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General News    H2'ed 4/26/09

The Siegelman Case: Why Obama Must Get It Right on Justice Issues

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Message Roger Shuler
The Siegelman Case: Why Obama Must Get It Right on Justice Issues
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Pressure seems to be growing on the Obama administration to support complete investigations and accountability regarding apparent wrongdoing in the George W. Bush Department of Justice (DOJ).

Obama needs to be listening. The long-term success of his presidency might depend on it.

The New York Times on Saturday opined that Attorney General Eric Holder should take a fresh look at the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Such a review becomes even more imperative, the Times notes, now that Holder has asked that charges be dismissed against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) because of prosecutorial misconduct in his case. Wrongdoing by prosecutors probably was at least as grave in the Siegelman case, probably more so, the Times notes:

Many aspects of the case require further scrutiny. United States Attorney Leura Canary is the wife of a prominent Republican political operative who was a strong opponent of Mr. Siegelman. Her office prosecuted Mr. Siegelman. Ms. Canary said that she recused herself from the prosecution, but questions have been raised about whether she actually did.

Mr. Siegelman’s supporters have long argued that he was targeted by the Justice Department because he was Alabama’s leading Democratic politician and stood a good chance of once again being elected governor. A Republican lawyer in Alabama, Jill Simpson, has said that she heard Ms. Canary’s husband, William Canary, say that he had discussed the prosecution with Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser.

Sources say The New York Times is not just writing editorials on the Siegelman case. Times reporters also are checking into the curious relationship between two Alabama newspapers--The Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register--and prosecutors in the Siegelman case. And Justice Department investigators, checking into the same issue, have found substantial evidence of improper connections between prosecutors and Alabama journalists regarding the Siegelman case.

Christine Bowman, at BuzzFlash, writes that Holder must build on momentum from the recent release of Bush torture memos to conduct a thorough cleansing at the DOJ. Like the Times, Bowman focuses on the Siegelman case:

One DOJ conservative ideologue who needs to be dumped immediately is Leura Canary, the US Attorney in Alabama who prosecuted and jailed Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman. (He's out and mounting an appeal now.) Thom Hartmann urged listeners to his April 21 radio show to call Eric Holder's office at 202-514-2001 and politely urge him to replace her.

Why is it critical that Obama pay attention to these calls for justice at Justice? Much of the good he is likely to accomplish in his presidency could go down the drain if he doesn't.

Veteran journalist Robert Parry has written that perhaps the biggest mistake of Bill Clinton's presidency was his decision to give the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations free passes on corruption. That caused Americans to view the Reagan and Bush legacies in a much more favorable light than they would have if wrongdoing had been exposed.
In business lingo, Clinton allowed the Reagan/Bush "brand" to not be tarnished. And that led to the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, which undid much of what Clinton had accomplished.

What does the Reagan/Bush "brand" of Republicanism stand for? It personifies greed, graft, corruption, income inequality, financial speculation, lax regulation, international cluelessness, economic decay, environmental degradation, and more.

Obama has said he wants to look forward and not backward. But if he doesn't look back and make sure wrongdoing is exposed, another president in the Reagan/Bush mold will come along and undo much of what Obama now is working to achieve.

The bottom line? If Obama doesn't get it right on justice issues, much of his effort in other areas is going to be wasted.
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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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