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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/26/08

The Criminalization of Politics and Other Fine Talking Points

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scott creighton
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Scott Creighton

Yesterday, during the House Judiciary Committee's hearing "-Executive Power and it's Constitutional Limitations", as an argument for not opening an investigation into criminal acts by this administration, the same talking point came up time and time again; these "demented" people who call for impeachment are trying to "criminalise" political differences: the Criminalization of Politics.

Now this would normally fall into the silly smoke screen category (especially after what we KNOW happened at the Department of Justice with Carl Rove's help) if we hadn't heard it before. But of course the interesting thing about this is where we have heard it before.

The other day, there was a debate on NPR's Democracy Now, between Glenn Greenwald and Obama advisor Cass Sunstein about the need for impeachment. Sunstein made reference to a previous argument he had made at the recent NetRoots Conference about impeaching this administration seeming like criminalizing political differences.

"Prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle"- of criminalizing public service, he argued, and Democrats should avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton--or even the "slight appearance" of it." Ari Membler on the Sunstein statement at the Netroots Conference from The Nation.

During the debate with Glenn Greenwald, Sunstein defended his previous comment by interjecting the notion that "egregious crimes" shouldn't be overlooked.

"When I talk about a fear of criminalizing political disagreement, I don't mean to suggest that we shouldn't criminalize crimes. Crimes are against the law, and if there's been egregious wrongdoing in violation of the law, then it's not right to put a blind eye to that." C. Sunstein, Democracy Now.

Of course, that begs the questions; which "crimes" do we "put a blind eye to, and who decides? The Congress? Pelosi? Conyers? Dean? Obama?

The problem there, is that ALL of the aforementioned potential "deciders" are representatives of THE PEOPLE. Presumably there to do the WILL of the people. And by all accounts, the vast majority of The People in this country want there to be accountability from this administration for their reckless assault on the Constitution and our liberties. Yet, Sunstein is debating that that shouldn't happen. So, who is really "the decider?"

But, even granting Sunstein his little correction about egregious wrongdoings, he is still quite off-base with the principle argument.

A President should never to be allowed to get away with ANY crimes for he, above all others, must be held to the highest moral and ethical standards of any of us. Not the opposite. I made this same argument during the impeachment trial of President Clinton, when, in my opinion, he should have been impeached for lying to Congress and attempting to obstruct justice. It was quite clear.

But Sunstein goes even further in his blatant apologist's rationalization of the crimes of this administration.

"Well, there has been a big debate among law professors and within the Supreme Court about the President's adherent authority to wiretap people," the idea that it's an impeachable offense to adopt an incorrect interpretation of the President's power, that, I think, is too far-reaching. There are people in the Clinton administration who share Bush's view with respect to foreign surveillance." Sunstein.

The idea that the President or his staff may indeed avoid prosecution for their many crimes based on the notion that they can't be held accountable for misinterpreting the law is completely disingenuous. Try going to court and arguing that you have a different opinion of the law you are charged with breaking. Ignorance of the law and it's accepted interpretation is not a defense. So the fact that an adviser to the presumptive candidate from the opposing political Party would advance this hogwash, in order to defend a criminal administration just months before the election, is, to say the least, very revealing.

So, it is not surprising that several Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, including Rep. Lungren, picked up on this talking-point and parroted it during the hearing yesterday. The logic being now that a leading member of the majority party has made the claim that this whole thing could be nothing more than criminalizing politics, it is no longer just a smoke-screen, but instead it's a bi-partisan statement of fact. Not because Sunstein is correct in his interpretation, but because the Republicans on the committee can put-forward the argument and then use Obama's adviser's statement to muddy the waters of the debate, forcing any argument to run down Sunstein's comment first.

It's a layered distraction, pre-manufactured for the minority Party in the House of Representatives by a usually thoughtful legal scholar,who calls himself a democrat and who should have known better. So, the next question should be, why would he do it, knowing that it would be picked up on and used to defend the rogue administration that Obama is trying to 'Change?"

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Attended J.M.U. and V.C.U. in the '80s and '90's. Worked as a builder and installer of film, stage, and theme park sets and attractions. Currently works as a designer and draftsman for residential and commercial projects. Wrote "Prescription for a (more...)
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