Friday, August 21, 2009

Will NJ voters really replace Jon Corzine with a poster boy for the Bush regime's corruption of U.S. justice?


It's the economy, stupid: Governor Corzine may have contributed to his own problems, but surely only the state of the economy makes it seriously possible that he could lose to a grandstanding sleazebag like Chris Christie.

"Once upon a time we had a concept of 'disgrace'. People with money, power, office, social position, actually cared about whether they acted dishonorably, because if they did they wouldn’t get invited to corporate boards and dinner parties. People would cross the street to show their disdain. Now we give them book contracts, TV deals, visiting professorships, and they get interviewed as experts by the media."
-- Michael Froomkin, in a post,

by Ken

Luckily for most of our governors, 2009 -- being a political "off" year -- isn't a time when many of them have to face an electorate rendered increasingly angry and panicky by a year's experience of the Bush Depression. In fact, only one sitting governor is facing the voters this year: New Jersey's Jon Corzine. (The only other state electing a governor is Virginia, where Tim Kaine is finishing his allotted second term, so there's no incumbent on the ballot.)

I feel bad for not writing about the New Jersey race sooner. I guess it's just been hard to grasp that Corzine could be in trouble, especially against a political and moral nothing like former U.S. attorney Chris Christie, whose entire career reads as a majestic buildup to the great day of his own indictment perp walk.

Goodness knows, Governor Corzine has contributed to his own electoral troubles. He came into office with an arrogance that clearly put New Jerseyans off even when he had a point, as with the budget showdown not long after he took office in 2006, which led to a six-day government shutdown that has never been forgotten. Add to the brusqueness of his CEO style a trail of "rich guy"-type scandals, and it's not surprising that the governor doesn't have a vast reservoir of voter good will to fall back on.

Still, Corzine is a guy of substance, and in times of economic stress, his background and skills -- especially as tempered by the wisdom in matters of public service he has gained in his first term -- are good credentials for helping New Jersey survive and recover from the economic meltdown. He is a solid progressive, and would surely deserve reelection if he were facing serious competition. But when he's up against a guy whose political values seem limited to right-wing Republican platitudes ("tax cuts"!) and old-style cronyism, it goes beyond "no contest" to a matter of considerable urgency.

Of course this is a terrible year for a sitting governor to be running. In the early months of the meltdown, Americans seemed to grasp that the economy not only wasn't going to be turned around in a month, but having gotten where we were, it was going to be a long road back. I never had a lot of faith in those assurances, though. When people are feeling this kind of economic hurt, which we knew was likely to get worse before it got better, the perception of a "long road" becomes highly subjective. I think a lot of people have moved into "Are we there yet?" mode.

And governors are between a rock and a hard place. However badly the Obama administration has mismanaged the "stimulus" -- with its preposterous attempt to appease shithead Republicans who hope to dance on the administration's grave and its reliance on economic advisers who swear by the old adage, "What's good for the Wall Street gang and the banksters is good for, well, the Wall Street gang and the banksters" -- it has succeeded in pumping streams of spendable money into the economy. Paul Krugman has suggested that the large number of government-funded programs already in existence have assured a flow of cash that is likely what saved us from a full-fledged depression.

Some of that money has gone to the states, but not nearly enough, which has forced them into the position of having to drastically cut spending and raise taxes, thereby seriously reducing the amount of money consumers have in pocket and are willing to spend. But what else is a governor to do?

(There are, of course, shithead governors who came up with the brilliant idea of trying to reject federal stim funds. You know, geniuses like Louisiana's Booby Jindal and South Carolina's Mark Sanford, gentlemen from whom we will be happy to sign up for economics instruction as soon as (a) Governor Booby dislodges his head from his heinie and (b) Governor Mark apologizes for his sorry-ass existence.)

In this respect New Jersey is luckier than most states in having a governor prepared to seriously address the state's economic woes -- that is, assuming its voters have the sense to retain his services. At the moment, even though Governor Corzine's personal wealth is reportedly much depleted by recent events (leaving him badly positioned to self-finance a campaign as expensive as this one is likely to be; he has pointed out that he's not Mike Bloomberg), it's surely the case that New Jersey needs Corzine more than Corzine needs New Jersey.

I suppose we could, and should, be examining a host of policy issues, looking at what the governor has done and proposed, and comparing all of that with what candidate Chris Christie is saying. I trust that there are people doing that, and maybe at some point we'll get around to it. But for now only two points concern me:

(1) Jon Corzine has accomplished a fair amount in his first term under a panoply of trying conditions. He's exceptionally well qualified for the job and has undoubtedly learned a great deal that will make him a better governor in his second term, if he gets one, and in any case he is the only serious candidate in the race.

(2) Chris Christie is a sorry specimen of your small-time wannabe big shot, who doesn't seem to believe in much of anything but is content to spew doctrinaire right-wing ideology, and whose principal operating principle is knowing a guy who knows a guy who . . . .

I have no qualms in taking the position that Christie should never be elected to any position, should never again occupy any public office, if only for one reason: He was Karl Rove's idea of a satisfactory U.S. attorney.

I apologize for resurrecting a hoary old scandal like that of the Bush regime's purge of U.S. attorneys who refused to go along with the regime's mandate to subordinate the administration of federal justice to acting as the enforcement arm of the Bush political machine. Even now, with all the testimony that John Conyers' House Judiciary Committee was finally able to extract from the apparent pointpersons of the purge, regime political mastermind Karl Rove and then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers, testimony that I gather from people who have ventured into it is severely incriminating with regard both to the Bush regime's political perversion of the U.S. attorneys' job and to the role played by Master Karl, the son of a bitch has the temerity to go on TV (after all, he's a "commentator" now!) and insist that he's vindicated and owed an apology by the media who have been hounding him with baseless allegations.

What will save Rove from doing time is the apparent absence of a smoking gun -- you know, something like him dancing in a T-shirt that says, "I Broke Every Law in the Book Prohibiting Politicization of the Justice Dept." (There is also, of course, the more immediately pressing charge that Rove masterminded the framing of Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, which needs to be pursued relentlessly, first to restore the freedom and reputation, if not the career, of a man who was railroaded out of office and into prison, and second to establish the principle that political hatchetmen operating under cover of the White House really aren't allowed to conspire to overthrow the legally elected government of one of the 50 states.)

As the U.S. attorney scandal was breaking, and frequently thereafter, I wrote here that, next to the disastrous war that the Bush regime lied the country into, the worst of its vast array of malfeasances was its carefully orchestrated destruction of the "justice" function of the Department of Justice, and one of the principal tools was the purge of U.S. attorneys, the DoJ's regional administrators of the federal justice system, who refused to play along.

Just think, to pick a famous example (and one that the Rove and Miers testimony seems to confirm happened exactly the way we thought it did), of David Iglesias being fired for refusing to bring bogus indictments against New Mexico Democratic pols threatening the reelection of New Mexico Republicans like then-Sen. Pete Domenici and then-Rep. Heather Wilson. Is it really so hard to see how direct and immediate a threat this is to American democracy?

From what we already know based on the reporting and piecing together that has already been done regarding the U.S.A. firings, behind almost every one lies a story -- some similar, some different -- so ugly, so unlawful and anti-constitutional, and so dangerous to our most basic American values that it should by itself have constituted an impeachable offense. I'm sorry, but this is another of those things we can't "just put behind us." That isn't going to neutralize the threat to our electoral system. I think for that it's necessary for some people to spend a chunk of time in a federal penitentiary, or the next time we have a U.S. administration that's inclined to repeat the abuses of the Bush regime, those people are going to feel free to do so.

Nevertheless, as important as this, it isn't anywhere close to the most important issue at stake in the U.S.A. firings.

This is another point I first encountered thanks to Paul Krugman, though I'm sure many other people made the same connection. Okay, this line of thinking goes, we've learned about some of the kinds of things that could get you fired from the Bush DoJ. But what about the 84 U.S. attorneys who weren't fired? What did they have to do to retain the favor of Karl Rove's White House political operation?

For starters, I hope no one has forgotten the study undertaken by Donald Shields and John Cragan of Bush DoJ prosecutions undertaken in the years 2001-06, which found:
Data indicate that the offices of the U.S. Attorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops.

Beyond that, well, we know of some individual cases, as in Alabama's Middle District, where U.S.A. Leura Canary apparently served as pointperson in the Rove conspiracy against Governor Siegelman. But since we're apparently never going to get a proper investigation into the reasons for the firing of the Bush U.S.A.s who were fired, we have even less chance of learning what exactly the un-fired 84 did to keep their jobs.

Possibly many of them did nothing more than avoid doing anything to offend the White House political operation. And surely it would be a shame to tar them all with the same brush. Or would it? This is what happens when you pervert the Executive Branch the way the Bush regime did. All of its actions become suspect. And rightly so, I think.

Certainly there's plenty of indication that in the District of New Jersey Chris Christie was very much Karl Rove's kind of U.S.A., never shying from political prosecutions and doing all the influence-peddling and cronyism you expect from a Rove-certified U.S.A. That's without the so-far-acknowledged two conversations that Christie and Rove had while Christie was still in office about his running for New Jersey governor. You don't have to have the blazing insight of a political mastermind to see that Rove recognized his kind of political hack and was only too happy to send him out into the world to do Satan's work.

But one thing I don't think should happen is the seamless reintegration of Rove's Rogues into civilian life. I am taking a serious liberty in quoting the following splendid paragraphs from a post today by University of Miami Law School Prof. Michael Froomkin on his blog, "The Threat Level Remains Unchanged." Michael was writing about former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who apparently writes in his forthcoming book something he actually acknowledged as far back as 2005: that he at the very least suspected that the Bush regime was using the famous multicolored terror alerts for political purposes. And yet he went on uncomplainingly with his business.

We don't have any admission of culpability from Chris Christie, of course, and in the good professor's evidence-based world, I doubt that he would accept my guilt-by-association condemnation. However, I do know that Michael was and is profoundly concerned about the abuses of the Bush DoJ, including the U.S.A. firings, and so with that proviso -- that I'm not presenting legally sufficient evidence to link Christie to the following paragraphs -- I am nevertheless taking the liberty of quoting them in this connection:

Once upon a time we had a concept of “disgrace”. People with money, power, office, social position, actually cared about whether they acted dishonorably, because if they did they wouldn’t get invited to corporate boards and dinner parties. People would cross the street to show their disdain. Now we give them book contracts, TV deals, visiting professorships, and they get interviewed as experts by the media.

Maybe it’s time to bring the notion of respectability back. If we won’t have public justice to sort out truth from fiction, no special prosecutors until after the statute of limitations has run, maybe instead we need a quiet form of the private personal justice we can manage based on the facts on the public record. Shun Ridge. Shun Yoo. Shun Rove. Shun Gonzales. Shun all the torturers and torture enablers, and shun the perverters of law and justice. Don’t ever put anything their way. Don’t give them a visiting gig. Don’t invite them on TV. Don’t buy their books. And make it contagious. Make them professional lepers. Make the people who give them treats sorry they did it.

But it won’t happen. Not because there’s always the risk that social shunning gets out hand, brings out the worst in some people who then punish the innocent, for all that these are real and demonstrated dangers not to be taken lightly. No, it won’t happen because the people who put those unprincipled traitors to law and decency in power and who then coined it thanks to their connivance at kleptocracy hope to do it again and again and again. And that means that even used and dishonored tools need to be kept on financial life support so as not to discourage their successors.

Angry? I’m beyond angry. I’m tired of angry.

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At 4:18 AM, Blogger Jill said...

Here in New Jersey, people have forgotten about how Christine Todd Whitman cut taxes and left us with the debt that plagues us to this day. They've forgotten about Don DiFrancesco, her anointed successor. Like the people who think the presidency went right from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, they don't remember any other governors but Jim McGreevey and now Jon Corzine.

I live in a district where people vote for the wingnuttiest wingnut of them all, Scott Garrett, while simultaneously thinking their representative is still Marge Roukema. The self-involved SUV McMansion Moms of Bergen County are too busy thinking about youth sports to look at their children's future.

If I wasn't going to be a casualty of the disaster of a Christie administration, I'd almost think "Let them elect this nimrod and see what it's like." Except that the local media are so in love with a law 'n' order tough guy (see also: Rudolph Giuliani) that they'll convince people that all his mistakes and botch jobs are really Corzine's fault.

Even though he would b

At 7:30 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, Jill, that's really interesting insight. (Did you get cut off?)

I was afraid the law 'n' order appeal would weigh in Christie's favor, even though it was Karl Rove-style law 'n' order. (Of course, Rudy G's record as U.S. attorney didn't look so hot either once appeals courts started reversing so many of his convictions. But it takes truth a painfully long time to catch up with legends, and sometimes it never makes it.)


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