After the results of Saturday's GOP primary in South Carolina, Americans face the real possibility that Newt Gingrich could become president. How did we get to such a frightening place? In a general sense, it's because Barack Obama has left himself vulnerable by failing to stand up for the progressive base that got him elected. To be specific, it's largely because of Obama's dismal record on justice issues.
Want more evidence of how badly Obama has botched things on the justice front? Stay tuned for a federal bingo prosecution that is set to be re-tried on January 30 in Montgomery, Alabama. In the original trial last summer, prosecutors from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) charged that various pro-gaming forces had tried to buy votes in the Alabama Legislature for bills related to electronic bingo.
That trial resulted in zero convictions, and you might think the DOJ would decide the case was a stinker and not bother with remaining counts where the jury deadlocked. But you would be wrong. The DOJ is back for more, and it already looks like Trial No. 2 will be a study in theater of the absurd.
What happens when a Democratic administration gets mixed up with the people and philosophies left over from a corrupt gang of Republicans? Well, the results ain't pretty--and events in Montgomery already are spelling that out. Consider what transpired last week. (Andrew Kreig, of the D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, provides an excellent summary here.)
* The Incredible Vanishing Prosecutor--Justin Shur, of the DOJ's Public Integrity Section, was to be lead prosecutor on the second Alabama bingo trial. But Shur announced last week that he is leaving the department to take a job with the Washington law firm MoloLamken. The MoloLamken firm has strong ties to Baker Botts, the Houston-based outfit that has powerful connections to the Bush family. In fact, Baker Botts perhaps has been best known recently for defending various Saudi interests who have been sued in connection with the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Justin Shur, it appears, has long been in bed with "loyal Bushies," and the Obama DOJ was going to rely on him to spearhead the politically charged Alabama bingo case? Sheesh.
* The Withheld Documents--Attorneys for gambling magnate Milton McGregor are seeking sanctions against federal prosecutors for failing to turn over documents and intentionally trying to mislead jurors in the first trial. Lawyer Joe Espy states in a court filing that prosecutors withheld testimony that contradicted their bribery charges against McGregor. This all will sound familiar to those who have followed the Don Siegelman case. Could this have contributed to Shur's hasty exit from the scene?
* The Incredible Vanishing Witnesses--Current state legislator Scott Beason and former legislator Benjamin Lewis, both Republicans, were star witnesses for the government in the first trial. In fact, they were the ones who wore wires and wound up catching Beason on tape referring to black Alabamians as "aborigines." How have prosecutors decided to deal with that inflammatory, race-based problem? They have announced that they will not call Beason and Lewis in the second trial.
Yes, you heard that correctly. The two witnesses who were considered so crucial that they wore wires to catch alleged unlawful activity now are so unimportant that the prosecution will not call them as witnesses. And how is this for irony? The DOJ, under the nation's first black president, has been relying on a witness who taped himself calling black people "aborigines." The creators of The Three Stooges couldn't make this stuff up.
This is what happens when you treat the American justice system like a plaything. Consider some of Obama's inexplicable actions on matters of justice:
* He announced, even before taking office, that he was going to give Bush officials a free pass on apparent criminality;
* He adopted Bush positions on key justice issues, running counter to progressive principles;
* He has failed to seek accountability for the financial gurus who brought our economy to the edge of collapse. Now we learn that Holder and criminal-division head Lanny Breuer have powerful ties to mortgage banks. Breuer's name, by the way, has been all over documents in the Alabama bingo case.
* He left key Bush-era justice officials in place for more than two-plus years.
The Alabama bingo train started pulling out of the station under Leura Canary, the abominable Bush nominee as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. The Obama DOJ has failed to stop it and failed to show any signs of restoring justice in a state that was home to the Don Siegelman case, perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history.
Thoughts of Newt Gingrich in the White House should send shivers down the spine of our body politic. But given the shenanigans unfolding in Montgomery, Alabama, it's hard to argue that Barack Obama deserves another term--at least based on justice issues.