The headline in today's Birmingham News reads, in bold capital letters: "LANGFORD INDICTED."
Gee, I'm surprised they left off the explanation point.
The story about the arrest of Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and former Democratic Party officials William Blount and Al LaPierre takes up four-fifths of the front page and five full pages on the A section.
You get the feeling the News considers this a big story. Perhaps I'm a sensitive lefty progressive, but you also get the feeling the News takes a certain delight in reporting this story. And the enormity of the coverage makes you wonder if some of the material was prepared in advance.
Given the cozy relationship the newspaper seems to have with U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, my guess is that News editors indeed knew well in advance this was coming.
In spite of all the ink our local newspaper has spilled on the Langford story, is there another side to this ugly tale that Birminghamians won't read in the mainstream press?
I suspect there is, and it goes something like this: Alice Martin, before being booted out of office by the Barack Obama administration in early 2009, is determined to make one last politically motivated act in a reign filled with them.
And my guess is that Martin is pulling a classic chestnut from the Karl Rove playbook: Use the enemy's strength against them.
How does Martin hope to accomplish this? We will get to that in a moment. But first a few thoughts about the Langford affair.
Observing a legal tussle between Alice Martin and Larry Langford is kind of like watching an NBA game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Both sides emit foul odors, and it's hard to root for either to win.
Langford is unquestionably a charismatic, energetic figure, and he has shown signs of strong leadership. But he also has a "colorful" history with money, and the News goes to great pains to chronicle that history in today's edition.
It's not hard to imagine Langford doing something stupid, maybe criminal, when he was wheeling and dealing as president of the Jefferson County Commission.
While Langford has a troubling history with money, Alice Martin has an even more troubling history with justice--a subject that a federal prosecutor should be pretty solid on.
The Birmingham News is a "conservative" newspaper, and you won't read about Martin's numerous imbroglios in the local press. But the blogosphere, driven by the work of national reporters such as Harper's Scott Horton, is filled with stories about Martin's many abuses of power.
Nowhere in today's News does it mention that Martin is under investigation by two offices in the Department of Justice. And you certainly won't read about the misconduct I've witnessed firsthand from Martin--and chronicled on this blog. In fact, my efforts to expose Alice Martin for the fraud she is probably help explain why I no longer have a job at UAB.
After all, UAB is an institution that has benefited greatly from Martin's willingness to overlook massive research fraud on the Southside campus.
Langford, Blount, and LaPierre might be the lowest of scoundrels--and if that's the case, they should pay the piper, regardless of their party affiliation.
But Alice Martin is like the "prosecutor who cried wolf." She has brought so many bogus cases in the past, and targeted so many people for clearly political (even racist) reasons, it's now hard to take any of her cases seriously.
Why is Martin bringing this case as she is about to be shown the door? Wouldn't it make sense to let the investigation rest until a new U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama can take office and evaluate it?
Of course, that would make sense. But Alice Martin has never been about what makes sense or what is right. She is a pure political animal, and my guess is that the Langford indictment is designed to create a problem for the Obama Justice Department.
What if Martin's successor evaluates the case and discovers that it's filled with more holes than the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line? That angle was addressed in today's coverage.
And it's not just the Langford case we're talking about. Longtime Langford associate John Katapodis was arrested on October 31, five days before the presidential election. That's another instance of curious timing on Martin's part. What if her successor decides that case also is filled with holes?
If that happens, and the cases are dropped, you can bet that Republicans will howl with cries of "politics in the Justice Department." Those cries will be coming from a GOP crowd that has sullied our justice system with politics to an extent never before seen in American history.
It's easy to envision a classic "pot calls the kettle black" situation. And could that uproar help protect corrupt Bushies like Alice Martin and Leura Canary from having to answer for their wrongdoing while in office?
It sure could.
My guess is you will see an Obama Justice Department that is scrupulously honest. But Republicans already are planning to use that honesty against them.
What did we say earlier: Take your enemy's strength and use it against him? Take a war hero like John Kerry and "Swift Boat" him. Take a forward thinker like Al Gore and make him look like a quack.
Martin & Co. probably are setting up Eric Holder, Obama's future attorney general, to look like a political hack.
How very Rovian.
Everyone knew this was coming. It's been rumored for almost a year that Langford was under investigation. Besides that, his close friend John Katapodis was indicted very recently, and the SEC filed a civil suit against Langford months ago. Any city reporter would be stupid not to write up material early. It's what all the major news organizations do with obits. Hell, half of this stuff was probably written after the SEC suit. So it was no surprise to any news organization in Birmingham that Langford was indicted--it's only a surprise that it took this long.
I don't think it reveals any bias on the part of the News to run a big package when the city's colorful Mayor, who has been the focus of stories in the New York Times and Fortune, is indicted for bribery that may well lead to the largest municipal bankruptcy in more than a decade. It would be ridiculous coverage if Larry Langford was, say, the Mayor of Spokane, Washington. But he's the Mayor of Birmingham, which the Birmingham News tends to cover a whole lot. And his indictment is a big story, one that deserves a lot of coverage. It's not every day Birmingham's Mayor makes Drudge Report and CNN.
In addition, judging by the 80 pages and 101 charges in the indictment, maybe it was just time to unseal it? I don't know exactly how long the FBI's investigation has been ongoing, but I'd personally be pissed if Alice Martin hadn't allowed the case to go forward. She's got 101 counts of corruption/bribery/conspiracy on her desk and she just sits on it? And lets a man who allegedly sold the county down the river for nice clothing continue to be the Mayor of the largest city in Alabama?
I don't think this case will move especially fast. And I think Obama's new administration will put USAs as controversial as Alice Martin on the chopping block rather quickly. If it was politically motivated, I feel like she'd have rushed the indictment so she could personally prosecute the case. As it stands, she probably won't get to do much with it before her replacement is sworn in.
She's already received assurances that Obama's justice department will not cut Langford any slack just because he's a Democrat, from Artur Davis of all people. I doubt she's worried about that.
ahh it is all in the timing, could that mental ilinios gov. be a long turn plan?a mole like senator lieberman?numerous msm, worthystories designed to clog the airwaves at crucial times hmmm wildfires ect..?? i guess the best criminal minds are theres!!
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