Wednesday, May 16, 2007

True Colors

Our local paper completely ignored this story this morning, but the testimony of former deputy attorney general, James Comey before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday was widely reported by more astute media. The Los Angeles Times did a credible job, though, as did the NPR afternoon news show, All Things Considered.

The most complete report I’ve read, though, came from the website Comment is Free Here is an excerpt:

It fell to Ashcroft's chief of staff, David Ayres, to break the news (of Comey’s decision not to OK the NSA surveillance program) to the White House. And as he drove home after doing so, he called Comey to relay a message from Ashcroft's wife, who was at the hospital with her husband: Someone had called her - Comey remembers vaguely that President Bush was involved - to say that Andrew Card, then the White House chief of staff, and Gonzales, who at the time was the White House counsel, were on their way to the hospital. Comey surmised that Card and Gonzales were going to pressure Ashcroft, ill as he was, to override Comey's decision. Comey called his own chief of staff and told him to get as many of his people to the hospital as quickly as possible. He directed his driver to use sirens to get him to the hospital on time. And when they arrived, FBI Director Robert Mueller instructed his own agents not to remove Comey from the hospital room under any circumstances. Comey and two more justice appointees awaited Card and Gonzales, all the while trying to get Ashcroft cognizant enough to withstand any pressure to recertify the program.

Just that paragraph should be enough to demonstrate how Bush Administration top officials deal with issues. Gonzalez and Card’s reputations must have preceded them to the hospital. Otherwise why would anyone be concerned enough about their visit to alert Mr. Comey, and why would he immediately assume that the two were going to coerce the Attorney General into overruling Comey? And why would the Director of the FBI feel impelled to order his agents NOT to remove Mr. Comey from the room unless he anticipated that the two would try to remove him?

The program was reauthorized the next day without DOJ consent. Many including Mueller prepared their resignations, but President Bush, much to his credit, issued an order that the program should be altered to comply with the DOJ position and thus forestalled those resignations.

Arlen Specter, sitting in during the committee’s deliberations, compared Comey’s testimony too the “Saturday Night Massacre” under the Nixon Administration saying, “It is hard to say how the DOJ can function with Mr. Gonzalez where he is.” The national reaction to this testimony over the next few days and the coming weeks will bear important testimony to whether or not our system still works.

Back in the day, my flagging belief in our system was buoyed by the fact that it worked to take Richard M. Nixon out of office in the face of just this kind of activity. At this point my faith in the system is even lower than it was in those days because I think that the offenses committed by the current administration make Nixon’s crimes look like chewing gum in school.

Will the system work again to look deeply enough into the background of Mr. Comey’s story, the firings of the federal prosecutors and other abuses to lead the nation to the ultimate conclusion that this kind of behavior is possible only because the top levels of the administration believe that their agenda is so strong and valid that the law shouldn’t apply to them?

If it does, the logical result should be the removal of the whole nest of snakes that now occupies the Whitehouse. If so, my faith in America will be renewed once again. If not, my pessimism will be rewarded with the sure belief that the nation is doomed.

It is worthy of note, though, that the possible exception to removal from office might be Mr. Bush himself. While I believe him to be the most incompetent president ever to sit in the oval office, I also believe that he is, as I characterized him yesterday, just an empty suit. I think he could as easily have been influenced toward the positive as toward the negative. He may just be the world’s most visible example of the weak-ego kid who finds himself in bad company. I would like to think that might be true, and if he should look at the evil by which he is surrounded and find the courage to react by rising up to throw the _____ers out, I’ll happily jump to my feet to applaud him.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. – M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But
in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

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