As Mrs. Schnauzer and I drove to our heavily Republican precinct to vote this morning, a number of thoughts were on our minds.
For one, neither of us ever dreamed that we would feel such a personal stake in the outcome of a presidential race. I can remember going to Brewer Fieldhouse on the University of Missouri campus to cast my first vote, for Jimmy Carter in 1976, and I've taken elections seriously ever since.
But until this year, my wife and I agree, we had always felt some detachment from the process of voting for president. After all, we figured, how will our little corner of Alabama be directly impacted by decisions made by an administration based in Washington, D.C.?
Over the past eight years, we've learned the hard way that the fallout from a corrupt administration in Washington can land right in your living room--and mess up your life big time.
Mrs. Schnauzer and I did not become Barack Obama supporters only because of the trauma we've experienced in Alabama courts, events which led to this blog. We are concerned about the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the environment, health-care reform, education, and more. And of course, there is global warming, the issue we must get right or all of the other issues won't matter.
We strongly feel that Obama is far better equipped than John McCain to lead the country in the right direction.
But on a personal level, our greatest hope is that Obama will help restore integrity to a badly broken justice system. With a McCain administration, evidence suggests that the U.S. Justice Department will remain the cesspool it has become under George W. Bush.
So let's return to our earlier question: How do decisions made at 1600 Pennsylvania wind up harming regular folks in the most personal and private areas of their lives?
Here's how it happened to us. When George W. Bush took office in January 2001, it meant his administration would appoint U.S. attorneys in districts around the country. Where we live, that meant Alice Martin became U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Some of you might be thinking, "Schnauzer, you're talking about federal stuff here. How is that likely to have an effect on me, in my state, in my county?"
Good question. I've learned, through eight years (and counting) in the School of Hard Knocks, that public corruption cases almost always are federal matters. For example, if you have a corrupt mayor, city councilman, sheriff, police chief, judge, or dog catcher in your area, that person's wrongdoing is likely to involve money, the U.S. mail, or the federal wires (telephone lines, computer lines, etc.). That makes these federal crimes.
What if a corrupt official in your area shares a political affiliation with the local U.S. attorney and knows the USA is not likely to prosecute him--because the administration in Washington wants to use the Justice Department for political gain, to primarily go after people of the other party? Well, that public official pretty much has carte blanche to cheat at the public trough.
What if you happen to have a matter before that public official--and your adversary in the matter happens to be the official's buddy? Well, you are going to get screwed. And the federal government, which probably would have jurisdiction in the matter, isn't going to do a darned thing about it.
This is precisely what happened in our Legal Schnauzer case. An unethical Alabama attorney (William E. Swatek) who has ties to the Bush administration through his son (GOP political consultant Dax Swatek) was the beneficiary of repeated unlawful rulings by corrupt state judges.
Why? Because the judges knew the FBI and Alice Martin were not about to investigate them in a Bush administration.
Keep in mind, this all started because a neighbor with a criminal history moved in next door to us and wound up filing a bogus lawsuit against me when I tried to protect our property rights.
Moral of the story? Even the most seemingly innocuous matter can drag you into your local justice system. And if the administration in Washington is corrupt, your local officials are likely to know that they can get away with federal crimes.
Consider how this kind of situation has hit home for Mrs. Schnauzer and me. We've lost our lives' savings, I've been assaulted by the criminal who lives next door, we no longer own our house free and clear, I've been cheated out of my job, and we strongly suspect that my wife lost out on a number of jobs over a three-year period because someone was tracking our telephone communications.
This all happened under George W. Bush and the renegades in his administration. Pretty personal, indeed.
If Barack Obama is elected, will he possess a magic wand that will make this kind of problem go away instantly? I doubt it. I suspect pockets of corruption still will exist around the country--and public corruption is a bipartisan problem, one that is not limited to Republicans.
In fact, Obama almost certainly will have a number of priorities in line ahead of justice issues. That means my local courthouse--and perhaps yours--will remain a sewage dump of corruption for quite some time.
But regardless of what happens with my case, the culture of the U.S. Justice Department must change. We currently have an administration that is turning political opponents into political prisoners. If that continues, our nation will erode into something none of us can recognize.
I believe an Obama administration will make significant strides toward taking political considerations out of federal prosecutions. It must happen because our democracy depends on it.