The Impossible Will Take a Little While
From the Baltimore Sun
They just wanted to protect the sanctity of the vote. That’s the administration’s pious explanation for why they fired eight U.S. Attorneys who were Republican enough for Bush to have appointed them in the first place.
How could you question such a laudable goal?
Of course the justifications keep shifting, as with the Iraqi war. First it was the general performance of the prosecutors. Then a preference for specific replacements. Now it’s concern for the democratic process.
But the administration and its allies have a long history of using the specter of election fraud to justify reprehensible actions. In 2000, Jeb Bush claimed to be fighting potential fraud when he purged over 55,000 voters from the Florida rolls for felony convictions that never applied under state law—or never existed to begin with (for instance if someone had a name similar to a convicted felon). Staffers of the data-collection firm that handled this effort acknowledged that the purges disproportionately targeted low-income Democrats, particularly African Americans. A follow-up by BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast found that 90 percent of those scrubbed were legitimate voters, enough by far to have made Al Gore the winner. And the Supreme Court that handed Bush the presidency was led by William Rehnquist, who got his start harassing black and Hispanic voters in South Phoenix as part of a Republican effort called Operation Eagle Eye.
But it’s a convenient one to try to damp registration and turnout. In Florida, Republicans created such draconian restrictions on registration drives that the League of Women Voters stopped their registration work. In Missouri then-governor John Ashcroft twice vetoed legislation that would allow groups like the League to register voters in inner city St Louis. In Maryland, then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, warned about voter fraud in opposing early voting. Ironically, his 2006 campaign and that of Republican Senate candidate and then-Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele then bused in homeless men from Philadelphia to hand out misleading fliers in black neighborhoods featuring photographs of former Rep. Kweisi Mfume and Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson with the words "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats" — though Mr. Mfume and Mr. Johnson had unequivocally endorsed the Democratic opponents of Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele.
As for the fired U.S. attorneys — in the end, what was their sin? It seemed that they weren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about joining compatriots who investigated or indicted local Democrats by a nearly five to one margin over Republicans, often with election eve headlines that melted away, along with their cases, as soon as the polls were closed. Some may have refused to go after Democratic groups who were trying to register voters., or in the words of fired US Attorney John McKay of Washington State, ”to drag innocent people in front of a grand jury” when no evidence existed. San Diego’s Carol Lam even had the audacity to prosecute Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham and begin to investigate Congressman Jerry Lewis.
Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See www.paulloeb.org To receive his monthly articles email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles