by Kagro X
It now seems all but inevitable that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be forced to resign his position over the growing scandal surrounding the political strong-arming of U.S. Attorneys around the country. Resignation, even in supposed disgrace however, is insufficiently punitive to members of an "administration" that has made a practice of employing prominent Republican recidivists left over from what should have been career-ending scandals like Watergate and Iran-Contra.
But resignation as a punishment also fails to fit the crime. You may rest assured that apologists for Gonzales, Bush and Rove (whose involvement also seems obvious) will insist that there is no "crime" here, because the hiring and firing of U.S. Attorneys is within the president's prerogative. True, as far as it goes. But what clearly ought not to be is the political manipulation of federal investigations to bolster the electoral prospects of Republicans, and damage those of Democrats and other rivals. This is the sort of activity that's so obviously and fundamentally wrong that nobody has yet taken the time to devise a statute to address it. Instead, it occupies the space of a general crime against the Constitution, a subversion of our very system of government, and precisely the sort of crime for which the founders gave us the remedy of impeachment. That's what "high crimes and misdemeanors" are all about. It's not about lawbreaking at altitude.
When the discussion turns to impeachment of Bush (and often, Cheney), cautious "realists" almost immediately reject the idea out of hand as too easily dismissed as "partisan revenge for Clinton," or "political tit for tat." And while that false equivalency is easily dealt with on a rational level, there is a recognition that on some lower level of reasoning it may have some resonance.
Bush, Rove and Gonzales have now done for the prosecution of public corruption what they've done for impeachment. Defense attorneys across the country are doubtless exploring the possibility of demanding new trials for their clients, and those awaiting trial will be seeking dismissal of charges, all because the Department of Justice has been exposed as a political attack machine, and has lost its credibility in prosecuting corruption cases. Such cases may now be regarded as little more than a sick joke, and every defendant who claims that his prosecution is a "partisan witch hunt" will suddenly be able to give new legitimacy to that once tired, old saw.
For the balance of this "administration," then, and for the foreseeable future, the serious prosecution of public corruption may be all but impossible. And that is the true measure of the gravity of this crime.
But the crime is more than just a grave one, it is also evidence of a depravity not seen since Nixon. Veteran watchers of Karl Rove's operations will instantly recognize his infamous m.o. in all of this: make your own weakness a strength, and accuse the opposition of doing precisely what you're actually doing behind the scenes. While Republican corruption was running rampant, Rove's machinations made it appear that it was actually Democratic corruption that was the problem. While Republicans at the federal level were literally looting the Treasury, handing out bricks of cash in Iraq, laundering Abramoff's "lobbying" fees, forcing through illegal redistricting plans, jamming phone lines on election day, suppressing the minority vote, etc., Republican prosecutors were digging for any scraps they could find to use against their political opposition at the local level, where they hoped no one would connect the dots, but which would still have a corrosive effect on the public perception of Democrats. And when Republicans were caught in the act, as DeLay was, what was the first thing he accused the Democratic District Attorney of? Conducting a "partisan witch hunt."
The long term effects of this scandal are incalculable. At a time when Republicans are accused of engaging in rampant and systematic public corruption, Rove, Bush and Gonzales have succeeded in making corruption investigations into the same sort of partisan joke that Republicans made impeachment. And as their crimes come to light in the closing days of their "administration" and into the next, they may well have made it impossible for a Democratic successor to actually pursue justice on behalf of the American people, since any such effort will undoubtedly -- and with a lack of shame that shocks the conscience -- be labeled as "partisan revenge." Heads must roll, and they must roll in numbers.