While we in the blogosphere are all over this USA firing story, the MSM's refusal to go beneath the surface has left most of the public with a vague idea that something sleazy might have happened, but probably not criminal. The high profile of the Duke lacrosse players case provides us the perfect opportunity to frame the USA scandal in a way that most people can easily understand and relate to. Below is an opinion piece I have written tying these themes together.
[Note - original diary from 4/13, updated diary published 4/15]
This past week all charges were dropped in the rape case against the Duke lacrosse players. Reports claimed that the prosecutor in the case was motivated by a desire to get African-American votes. And so he abused the power of his office and did enormous harm to three young men. This was a clear example of abusing the power that prosecutors have to completely disrupt the lives of innocent people.
Another very clear example, though it received far less coverage, was the case of Georgia Thompson, until last year, a purchasing agent for the state of Wisconsin. She was tried and convicted of favoring a political contributor to the Democratic governor in awarding a contract. The judge on the case also made the extraordinary decision that she should immediately begin serving her sentence because she had no likelihood of winning an appeal. This case was used in the run-up to the 2006 elections to try to damage the governor in his reelection bid.
Funny thing about this contract though. It went to the low bidder. The other comparable bid was from an out-of-state company. There was no evidence, or even claim that she received anything in the deal. She was hired by the previous (Republican) administration and there was no evidence that she was connected to the governor in any way other than being a state employee. And yet this 56 year old woman was told, "Go to jail. Go directly to jail."
This past week her case was reviewed on appeal by a three judge panel. Two of the judges were Republicans, appointed by Reagan and Ford*, and the other a Democrat appointed by Clinton. At the completion of oral arguments they determined that the evidence against her was "beyond thin" and ordered that she be released from prison immediately - in 20 minutes flat they righted this horrible wrong that had been done to her. She lost her job, her home, and is thousands of dollars in debt from lawyer costs. All this in addition to spending several months in prison. This is another stark reminder of the danger posed by prosecutors who abuse the power of their position and public trust.
This, at it's core, is what the US Attorneys firing scandal is about. What DA Mike Nifong attempted on a selfish, personal level, Karl Rove has tried to orchestrate on a national level. It now appears that the US Attorney who prosecuted the case, Steven M. Biskupic, did so to get back in the good graces of the president at whose pleasure he serves. He had failed to find any "there there" regarding Republican claims of voter fraud, and needed this case to prove himself a "loyal Bushie." And it has just been reported that he was on one of the earlier lists of US Attorneys to be fired. And so he upended the life of an innocent public servant - not even a politician, just someone who could be used to smear one. And then, in a move both hypocritical and ironic, during closing arguments Mr. Biskupic called Ms. Thompson a liar.
This scenario has been played out across the country. It has been mostly targeted at local and state candidates. A statistical analysis of the cases investigated by the Bush US Attorneys shows some very disturbing trends. There is no question that the US Attorneys who weren't fired were doing the political bidding of Bush and Rove. This is all part of Karl Rove's plan to create a permanent Republican majority.
Well America got a taste of what that might look like between 2002 and 2006. It looked a whole lot like rubber-stamped dictatorship. The outrage that is currently being felt towards Mr. Nifong should be directed towards Mr. Rove many times over in terms of numbers of innocent lives disrupted purely for political gain.
* - originally listed as a Bush 41 appointee, corrected by Kossack Nick Blas in comments.
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Late last night I sent this to everyone in my email contacts list. This morning I had a reply from a lady I know who is generally non-political. But, she has a son in college and is mid-fiftyish herself. She thanked me for informing her about the Thompson case and promised to forward the email to her contacts. I'm also sending it to a variety of newspapers. I figure it's kind of long for a letter to the editor, but at least the framing might open a few eyes which still remain skeptical that this is more than just a flubbed personnel matter.