Bush Accused of Long History of Politicizing Justice Department

Joseph D. Rich, former chief of the voting section in the Justice Department’s civil right division from 1999 to 2005, writes in the Los Angeles Times that Bush has a long history of tilting justice:

THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.

This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman’s central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.

Rich procedes to provide additional examples of the Bush administration politicizing the Justice Department. He concludes:

This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.

Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.

At the same time, career staff were nearly cut out of the process of hiring lawyers. Control of hiring went to political appointees, so an applicant’s fidelity to GOP interests replaced civil rights experience as the most important factor in hiring decisions.

For decades prior to this administration, the Justice Department had successfully kept politics out of its law enforcement decisions. Hopefully, the spotlight on this misconduct will begin the process of restoring dignity and nonpartisanship to federal law enforcement. As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor.

Maryland Passes Plan to Dodge Electoral College

Maryland appears to be the first state to pass a scheme to effectively eliminate the electoral college by getting enough states to agree to give all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. The measure only takes effect if enough states pass the plan to provide a majority of electoral votes. The plan was passed in California but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. It has passed in one house in Arkansas, Hawaii, and Colorado.

While there are valid arguments for eliminating the electoral college, such a change in how elections are conducted should be done by Constitutional amendment. There is already enough controversy surrounding close elections, and a back door change in a manner such as this will inevitably lead to court battles should the change affect the outcome.

My previous post on the system, posted at The Democratic Daily after the California legislature passed this plan, is reprinted under the fold. (more…)

The Attacks on Obama Get Sillier and Sillier: Obama Confuses Time and Life

Conservatives must really be sared of Barack Obama’s potential. We’ve seen them falsely claim he went to a madrassa. They’ve obsessed over how his name sounds like Osama and over his grad school parking tickets. It gets worse. We have positive proof that Barack Obama has confused Life Magazine with Time!

Articles attacking Obama yesterday questioned his account of an article Obama recalled from his childhood. Richard Cohen wrote in The Washington Post:

I tell you this story to suggest something about Barack Obama. In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” he recounts a watershed moment of his own — a “revelation,” a “violent” awakening, an incident that “permanently altered” his “vision.” Twice he tells how as a 9-year-old he went to the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia (a country where his mother had taken him to live) and came across a Life magazine article about a black man who had tried to whiten his skin through some sort of chemical process. The result was a disaster.

“I felt my face and neck get hot,” Obama wrote. “My stomach knotted; the type began to blur on the page.”

The child had, for the first time, confronted racism and its hideous consequences.

Only there is no such issue of Life magazine. So says the Chicago Tribune, which has gone through the Obama memoir with commendable thoroughness…

When the Tribune told Obama that Life magazine historians could find no such story, Obama suggested it might have been Ebony — “or it might have been . . . who knows what it was?” (The Tribune says Ebony’s archivists also could not come up with such an article.) Indeed, the memory of the event/non-event is so firmly planted in Obama’s mind that it seems to have become an emotional truth for him, far more powerful than an intellectual truth.

Yes, it turns out Obama was wrong. This article was not in Life, or even Ebony. It was a long article in Time on race issues which included this passage (emphasis mine):

There is a trend among Negro coeds and career girls to wear their hair “natural” instead of attempting to unkink it by “conking”—rinsing it with lye and binding it with handkerchiefs. Yet for every Negro who flaunts his identity, a hundred try to camouflage it. Advertisements in the Negro magazines still hymn Nadinola skin bleach: “Lightens and brightens skin.”

Obama might have also been thinking of an article in Look which is described in this diary at Daily Kos.

I’m sure the right wing noise machine will continue to try to spread the claim that Obama has lied about his past, just as they invent their stories that Al Gore lied by saying he invented the internet or that John Kerry lied about his Vietnam record. As their smears get increaslingly lame, it is also clear that the real liars in American politics are those in the right wing noise machine which spread all these lies about Democrats.

Fox Nomination Withdrawn

The White House has withdrawn the nomination of Sam Fox, which I most recently discussed here. Fox has received criticism for his contribution to the Swift Boat Liars, including a letter sent by Kerry’s Vietnam crew mates who have consistently protested the lies told about Kerry by others for political reasons.While those with any integrity of either party recognize that the Swift Boat Liars were fabricating arguments out of political motivations, the right wing noise machine continues to spread their lies. Fortunately one of their backers was forced to pay this price for the unethical act of contributing to such a group, but nothing will stop the lies about Kerry. I included multiple references on the Swift Boat Liers in my previous post. but those who continue to spread these charges have no concern for the truth.

As they have no concern for the truth and are only looking for an opportunity to smear Kerry, there is no amount of evidence which will end their lies. When the facts proved that the Swifties were lying, they just spread a number of dishonest arguments, secure in the fact that the ditto heads of the right would continue to spread them without any concern for fact checking. Many right wing blogs even continue to spread the claim that Kerry has not released his records, when his military records were posted on line for anyone to see who cared about the truth.

There is no way to stop them from continuing to spread their lies about Kerry, as well as making up new lies about who ever runs in 2008. There will always be right wingers who will contribute to such groups, but at least the Fox nomination might give some reason to question whether such dishonorable actions are really in their best interest.

James Boyce has an excellent comment on this at Huffington Post which I’ll quote under the fold: (more…)

Bill Richardson Tries To Make His Case

I have to feel a bit sorry for Bill Richardson. He lacks the name recognitiion of Hillary Clinton, and the charisma of Barack Obama and John Edwards, making him a distant fourth in most people’s estimates. While liberal bloggers show an irrational exuberance for John Edwards, whose qualifications for the Presidency wouldn’t fit on the front of a 3 x 5 card, they ignore Richardson’s impressive resume. The response of the blogosphere to the recent health care forum was glowing for Edwards who had years to come up with a plan which looks compelling at first glance but lacks details. Even Hillary Clinton, whose plan was so bad that it cost Democrats control of Congress for years, received favorable responses in the blogosphere. In contrast, Bill Richardson, who actually came up with suggestions which will both make a real difference and which can be passed, was derided because his plan isn’t as ambitious as those of the candidates to his left.Richardson realizes he has a lot of ground to make up this year to be considered a credible candidate. The New York Observer reports:

Mr. Richardson, whose long and impressive résumé in government and foreign affairs has earned him enough attention to gain him thinking-man’s-dark-horse status in the crowded field of Democratic nominees, is working hard to break into the elite club of front-runners, which includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.He served 15 years in Congress before acting as Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration and turning in a generally admired stint as U.N. ambassador. He is the first major Hispanic Presidential candidate, and his two terms as governor of traditionally Republican New Mexico are another asset—especially because, as he informed the young crowd sipping pints of ale Monday night, “We elect governors in this country.”

At the crammed event organized by Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century, a group of politically active professionals, Mr. Richardson reminded his audience several times that, as a foreign-policy envoy in Iraq and the Sudan, and as a governor, he had participated in the major events of the day while his rivals were onlookers, busy obsessing about the nuances of their Senate votes on Iraq. “A lot of candidates talk about voting a certain way, and ‘This is my position,’” he said. “I’ve done it. I’ve brought countries together.”

An hour later, after patiently answering the questions of a local cable-television channel and a couple of bloggers pointing camcorders in his face, Mr. Richardson said, “I need resources to tell the story.”

Others have also noted the discrepancy in experience between Richardson and the top tier candidates:

“I respect Senator Clinton’s record and her ability to raise money,” he added, “but I just hope the American people don’t vote on who has the most resources.”

He has good reason to feel that way. “You look at those four”—Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Richardson—“and it’s almost embarrassing, because he is clearly the most qualified to be President,” said Larry Sabato, a political-science professor at the University of Virginia. “It has got to bother him that people with far less experience seem to be dominating the landscape. Richardson hasn’t made an impression on people.”

It is way to early for me to be concerned with picking a candiate, but there are some I am more interested in others. If it was up to me, Bill Richardson would be in the top tier as one of the candidates most deserving of a closer look.

Kerry Crew Mates Urge Rejection of Fox Nomination

Senate Democrats and Kerry’s Vietnam crew mates are joining John Kerry in opposing the nomination of Sam Fox to be ambassador to Belgium. AP begins their report saying, “As one of the GOP’s most prominent national fundraisers, Sam Fox should have an easy road to an appealing diplomatic post.” During the hearings Kerry’s questioning made it clear that Fox had no qualifications for the position other than for having raised large amounts of money for Republicans. Under normal circumstances this might have been enough, but Fox made the mistake of donating money to one of the most despicable smear campaigns in modern political history.

Kerry questioned Fox about his contributions to the Swift Boat Liars, with Fox describing Kerry as a hero during the hearings. While right wingers continue to spread unsubstantiated claims which contradict the military record and the testimony of those who witnessed Kerry’s actions, most of those who actually served with John Kerry have substantiated the offical accounts which show that John Kerry deserved his medals. Kerry’s crew mates have sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging members to oppose Fox’s nomination:

With a vote on Fox expected Wednesday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry’s Vietnam crew mates on Tuesday sent a letter urging committee members to oppose Fox’s nomination. A copy of the letter was obtained by the Associated Press.

”In our judgment, those who finance smears and lies of combat veterans don’t deserve to represent America on the world stage,” said the letter signed by James Rassman and 10 other Vietnam Swift Boat veterans who served with Kerry.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Tuesday he opposes the nomination because Fox ”refused to apologize for his behavior” during his confirmation hearing last month.

”U.S. Ambassadors need to be both responsible and credible, and Mr. Fox’s support for an organization known to have spread falsehoods illustrates neither,” said Dodd, who is seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Among other Democrats on the Committee, Barack Obama was critical of Fox’s actions. Not surprisingly, ex-Democrat Joe Lieberman supported Fox.

Last year I had a series of posts on the Swift Boat Liars and John Kerry’s military record at The Democratic Daily. The posts are reprinted under the fold.

Update: Fox Nomination Withdrawn
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Conservative Leaders and Evolution

Conservative leaders have a problem due since their base has a number of strange beliefs, such as believing in creationism as opposed to evolution. Digby reviews statements about their views on evolution from a number of conservative leaders. Some can’t bring themselves to deny the validity of evolution while others support creationism.

I was also a bit surprised with another aspect of William Kristol’s answer. Conservatives claim to be the party of family values. To me, just one part of raising a family is being involved with what our children are learning in school. Kristol dodges the question of teaching evolution in the schools by saying, “I managed to have my children go through the Fairfax, Virginia schools without ever looking at one of their science textbooks.”

Thomas Friedman on Bush Administrations Suppression of Climate Change Reports

Thomas Friedman weighs in on the documents revealing that “hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.” Friedman compares the attitudes of the Bush administration to those of Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Let’s see, of all the gin joints. Of all the people the Bush team would let edit its climate reports, we have a guy who first worked for the oil lobby denying climate change, with no science background, then went back to work for Exxon. Does it get any more intellectually corrupt than that? Is there something lower that I’m missing?

I wonder how Mr. Cooney would have edited the recent draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written and reviewed by 1,000 scientists convened by the World Meteorological Society and the U.N. It concluded that global warming is “unequivocal,” that human activity is the main driver, and that “changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent.”

I am not out to promote any party, but reading articles like the Cooney one makes me say: Thank goodness the Democrats are back running the House and Senate — because, given its track record, this administration needs to be watched at all times.

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Keith Olbermann on Tom DeLay

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8vlm0CsP_g]

Keith Olbermann had this Special Comment on Tom DeLay’s comparison of those who criticize him to Nazis. Full text below the fold. (more…)

Rove Protestors in West Bloomfield, Michigan

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4-rz7d7y9E]

The previous post showed young Karl Rove working for Richard Nixon. Recently Rove was in West Bloomfield, Michigan doing the bidding of the Richard Nixon for our current era. The television coverage shows Rove being greated by protestors in West Bloomfield.