faced with the prospect of a foreign war, Conservatives think that punishing the evil in the world is worth the lives of innocent people who die during war. Liberals put the emphasis on the innocent people, and only wage war when it is absolutely necessary.

      I think that defining these values is a way Liberals can win, if they explain how their issues fit this core. But I think liberals must also live their values, being tolerant of difference, rather than intolerantly accuse others of not doing so. When liberals and conservatives in the U.S. oppose each other with dirty language and dirty politics, the neutral person sees two angry and uncompromising sides going at it.

      If Liberals put the focus on the positive – that they stand for coexistence and compromise – (but also explain how their compromise works; as I have demonstrated, compromising on gay marriage doesn’t mean giving GLBT people half-marriages, it means letting everyone marry) then it will be painfully clear which side is actually more “tolerant.”

      Comment by ononehand — March 7, 2007 @ 12:42 am | Reply


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