Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Who says Republicans don't care when civil rights are trampled on?

Here in Anchorage, the sun has been setting past my bedtime, and is up again before I open my eyes. And so it was that I was put in mind of a poem by the poet laureate for Alaska, Robert Service.
There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold.
The arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
The northern lights have seen queer sights
But the queerest they ever did see,
Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge
When I cremated Sam McGee.

-- from The Cremation of Sam McGee.
Service tells a strange tale, to be sure, but it can’t hold a candle to what is happening in the Congress lately.

Our story starts with William Jefferson, a Democratic Representative from Louisiana. Turns out he is a crook. I mean, presumption of innocence, he’s been advised by attorneys not to discuss the case, two sides to every story, yadda-yadda.

On the other hand, last week it was revealed that he was videotaped taking a $100,000 bribe by FBI agents conducting a sting operation. The money was found in a food freezer in his house, and you can insert your own “cold cash” or “frozen assets” joke here.

The Democrats, for good and sufficient reasons, are looking forward to running against the culture of corruption in the next election, and the next after that. The sad part is that the case of William Jefferson takes some of the blush off that blossom. But it needn’t be so.

Here’s Nancy Pelosi last March, talking about L'Affaire Jefferson:
In the case of Mr. Jefferson, I think the Ethics Committee should investigate him. It is his private matter, and he should be investigated because of the stories that have been in the press and the guilty plea that you mentioned yesterday. That is his business; that's not ours.

Check out the video here. On the May 7th edition of Meet the Press, Rep. Pelosi confirmed that she had, indeed, asked the House ethics committee to investigate Jefferson.

For reasons that remain unknown, the Justice Department decided to serve a search warrant on the Congressional office of Rep. Jefferson. The search occurred over the weekend. That’s when the excrement hit the ventilator.

Here’s how the New York Times reported it:
After years of quietly acceding to the Bush administration's assertions of executive power, the Republican-led Congress hit a limit this weekend.

Resentment boiled among senior Republicans for a second day on Tuesday after a team of warrant-bearing agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned up at a closed House office building on Saturday evening, demanded entry to the office of a lawmaker and spent the night going through his files.

The episode prompted cries of constitutional foul from Republicans — even though the lawmaker in question, Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, is a Democrat whose involvement in a bribery case has made him an obvious partisan political target.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert raised the issue personally with President Bush on Tuesday. The Senate Rules Committee is examining the episode.
Dennis Hastert? Wasn’t his name in the news for something else, today? Oh yeah. Could that be the same J. Dennis Hastert mentioned in this story on Reuters?
The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is probing corruption in Congress, ABC News reported on Wednesday.
ABC, citing high level Justice Department sources, said information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with those of other tribes.
Coincidence? Perhaps not.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

1 comment:

BigMitch said...

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I disagree with the bipartisan House leadership criticism of the FBI's search of a Member's office. I know nothing specifically about the case, except that the uncontroverted public evidence did seem to justify the issuance of a warrant.
What we now have is a Congressional leadership, the Republican part of which has said it is okay for law enforcement to engage in warrantless searches of the average citizen, now objecting when a search, pursuant to a validly issued warrant, is conducted of a Member of Congress.

I understand that the speech and debate clause is in the Constitution. It is there because Queen Elizabeth I and King James I were disrespectful of Parliament. It ought to be, in my judgment, construed narrowly. It should not be in any way interpreted as meaning that we as Members of Congress have legal protections superior to those of the average citizen.

So I think it was a grave error to have criticized the FBI. I think what they did, they ought to be able to do in every case where they can get a warrant from a judge. I think, in particular, for the leadership of this House, which has stood idly by while this administration has ignored the rights of citizens, to then say we have special rights as Members of Congress is wholly inappropriate.