Current congressional inquiries into the firing of U.S. Attorneys in the Bush Administration are showing the challenges and difficulties of pursuing partisan investigations of one's political opponents on charges of corruption, malfeasance, or misconduct. They show just how dirty politically motivated investigations get even when the evidence is pretty cut and dried. After all, a Justice department internal inquiry already found political considerations to have categorically been a part of at least four of the firings. For those of you who can still remember last year, when everyone in both parties was upset at the Bush Administration and Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned over the ensuing scandal when it became too difficult for him to avoid answering questions from Congress despite every ploy to invoke executive immunity. The information about just what degree the political side of the administration had been influencing the operational and bureaucratic procedures of the Justice department is already common knowledge.
John Conyers (D - Michigan), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has stated that documents reveal the White House's political operatives were deeply involved the decision to pursue voter fraud allegations in purple states and in the decision to fire those US Attorneys who did not do so do to the lack of significant evidence. The transcripts of testimony in the committee's hearings point to Rove as the central, responsible figure.
To quote the Associated Press:
"The documents show that staffers in Rove's office were actively seeking to have Iglesias removed after Republican figures in New Mexico complained that he was not pursuing voter fraud cases they wanted. In 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent an e-mail to another Rove aide saying, "I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY.""
Republicans in New Mexico wanted David Iglesias fired for not pursuing the cases they wanted pursued. They complained to Rove's office. Rove's staffers were eager to fire Iglesias. Rove spoke to White House Counsel Harriet Miers on the topic. Iglesias was fired. The circumstantial evidence in question is damning enough, and Miers careful choice of the words 'I don't recall' brings to mind the quasi-senile testimony of Ronald Reagan at the Iran-Contra hearings. As it turned out, President Reagan had a legitimate medical excuse. To the best of my knowledge, Miers does not. Remember that, in a court of law, the issue is whether a charge can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. To my mind, the Republican responses to the facts are not 'reasonable' by any stretch of the words.
Despite a Bush Justice department internal inquiry's statement to the contrary, Rove denies the facts:
"Rove issued a statement Tuesday saying the documents "show politics played no role in the Bush administration's removal of U.S. attorneys, that I never sought to influence the conduct of any prosecution, and that I played no role in deciding which U.S. attorneys were retained and which were replaced.""
For a congressional Republican's take:
"Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the documents show no evidence of wrongdoing. "Democrats need to stop wasting taxpayers' time and money on political investigations that are nothing more than the politics of personal destruction," Smith said."
Now, clearly, Republican definitions of 'wrong-doing' are entirely subjective. That cannot be denied or forgotten. Does anyone remember the horrific abuse of power the Clinton family's wish to restaff the White House Travel Office was presented as, by Republicans, in 1993? The Justice department, which actually fulfills a function of national significance, would seem to be required to be even more tamper proof. Again, the Bush Justice department itself ruled that political considerations were clearly involved in at least four of the firings and that was as far as they were willing to go to fall on their swords for Rove and Miers... waffling on whether or not other considerations influenced the firing as well, and confining it to four of five cases.
All of this, of course, is the core problem with political investigations. They are political. Democrats in Congress feel pressure from their constituents to bring officials in the Bush Administration to justice for their corruption. Therefore, they are motivated to do so. It doesn't matter that the individuals in question are corrupt, it's the political necessity of satisfying angry constituents that is their primary motivation. I'm not trying to minimize the corruption of the Bush White House (without a doubt the most corrupt since Reagan's two terms) or the importance of actual justice. I am simply noting that House Democrats are impelled by politics as much as principle.
Which is the problem. Republican congressmen are then impelled by politics to support their own, because otherwise their own conduct in the Bush Administration is open to question. Which makes Congressional investigations of Bush officials a sort of kabuki opera of partisan politics instead of a genuine probe for the facts of the case, which are mostly already known to all the principles involved. After all, the very reason there is political pressure to see justice done is that the corruption in the administration has been widely and clearly exposed. The reason House Democrats are taking the lead is because the very nature of the alleged crime currently taking center stage, political influence of criminal prosecutions and political consequences when the prosecutions fail to occur, the Justice department is in a difficult situation. White House pursuit of justice might appear to be more of the same, and involvement between the political side of the White House and the DOJ would automatically come under close scrutiny by the other side. The politicians feel handcuffed by the very nature of the scandal, to avoid appearing to be guilty of the exact same thing.
Of course, since the alleged crime was committed on behalf of Republican congressmen and senators, they are forced to draw their lines tight and deny a crime was committed. Otherwise they are accessories. Of course, by impeding the investigation now, they are making themselves accessories after the fact.
This always has been and always will be the primary reason political corruption is so hard to actually punish. Political corruption is, by its very nature, political. Thus partisan politics trumps the questions of fact and wrong-doing that should be the focus. While American Congressional investigations may lack the life or death consequences of Stalin's Moscow 'show trials' or the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes tribunals, they carry the same basic flaw: when politics is more important than the core question of criminality being examined, it becomes impossible to address that question seriously or effectively.
A man we all believe to be a criminal is being shown to be a criminal, and it doesn't matter because it is just another political issue to those most intimately involved with the matter. That very factor will almost certainly keep Rove from ever being indicted, let alone convicted. The irony is that, in the end, the only defense against such political corruption is itself political.
The only way to prevent political corruption is at the ballot box, and can only be enacted by clear eyed voters who are themselves able to step away from partisan politics to discern the character of the candidates in question.
Yeah. Problem solved. Right.