Favorite

The GOP presidency 

Paying a political consultant to run a high-powered Office of Political Affairs inside the White House always seemed like a corruption of democracy because it implied that taxpayers should want their government to enforce the electoral interests of the party in power.

That does not state too strongly what has happened under President Bush and his closest adviser, Karl Rove, who has run the White House political office for most of the past six years. The federal government is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican National Committee or some narrow segment of the party.

The unfolding revelations of deceit and political calculation in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys who were not using their prosecutorial power to the maximum advantage of Republicans show just how far the administration was willing to go to train the dreadful power of government on giving the party an advantage at elections — far enough to risk obstruction of justice.

It is one thing to employ government power toward the natural goal of implementing a party’s philosophy but quite another to use those vast resources to reward electoral support and to manipulate both the electoral process and decision-making.

The firing of the federal prosecutor for the eastern district of Arkansas and seven others after the 2004 election did not uncover the strategy but was merely the final and most dangerous installment. If Bill Clinton could be impeached for a vague conversation with his secretary about their recollections of contacts with a White House intern, which formed the basis for obstruction of justice, surely some punishment should be meted out to those who thwart the investigation and prosecution of serious venality by high public officials, even if they are good Republicans.

Hurricane Katrina exposed the extent of the politicization of the federal bureaucracy. Bush and Rove had populated the Federal Emergency Management Agency with political hangers-on with no knowledge of or interest in its disaster-relief work. It was an extension of the White House Office of Political Affairs and still is: Ask the people of Dumas, who had the bad luck of living in a Democratic state when tornados struck.

But the evidence was overwhelming so much earlier: politicizing the intelligence agencies to thrust the country into war in Iraq; deploying untrained political operatives to run the corrupt and nonsensical provisional government in Iraq and thus ensure that the war would be lost; turning the Iraq rebuilding program into a honey pot for big Republican contributors like Halliburton and Bechtel (the top 10 contractors had given $11 million to political parties since 1990, nearly all to the GOP, and all the contractors had bankrolled political entities to the tune of $49 million); some 300 giant donors to Bush’s campaign benefiting from the administration’s energy and Medicare legislation; consigning virtually the entire Interior Department and its regulatory functions to political operatives from contributing industries; modifying the scientific work of agencies like the National Aeronautics and Space Agency and Food and Drug Administration by Rove’s agents to reflect the president’s political positions.

A study of the inspectors general, the watchdogs assigned to each federal agency to check fraud and abuse of government programs, showed that the vast majority under Bush were political servants with no auditing or legal backgrounds, a dramatic reversal of the Clinton era, when the vast majority had auditing but no political experience.

But Americans, you would think, will draw the line at politicizing the criminal justice system. It did not start with the firing of the eight prosecutors in December.

In 2002 the U.S. attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, appointed in 1991 by Bush’s father, opened an investigation of GOP super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. On Nov. 18 that year a grand jury subpoenaed records involving Abramoff. The next day the White House replaced the prosecutor and the investigation ended. What was at work in 2005 when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales ordered the government attorneys in the tobacco racketeering case to cut the government’s claim for damages from $130 billion to $10 billion, a big gift to the GOP-supporting cigarette industry?

Explain why obstruction of justice was not involved in the firing of Carol Lam as U.S. attorney for San Diego after she had convicted Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., of tax evasion, bribery and other charges and a major Republican defense contractor for bribery and also just as she was closing in on a former top official of the CIA and a California businessman who was a top contributor to Bush’s 2004 campaign? She indicted the two men two days before she finally surrendered the job.

For that matter, what about the Justice Department’s telling our own Bud Cummins, on White House directives last summer, that he was through shortly after he had refused a request by the attorney for the Republican governor of Missouri to give the governor a public bill of good health in his investigation of fraud in the Missouri driver-licensing program? Contracts went to supporters of the governor. Cummins thought better of it and did as the governor’s attorney asked right before the general election, in violation of Justice Department policy. The White House replaced him with Tim Griffin in December.

Cummins says he’s not sure his firing was connected to the incident. It sure fits the pattern.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Where's the outrage?

    Am I the only person, apart from federal prosecutors, outraged about the criminal enterprise that inveigled itself into a privileged position as an Arkansas taxpayer-financed human services provider to the tune, today, of $43 million a year?
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Where's the outrage?

    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Rutledge opponent hits her socializing with corporate interests

    Mike Lee, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, has criticized Attorney General Leslie Rutledge over recent reports of her participation at private meetings where corporate interests make big contributions to a political group she heads for access to state legal officers.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • More »

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Inhuman America

    Our history has included some evil passages — slavery and white supremacy, the forced removal of Native Americans from their homes, the imprisonment and dispossession of Japanese Americans during World War II, the torture of prisoners in latter-day wars — but it is also a part of our history that we came to officially regard them all with shame, as offenses to the human rights that were our original values.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Legislative boodlers

    Which sounds like the best use of your taxpayer dollars: helping pay for medical care for unemployed people, or bribing and lobbying legislators and other government officials to bestow millions of your tax dollars on a corrupt organization that claims it helps poor people who have drug problems or disabilities?
    • Jun 14, 2018
  • Scary Granny Pelosi

    Nancy Pelosi has replaced Barack Obama as the all-purpose bete noir of Republican politicians, including Arkansas's, but will she be as potent as the black president?
    • Jun 7, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • Shrugging off sulfides

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported a shocker on its front page Sunday. The rotten-egg odor from the Koch brothers' sprawling paper plant at Crossett is still making people sick, but the state's pollution control agency is unaware of the problem.
    • Mar 29, 2018

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Inhuman America

    Our history has included some evil passages — slavery and white supremacy, the forced removal of Native Americans from their homes, the imprisonment and dispossession of Japanese Americans during World War II, the torture of prisoners in latter-day wars — but it is also a part of our history that we came to officially regard them all with shame, as offenses to the human rights that were our original values.
    • Jun 21, 2018
  • Legislative boodlers

    Which sounds like the best use of your taxpayer dollars: helping pay for medical care for unemployed people, or bribing and lobbying legislators and other government officials to bestow millions of your tax dollars on a corrupt organization that claims it helps poor people who have drug problems or disabilities?
    • Jun 14, 2018
  • Scary Granny Pelosi

    Nancy Pelosi has replaced Barack Obama as the all-purpose bete noir of Republican politicians, including Arkansas's, but will she be as potent as the black president?
    • Jun 7, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The cult of Trump

    • That isn't what I said, and you know that pretty well, Oaf. Just lies and…

    • on June 23, 2018
  • Re: The cult of Trump

    • Rabbi, you probably don't know Steven. He's the head Kool-Aid taster for the Trump cult…

    • on June 22, 2018
  • Re: The cult of Trump

    • Those traits sound like most any politician in DC, mostly the Dims.

    • on June 22, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation