Friday, March 17, 2006

Working on a Trial Basis

Did a little something today over at Jewish World Review about the lawyer who bungled the Moussaoui case.

Here's a teeny foretaste:

That's what it must have felt like for Carla Martin to wake up yesterday morning. Suddenly her picture is on the front page of the New York Times, looking frazzled and a tad disheveled. The Times explains to all and sundry that this "obscure" functionary at the Transportation Security Administration has shredded the Justice Department's case against Zacarias Mousaoui by coaching government witnesses — slipping them advance e-mails of what to expect.

If it's not bad enough to get blamed for doing what "everybody does" and gets away with, she must endure the indignity of being labeled obscure. If I picked up a paper that read "Obscure columnist Jay Homnick has been named the central figure in a blockbuster investigation concerning white slavery, killing for hire, heroin smuggling and unpaid parking tickets", my response would be predictable: "Obscure? Whaddaya mean obscure?" Now, it's true that it is common practice and that the other guys never seem to get caught. But it's still wrong and unfair and, for the Bush administration, supremely obtuse.

8 comments:

James Elliott said...

"But why can Democrats do this stuff with impunity?"

Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, Mr. Elliott, I found Brother Jay's observation quite incisive, and substantiated here:

"Nowhere was this clearer than in the Bill Clinton story. He hired private detectives to intimidate women, but the story did not have traction. Democrats don't do that. He sexually harassed Paula Jones and then defrauded her of her day in court, but the people were not offended. Democrats don't do that. He had the IRS go after his political opponents, the Secret Service interrogate a priest who told him that God would punish him for abortion, the ATF burn down a building full of children and the INS deport a little Cuban kid at the point of submachine guns. No problem any of this. But when he started having irresponsible affairs with interns and pardoning people as a favor to his drug-dealer brother, the nation got it. That's Democrat excess. Too free with the freedom.


By contrast, Republicans will consistently be condemned when they step over the line on the authoritarian side. Too orderly with the order."


I thought Jay was quite fair: Clinton gets nailed on his libertinism but his authoritarianism was quite overlooked. The former followed the "story line" while the latter didn't.

For the record, I thought the impeachment deal was chickenspit, where some very scary (possible) abuses like using the IRS against his political enemies were of little or no interest to the papers or even to his political opponents.

Few if any dare to stray from their scripts.

connie deady said...

From what I understand the e-mails contained transcripts of the testimony of witnesses. That violates tradition sequestration orders. And no, everyone doesn't do that in criminal trials. Among other things it has a suggestion of perjury to it.

Tlaloc said...

"Now, it's true that it is common practice and that the other guys never seem to get caught."

Well some very non-obscure lawyers seem to feel that you are wrong and that it is NOT a common practice. It is in fact a shocking abuse.

James Elliott said...

"Actually, Mr. Elliott, I found Brother Jay's observation quite incisive, and substantiated here..."

Actually, I found it to be the opposite: It commits what I call the "Yabbut" fallacy of Republican thinking. It may be summed up thusly: "Yeah, but, but... CLINTON!"

In a party as disparate as the Democrats, it is fallacious to cast Clinton as an iconic, representative figurehead, fit to stand in for all Democrats. Which is precisely what Jay has done here. He has taken the egregious nature of Clinton's acts - some of which (Waco, Elian Gonzales) ignore the realities of governance (something you are prone to with the Clinton-Iraq sanctions meme you continualy propound) - and generalized them to the Democratic Party as a whole. Many Republicans speak of "irrational Bush hatred" among Democrats; if that is so, then it is no different than the "irrational Clinton hatred" so demonstrated. Neither is a basis for reasoned argument.

Interestingly, I decided to do a fair amount of research before responding. I didn't know about the IRS abuse, and it appears to have been a disgusting and highly suspicious abuse of power. However, Jay's was the ONLY reference I could find to any priest being abused by the Secret Service. Similarly, there is no indication that Paula Jones was denied her day in court - indeed, her first case was thrown out by the judge (incorrectly, I'd say); despite this, Clinton still settled. To say that Paula Jones was denied her day in court is hyperbolic at minimum.

Further, to say that such actions are generalizable to Democrats as a whole, is an indefensible conclusion: Jay merely found one prominent example that fit the narrative he'd constructed.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Apparently, no one represents the Democratic Party, James. It's like thumbwrestling with the Crisco Kid.

Bill Clinton is the only useful control in trying to separate the presidency from partisanship. You may pick off a few of Jay's examples, but you still end up with Clinton invading Kosovo (with less congressional support than Bush had for Iraq) and Clinton AG Deputy Jamie Gorelick's 1994 testimony before Congress (previously cited here) defending the executive's constitutional duty to protect the nation, in this case via electronic eavesdropping.

Again, for the record, even though Clinton got great pain from the GOP (mostly from the House, not the Senate), I thought he was OK---he was a centrist and my objections to his presidency run more to what he didn't do than what he actually did.

If you poke between the lines at The Reform Club, you'll find a lot of Buckley conservative, as opposed to neocon, sentiment, altho I myself am closer to the latter. This is not Hannity & That Other Guy...

James Elliott said...

"Bill Clinton is the only useful control in trying to separate the presidency from partisanship. You may pick off a few of Jay's examples, but you still end up with Clinton invading Kosovo (with less congressional support than Bush had for Iraq) and Clinton AG Deputy Jamie Gorelick's 1994 testimony before Congress (previously cited here) defending the executive's constitutional duty to protect the nation, in this case via electronic eavesdropping."

I have to take some pains to correct some incorrect facts here. Now, there’s nothing partisan about them – they’re fairly common misconceptions – but they need correcting because they cause errors in reasoning.

I’ll take the second case first. Gorelick’s 1994 testimony came before a 1995 revision of the FISA law that specifically prohibited the action the Clinton government took. In other words, a previously unforeseen action became to be considered an abuse of power, but was not, at the time taken, prohibited to the government. Further, Gorelick was NOT testifying about electronic eavesdropping – she was testifying about warrantless searches, which included electronic eavesdropping. The specific matter was that FBI agents secretly raided Aldrich Ames’s home. It is this revised portion of FISA - a revision, remember, that arose out of an uncorrected aspect of (at the time) executive power - that the Bush Administration is now accused of violating.

As for Kosovo: I cannot take enough pains to point out that the Kosovo intervention was not, not, NOT an invasion. US troops did not set foot on Serbian soil. Under the law, the president is entitled to take unilateral military action (such as the bombing runs that were conducted on Serbian targets) for thirty days. After those thirty days, the president (or administration officials) must go to Congress (in the form of the applicable committee) and explain why further military action is necessary. Congress then gives leave for a further 30, 60 or 90 days, or may waive the requirement for up to one year (the action will come up for review as a part of the budget process). Or, conversely, they may rule the action unnecessary and refuse to fund it, thus effectively ending the operation unless one happens to have more chutzpah than Teddy Roosevelt. (This legal requirement is also why you’re off-base on the Clinton-sanctions thing.) This includes direct action, not deployment, and the Kosovo intervention did not, in the military sense of direct action under this law, last longer than the thirty days. One of the most curious things about Iraq and the War on Terror is that Congress has never waived this law, but also never held Bush accountable for it, during the whole process.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You may examine Ms. Gorelick's testimony for yourself. She defended the same principle under which the Bush administration is operating.

As for Kosovo, you are surely correct on the legalities. I merely pointed out that Clinton had less support from congress.