"A Primer in Political Persecution," Scott Horton's post today at Harper's.org, is an absolute must-read.
It is a brilliant analysis of yesterday's U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing on selective prosecution by the Bush Justice Department. After reading Horton's description of the general Republican approach to the proceedings, the word that seems to best describe large segments of the modern GOP is "vacuous."
Another couple of words come to mind: "tone deaf." Certain GOPers do not seem capable of grasping what has gone wrong in our nation's justice department and why it's a problem. They seem void of any sense of fair play, of right and wrong, of justice. As Horton writes, they can't even seem to take the subject seriously. And what could be more serious than the notion that certain Americans are being held prisoner because of their political beliefs? Have the GOPers ever heard of Stalin?
Anyone who has read Horton for any length of time knows that he holds contempt for much of what passes for modern conservatism. But I think even Horton was taken aback by the crudity on display in the GOP camp yesterday.
Some Horton highlights:
* He describes the behavior of several GOP committee members as "infantile." They approached the proceeding with a cavalier attitude, attacked a respected former GOP attorney general (Richard Thornburgh), and showed a shocking lack of knowledge about the matters at hand.
* He noted the testimony of University of Missouri faculty member Donald C. Shields, co-author of a study showing that the Bush DOJ has prosecuted 5.6 Democrats for every one Republican. The chance of that ratio coming from random selection? "One in 10,000," Shields said.
* Horton describes in wonderful detail the embarrassing performance of committee member Randy Forbes (R-VA), who noted the affidavits of three Alabamians (Rob Riley & Co.) and declared Jill Simpson should be investigated. (She probably already is, Horton writes.) At that, Artur Davis (D-AL) presented phone records showing a phone call to Rob Riley's law firm at exactly the time Simpson had said all along. Gulp! This, Horton writes, turned Forbes into a "greasespot."
* Was the Bush DOJ offering a defense? Not yesterday, Horton writes.
* The GOP was tripped up by its reliance on the spotty coverage of The Birmingham News, which had reported that Simpson had no documents to back up her story. The supporting evidence existed all along, Horton writes, but the News' stellar reporters evidently never bothered to check it out. Horton says his research indicates that more supporting evidence and corroborating witnesses are out there.