Wednesday, August 13, 2008

America's Other Olympic Medal Winners

John Edwards has a problem. Michael Mukasey has a solution.

There is the possibility that funds from the campaign of the presidential wannabe pretty boy went to Reille Hunter, the object of his affections in a long suspected and now-admitted affair. This would be a violation of federal law.

But Edwards need not worry.

Just yesterday the attorney general said that prosecutions would not be pursued against Monica Goodling and other now resigned Just Ice Department officials who broke federal law in screening job applicants based on their ideological purity because their resignations were punishment enough.

Got that, John Boy? The nation's top lawyer is giving you the all clear because in the Age of Bush not every crime is a crime.

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Whether it is rationalizing the use of torture or soft soaping the gross politization of his department, Mukasey continues to amaze, and he did it again in responding to a blistering report from his own Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility that Goodling, a political commissar who screened job applicants based on strict litmus tests -- their partisan and ideological affiliations and even their sexual orientations -- and other officials had suffered enough.

"That does not mean, as some people have suggested, that those officials who were found by the joint reports to have committed misconduct have suffered no consequences," Mukasey piously told an America Bar Association audience in New York. "Far from it. The officials most directly implicated in the misconduct left the Department to the accompaniment of substantial negative publicity."

(While we're at it, don't hand me any crap that what Goodling and Company did was a tort. Or a tortilla. Or a tortoise. If it wasn't a clear-out violation of the law, then why did she cop the Fifth?)

Mukasey, who had vowed at his confirmation hearings to cleanse Just Ice of the mountains of effluent left by Alberto Gonzalez, has been good at only one thing: Urinating on the independence that should be the most precious asset of the nation's top law enforcement officer.

The AG asserts that Just Ice already has adopted the recommendations of the IG and OPR in their Goodling report, and while that may be so, it misses the larger point -- that it is his responsibility to root out the perps who remain on the payroll and not merely say it won't happen again.

That is not likely to happen given that Bush's third AG has been resistant to efforts to force Karl Rove, Harriet Meirs and Joshua Bolton to testify under oath on their roles in the U.S. attorney sackings and other partisan disgraces and has squandered that most precious asset and shows time and again that his loyalty to the president trumps his allegiance to the law.

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I was on a radio talk show yesterday afternoon when the Mukasey story broke. The show's topic was the Russian incursion into Georgia and what the Bush administration could do to leverage the situation.

The answer is depressingly simple: What moral authority the U.S. might have had as the land of the free and home of the law abiding has been squandered over the last eight years. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has gutted the State Department and devalued the power of diplomacy in the service of bellicosity.

In fact, the White House cannot point to a single foreign-policy success on its watch.

The response to the crisis in the caucuses . . . er, Caucasus, was embarrassing: The president, was ass slapping in Beijing and more at sea than usual, Condi Rice was AWOL, and you'll never believe this, but John McCain wanted to go to war. It was that French dandy, Nicholas Sarkozy, who brokered a ceasefire.

I was asked by the show's host how the U.S. could earn back the respect of the world community.

By word and by deed, I replied. By honoring the rule of law at home so that when it is dishonored abroad the U.S. has a modicum of moral gravitas to speak out or otherwise intervene. By taking personal responsibility, an oft-uttered conservative meme that plays well with focus groups but is beneath -- or perhaps it is above -- the self-righteous president and his Cabinet officers and key advisers.

And so George Bush gets an Olympic gold medal for tarnishing the American brand. The silver goes to Mukasey and the bronze to Edwards.

Photograph by Gerald Herbert/The Associated Press

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