A defense from Reagan, an angry Stephanopoulos: the risks of prosecuting Bush and Cheney.
(Page 2 of 3)
Because the defeated Republicans, now schooled in painful detail in just how to make anything from foreign policy decisions (the Iran initiative) to having too much ego and too much Scotch (Deaver) into a federal case did just that with the new Clinton administration. One Clinton moment after another was turned, literally, into a federal case, leaving the president, according to Vanity Fair, “bitter and angry.” Notably, all of these bitter complaints from the Clinton White House came just over a year before the Mother of All Scandals would almost swamp the Clinton White House entirely — making famous two more names in particular: Monica Lewinsky and Special Prosecutor Ken Starr.
By 1999, the criminalizing of policy differences had taken a serious toll on Washington. So too had other pieces of left-wing dogma taken a serious hit. The idea that “women tell the truth” about sexual harassment, gospel when the accuser was polished lawyer Anita Hill pointing a finger at a black conservative Supreme Court nominee named Clarence Thomas, had morphed into the memorable assertion from Clinton lieutenant James Carville that “If you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” This, of course, a reference to the un-polished Ms. Paula Jones of the Arkansas twang.
The idea that various Republican targets of special prosecutors were supposed to sit still and watch quietly as their actions while in government were now to be turned into secretive, paranoid designs making them a cross between Al Capone, Hitler, and Machiavelli vanished. Replaced with a full-scale frontal assault by Democrats was on Ken Starr.
There is a cautionary tale for Obama and his team in all of this. Particularly for the man who is mentioned in passing in the Vanity Fair article — then-Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel, now Obama’s chief staff. Alas for presidents and their staffs, their successors quite frequently can and do disagree with their predecessor’s decisions. So too can the opposition party in Congress and the now vibrant conservative media. In this case, finding lawyers who proclaim Bush and Cheney and their staffs and administration as guilty of breaking the law is as easy as it will be for Obama s successor and his or her staff to do the same with the Obama team.
How will this work? Here are but three examples in an Obama administration barely 100 days old.
A mere three days into his term the new president ordered drone attacks inside Pakistan on suspected al-Qaeda terrorists. Twenty-two people were killed. Not all were believed to be terrorists. According to locals, women and at least three children were killed. On top of this, all manner of once “Top Secret” documents on prisoner interrogation techniques have abruptly been dropped into the public domain thanks to the decision of Obama administration lawyers. Meanwhile, over in the House, Speaker Pelosi has gotten herself trapped in her own demands for a “Truth Commission” all the while steadfastly issuing murky statements of the what-did-she-know-and-when-did-she-know-it variety when it came to intelligence briefings on torture.
In other words, this very green President of the United States, without a lick of military experience, just bombed a country (Pakistan) with which the U.S. is not at war. Nor did he request a declaration of war. On top of which innocent women and children are now dead. If we are to run with the doctrine according to MoveOn.org this, ladies and gentleman, is what the left loves to label a “war crime.”
Second, the release of “Top Secret” documents can easily be reviewed by a new and different batch of lawyers and ruled to be a deliberate breach of the Espionage Act of 1917. This statute plainly states that a government official who has information “relating to the national defense and has reason to believe it could be used to harm the United States and willfully transmits the information to an unauthorized recipient” — meaning, in the case of the Obama officials, the media — is open to prosecution and a ten-year prison sentence.
As for Speaker Pelosi, a release of both the briefings she received on torture during her tenure as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, plus — importantly — the minutes of what was said at those briefings, can immediately open a discussion as to whether the Speaker in any way lied or violated House rules. Before Republicans pushed back at Clinton, it is now forgotten, one young GOP Congressman named Newt Gingrich forced the Democrats on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to face up to their scorching rhetoric on ethics in the Reagan era. With gritted teeth, the Committee reluctantly accused then-House Speaker Jim Wright of violating House rules some 69 times — forcing his resignation.
Make no mistake. The goal of leveling these kind of accusations against Obama and Pelosi, as was the goal when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Jim Wright and Bill Clinton were the targets (and, briefly, towards the end of his term, Jimmy Carter), is not necessarily to remove Obama or Pelosi from office. No, the goal, as was laid out back in 1996 by furious George’s lawyer, is something else entirely.
The goal, as it now is with the MoveOn targeting of the Bush and Cheney officials and the ex-president and vice president themselves, is to legally harass, to humiliate, to intimidate, to destroy reputations and financially ruin the targets. At risk in the Obama White House as a result of decisions already made and executed are not only the well-known players like chief of staff Emanuel. Infected in these kinds of investigations would be every staff member with even the briefest of contact with the issue at hand. This would include, as it did in the past, not only those in the chief of staff’s office but the vice president’s office, the National Security Council, the Political Affairs office, the First Lady’s office and anyone anywhere in the bureaucracy outside the White House — CIA, State, the Pentagon, and so on.
Typical of the latter target in the Clinton era was 28-year-old Joshua Steiner, the chief of staff to Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen. Young Mr. Steiner, a friend of George Stephanopoulos, made the mistake of keeping a diary in which he faithfully noted a phone conversation he had with a literally furious George over the appointment of a well-known Clinton critic, an ex-GOP U.S. Attorney, to the Resolution Trust Corporation. Cost to Mr. Steiner? As of December, 1996, his legal bills were up to $100,000 and the meter was still running. He became famous in Time magazine as “the dumb son of a bitch (who) kept a diary.” And that lovely quote was from a Clinton colleague — anonymous of course.
Do I recommend any of this? Of course not. This is almost obscene in its disregard for the Constitution and simple human decency.
We have elections to decide these things. Presidents and members of their administration have made mistakes, wrong calls or highly debatable decisions since George Washington personally decided to lead troops to crush the Whiskey Rebellion. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, FDR was at the helm when Pearl Harbor was attacked, Truman dropped not one but two atomic bombs on Japanese civilians, JFK plotted to kill Castro using the CIA when he wasn’t (ineptly) agreeing to an invasion. All of these, and many, many more presidential decisions, if pursued with the wild-eyed legal zealotry of MoveOn.org, would have ruined just about every administration in American history. It’s just too easy to do.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?