Thursday, May 1, 2008

Siegelman and the GOP's "Umbrella of Protection"

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman has been featured on recent radio interviews with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Thom Hartmann, and both conversations produced a number of quotes worth remembering.

The Kennedy interview is about 30 minutes long and can be viewed here. The Hartmann interview can be heard, and a transcript read, through links posted here. I encourage readers to catch both interviews.

In the Kennedy interview, two segments--one near the start and one near the end--stood out for me.

First, Siegelman talks about what he calls the "umbrella of protection" that seemingly allows Republican prosecutors, judges, and political operatives to violate the law without fear of being held accountable.

This is a critical point. It's this umbrella of protection that allows Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, to lie under oath in an employment-related case and get away with it. With the Bush Justice Department providing an umbrella of protection, Martin knew she could get away with it.

This umbrella also allows U.S. Judge Henry Wingate to make blatantly unlawful rulings regarding jury instructions and evidence in the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. Wingate knew no one at Bush Justice would hold him accountable. In fact, chances are, the Bushies were encouraging him to act unlawfully.

During the seven-plus years that I've fought corrupt GOP judges and lawyers in Alabama state courts, my wife and I have frequently shaken our heads in disbelief at some of the blatantly corrupt behavior we've witnessed. "These people aren't even good crooks," we've said. "Their corruption is so obvious, and they make no attempt to conceal it. They have no fear of getting caught."

Why is that? Siegelman hits the nail on the head with his statement about an umbrella of protection. And who holds this umbrella for GOP evildoers? Well, the Bushies at Justice are one obvious answer. But large segments of America's corporate-owned press also are umbrella carriers.

In Southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, many newspapers lean to the right philosophically, and they aren't about to uncover wrongdoing by conservatives. And the rare paper that is center or left of center seems to be too cowed to do anything but occasionally tsk, tsk on the editorial page about GOP corruption. I've yet to see even a moderate newspaper unleash an investigative reporter to get to the bottom of the GOP sewer that covers most of the South.

Siegelman's other key comment comes near the end, when he says the threat of GOP corruption is not limited to powerful folks like himself. "If they can do this to me, what can they do to people who don't have the resources I've had to fight back?" Siegelman says.

That quote goes right to the heart of our story here at Legal Schnauzer. I'm not powerful like Don Siegelman or wealthy like Paul Minor. But Republican authorities in Alabama are threatening to unlawfully seize and sell my house because I'm writing on this blog about their corrupt practices.

Siegelman tells RFK Jr. about being almost broke from the expense of fighting a corrupt justice system. My wife and I can identify with that. Our once solid financial picture is pretty much in ruins, thanks to corrupt Alabama judges and lawyers, and now they are trying to take our house, too.

I've never met Don Siegelman, but I admire the fact that he is not focusing only on his own experience with "justice" in the Age of Rove. Given the hell Siegelman has been through over the past five or six years, who could blame Siegelman--now that he has the public's attention--if he spoke only about his own case. But he's painted a bigger picture, and I for one, certainly appreciate it.

In fact, it reminds me why I'm a Democrat. For all of their flaws, Democrats at least tend to think about something besides themselves. They don't just say, "Well, I'm a rugged individualist, and the hell with everybody else."

It's that expansive mindset that makes Democrats so much better than Republicans when it comes to governance. It's the opposite mindset--a tendency to appeal to voters' selfishness--that makes Republicans so good at elections.

The Hartmann interview also is packed with interesting stuff. Here's Siegelman about why the mainstream press, and many citizens, have ignored the story:

"Well, I really believe that people just don't want to believe bad things do happen in America. You know, we want to believe that decisions to go to war are made on what . . . is our best national interest, or we want to believe that our justice system works fairly and evenhandedly, that innocent people don't get indicted. We want to believe that our elections, as opposed to the elections of other countries, are conducted fairly and honestly. But, you know, when we take a close look at what is going on, we find that maybe things are awry."

Siegelman's statements about the broad nature of the Bush DOJ scandal are spoken in the finest Democratic tradition. And for that, he deserves our nation's gratitude.

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