Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Nation of (Scoff)Laws

In a speech to the American Bar Association where he announced that there would be no prosecutions against members of the Bush administration for politicizing the Justice Department -- including unethical firings of U.S. Attorneys, hiring of career Justice posts on the basis of political affiliation, and selective prosecutions designed to harrass Democrats -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that he did not see any crimes to prosecute. “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime,” he said. In any case, the wrongdoers have been punished, he claimed, by “substantial negative publicity.”

For its sheer audacity, Mukasey's main quote bears repeating: "Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."

This is not language that sounds remotely like the chief law enforcement officer in the country. This isn't even legalese. This is "Johnny Cochrane-ese." Sure, it is sometimes true that a person who kills another person is not guilty of a crime. Sure, if I spit on the sidewalk, or speed when the cops aren't looking, or write my cable bill off on my taxes, I might be violating the law, but really: did I commit "a crime?"

Still, Kenneth Starr heard Bill Clinton lie about getting a BJ from an intern in the White House, and decided THAT was a crime for which he deserved to be impeached. But, if Bush/Cheney authorize their military to commit unspeakable acts against Gitmo detainees, or look the other way while CIA interrogators go to the "dark side" with terrorism suspects, or direct their former White House counsel and Attorney General to make sure that no Democrat or progressive thinker or homosexual or environmental activist ever sees the inside of the Justice Department building, then Mukasey and Nancy Pelosi see no crimes to prosecute.

I thought it an appropriate time to look at the Preamble to our Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

"in Order to form a more perfect Union"
"establish Justice"
"insure domestic Tranquility"
"secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity"

Take a moment and look at the words that are capitalized. Order, Union, Justice, Tranquility, Welfare, Blessings, Liberty, Posterity. It is no coincidence that the word "defense" is not capitalized, but I digress. The capitalized words speak to Peace and to Freedom, to a relationship with a Creator who endowed us with inalienable rights. The framers followed this Preamble up with brilliantly crafted laws which mandated checks and balances, firmly believing in the honor of the men who would legislate, enforce and interpret those laws while acknowledging the humanity inherent in the temptation to bend, stretch, or break those laws. They did not leave room for the possibility that law-breakers would be able to escape without consequence. But, here we are.

The Bush administration, the Speaker of the House, and others who find themselves unable to adhere to the letter of the law or fail to prosecute law-breakers, instead hiding behind a shroud of "national security" or "unitary executive" or "state secrets," have succeeded in publicly trashing the most revered legal document in human history.

We voted for them, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We the People of the United States.

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