As the hot air continues to rise, causing unpredictable currents, the Republicans and their pundit pals continue to complain that attorney-gate is a lot of hot air. The excuse of “Clinton did it too” is beginning to deflate. No he didn’t. In every administration, almost all of the US Attorneys are replaced at the beginning of the term. Yes, Clinton did that; so did Reagan, Bush 41, and even the neo-Bush, each at the start of their presidency. “By law, US attorneys are appointed by the President with advice and consent of the Senate for a term of four years, explains Congressional Quarterly.” [For the CQ report, see: http://www.cq.com/flatfiles/editorialFiles/temporaryItems/2007/attorneys.pdf]
But the issue is still further clouded by the motive behind the purge. Either out of a desire to be politically correct or an unwillingness to apply a criminal mindset to the Bush Administration, Congressional committees are not acting as if they are investigating a crime. Though Bush has yet to mimic “I-am-not-a-crook” Nixon, without looking at the motives, it’s hard to come up with probable cause.
It’s important to apply facts to the truthiness of the Republican Talking Points. The issue isn’t the replacement of US Attorneys by a new administration; the issue is the dismissal of US Attorneys without cause in the middle of their tenure. The Congressional Research Service filed a report on the historical record of the hiring and terms of US Attorneys over the last 25 years. In the period between 1981 and 2006, there were only three U.S. Attorneys who were dismissed without apparent cause in the first four years of their terms. During this time frame, at the end of every administration, most of the US Attorneys left, as was the expected practice. But there were only 10 who left involuntarily, and all but two of these left under at minimum, a cloud of “improper” behavior. So, yes, it is a big deal.
Again, we must apply fact to the spin and Republican Talking Points because there’s a gap not only in the emails that went missing, but in the facts that are being tossed around as truths. The spin-meisters want the public to retain the sound bite “voter fraud.” Drip, drip, as they squeeze out the talking points, the timing of each response carefully calibrated from a general “dismissed for poor performance” to “dismissed for not prosecuting voter fraud.”
The public is a bit skittish about voter issues given the last two election cycles, so how could anyone oppose going after voter fraud. Of course that should be an issue. How silly of us dumb citizens. Here we not only get conflicting stories, but the smoke and mirrors act is adding to the putrid hot air.
Here’s the problem, one that shouldn’t get lost in the new obfuscation about emails and the technicalities thereof. The general public doesn’t distinguish between voter fraud and election fraud and the media, if they do understand the difference, have been strangely silent about making sure their audience is informed. But we should not underestimate its importance. It’s not just about words—it’s a mirror we should be reflecting to shine a light on reality.
Voter fraud is fraud committed by individual voters, for example, improper registration, voting twice, the kinds of things that the Bushies like to claim the Democrats are very guilty of; or claims of falsely registering felons who are not entitled to vote. After thousands of hours and millions of dollars of investigation, there is minimal evidence of that this kind of fraud has legs to it, though the Republican apologists have been working judiciously to make us think otherwise. [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/washington/11voters.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin] The New York Times reported (4-11-07) “that voter experts have found ‘widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud.’ However, the Election Assistance Commission, a federal panel charged with election research, skewed the findings of the voter experts.” So the report was actually hijacked to make it seem like there is a problem with voter fraud when the reality is the opposite.
The Bush administration has been hyping “voter fraud” since the last election. It’s part of their attempt to add to the pollution surrounding election issues and hide their own malfeasance and complicity. Karl Rove, in a meeting with Republican lawyers last year, called voter fraud an "enormous and growing" problem, linking voter fraud with election integrity. The two issues are not the same and conflating them is a deliberate attempt to change perception and confuse the public.
Election fraud is more global and the stakes are bigger. Election fraud includes things like throwing an election, rigging voting machines, not counting all the votes. And it is these issues that are of concern to those who advocate for election integrity. These issues are the ones that make a difference in deciding an election and they make a difference in who is in power. Election fraud cases are still ongoing. In Sarasota, FL, where the Democratic candidate for the House in 2006 lost by 369 votes but 18,000 votes were “undercounted” by touch screen voting machines, Congress has just begun an investigation.
There were several very thin margins in the last elections and several are suspect. Although the spin meisters would like us to believe that this phenomena is because of the current political divide, it is more likely a result of rigged voting machines and election fraud, which is not only a felony but it is something the Republicans have been creative about since the beginning of the Bush Administration. Since Bush was not elected by popular vote in 2000, the Republicans had to make sure that they could count on the next election being a “slam dunk.” After 911 and for quite a while thereafter, the President enjoyed great popular support, so it feels rather Nixonian that the Republicans would start quietly taking over elections to insure their stay in office. Yet the groundwork was being laid at the onset.
Take the phone jamming in New Hampshire in the 2004 election. Though James Tobin was convicted and sentenced to prison, his sentence was overturned on a technicality (jury instructions apparently weren’t clear enough); in addition, the case moved very slowly under the auspices of a Republican appointed US Attorney, who was not among those dismissed.
On April 11, without much fanfare, San Diego County hired Michael Vu as assistant registrar of voters. And just who is Michael Vu and why is it of note? Vu was the election director of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the disputed Ohio county that gave the election to Bush in 2004. He resigned from his position under a cloud: two employees who worked directly under him were convicted of election fraud. Their crime: during the election recount process, they were caught trying to cherry pick the precincts that would be recounted in the audit. And what a coincidence! San Diego County is where US Attorney Carol Lam was fired, allegedly for not prosecuting voter fraud.
Two of the fired US Attorneys, David Iglesias (Albuquerque, NM) and John McKay (Seattle, WA) were dismissed because they refused to file voter fraud charges after being warned to do so by well-placed Republicans. Others seem to have been fired for pursuing investigations of Republicans. The Bush Administration has sued the state of Missouri for not going after voter fraud in that state. US District Judge Nanette Laughrey said in her decision: "It is also telling that the United States [Dept. of Justice, who brought the suit] has not shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote as a result of deficiencies alleged by the United States; nor has the United States shown that any voter fraud has occurred." [For the original DoJ complaint, see: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/nvra/mo_nvra_comp.htm]
The attempt by Republicans at conflating the issues of voter fraud with election fraud is a big one and we need to connect all the dots. The larger picture of Republican efforts to suborn the justice system in an attempt to ensure maintenance of their majority power is just starting to unravel. It’s so ubiquitous that once you notice it, the hubris is breathtaking, which makes it all the more difficult to grasp. Who wants to believe that our own government would be plotting such anti-democratic, authoritarian schemes? One’s first instinct is to dismiss it; it’s so outrageous that the label of paranoid seems reasonable until one actually examines the facts.
It will take some time to sort it all out, and it may very well be one of those political issues that never gets entirely rooted out. Some of the players in this plot are actors from Watergate and its successor Iran-Contra, once again coming back for their final curtsy on the stage of corruption. When the curtain comes down this time, we have to be careful that the applause is for their exit not just from the stage but from public life and in some cases, for their life behind bars.
Anything less, and those 30-something assistants who have been insidiously implanted throughout the fertile land of civil service will be back in spades.