One of the most shocking stories to grow out of the U.S. attorney firing scandal was the case of Alabama's former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman. Seigelman was convicted on corruption charges last year. That conviction, and the pressure that came from the Bush Justice Department to secure it, has been a focus of Congressional hearings, and now a 60 Minutes story that will air on Sunday.
Simpson spoke to Pelley because, she says, Siegelman’s seven-year sentence for bribery bothers her. She recalls what Rove, then President Bush’s senior political adviser, asked her to do at a 2001 meeting in this exchange from Sunday’s report.
"Karl Rove asked you to take pictures of Siegelman?" asks Pelley.
"Yes," replies Simpson.
"In a compromising, sexual position with one of his aides," clarifies Pelley.
"Yes, if I could," says Simpson.
Simpson says she found no evidence of infidelity despite months of observation. She tells Pelley that Rove, who had been a top Republican strategist in Alabama, had made requests for information from her before in her capacity as an "opposition researcher" for Republicans running for office.
Siegelman's supporters (which includes 52 former states’ attorneys general from both political parties) have been working with 60 Minutes for months to get this story aired in hopes that it will bring renewed interest in the case. Given that the show is going to air opposite the Academy Awards, that seems unlikely.
Scott Horton has covered this story in excruciating detail over at Harper's.
If you haven't heard of this case, or aren't 100% clear on its details, you owe it to yourself as an American, as a voter, or just as an educated, capable adult human being with any amount of political awareness, to make yourself familiar with this travesty. CBS will only go so far in helping you do it.
This really demonstrates the lengths to which Bush-Cheney's hyper-politicized Department of Justice can go. If they can railroad the actual governor of a state into prison and have pretty much nobody really sit up and take notice, what does that say about the extent of the damage to the country? Not just the DOJ (which is a goner), but about the supposed watchdogs of the media, who've been in large part either cowed into silence, or distracted by an endless stream of shiny objects?
Seriously, this means they can do this to anybody.
But worse than that, it means that anybody who finds themselves under scrutiny by the federal government now has license to charge that they're being politically targeted. Because if this can happen as Horton describes it happening, all bets are off. It has all the ingredients of the complete and total undoing of all federal law enforcement capability for the foreseeable future.
Nobody indicted by the Bush-Cheney DOJ can possibly help but wonder whether they're being targeted by the White House political machine. Not Don Siegelman. Not Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio. Nobody.
And once America realizes this really can happen (it's previously been unimaginable, and therefore all too easy to dismiss as "conspiracy theory"), you can bet your last dollar that any Republican indicted by a Democratic administration will be making that claim, too.
We've already watched in horror and amazement as Bush-Cheney, flouting the law left and right, painted the Congress into the "impeachment is off the table" corner for fear (among other things) of being tarred with the "revenge for Clinton" and "tit for tat" brushes. One hardly need stretch the imagination to foresee precisely this hurdle being thrown up in the path of a Democratic administration elected with a mandate to clean out the Republican Culture of Corruption.
That's the true measure of the damage the Bush-Cheney "administration" has caused. It's no longer just your basic looting of the Treasury. Dollar-based corruption we at least understand. But corruption of the actual mechanisms of the government itself? Corruption not meant to enrich, but to corrode public trust in the only system we have for actually holding corrupt officials to account?
We're now looking at federal law enforcement so grossly politicized that even a landslide victory for the opposition party might not be able to root the corruption out.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have injected the American government with a slow-acting poison it will take decades to overcome. And we haven't yet, in this post, considered how their "administration" has taken such pains to pave the path to prison for political opponents with tools previously so incompatible with the American system of justice as to have been unimaginable: completely unchecked (and indeed, uncheckable) domestic spying; indefinite detention; the suspension of habeas corpus; the official sanction of torture (and its mumbo-jumbo defense by a Supreme Court Justice); extraordinary rendition... the list goes on and on. Thankfully, none of what are arguably the most egregious departures from the tradition of American justice have been utilized in the most political domestic criminal cases. But how sure can we be, say, about warrantless wiretapping? If the thought gives you even a moment's pause, you're beginning to grasp the depth of the problem.
And one might well ask if it ever can be overcome. We have no model or metric by which to measure our ability to do it.
Watergate? Iran-Contra? Certainly the former, moreso than the latter, comes closest. But the last seven years have been one assault after another on the supposed progress made in "overcoming" Watergate. By some of the very same actors once thought purged from the body politic at the supposed end of our "long national nightmare," no less.
Read the Horton stories. Watch the 60 Minutes segment. Make yourselves aware. And demand of your candidates that they face up to this story's implications.