By Al McSurely
A favorite last-ditch tactic of the Big Lie is to send out high-ranking officials as rabbits to deflect attention and indictments from their sponsors. Our high-paid, blow-dried TV talking heads are suckers for this ploy. Chattering away, like they did when Cheney/Bush lied us into Iraq, the millionaire talking heads appear clueless to the origins of the expression â€œfall guy.â€ Even after Scooter Libbyâ€™s lawyer spelled it out to the jury. And the jury foreperson spelled it out to the media:
â€œLibby is a fall guy.â€ He is falling on his sword for his sponsor, Dick Cheney. The talking heads repeated the clue, but did no follow up. Two months later, the White House sent out another rabbit and the talking heads chased him with the same gullibility. Alberto Gonzalez, facing criminal indictment for conspiracy to institutionalize racist voter suppression in Arkansas and other key swing states, could remember inconsequential interactions over the years, but his mind went blank about all but one of his interactions with his Texas sponsors, George Bush and Karl Rove.
Last yearâ€™s impeachment leader, John Conyers, became chair of the House Judiciary Committee three months ago. His staff worked hard for three years compiling evidence to impeach Cheney and Bush. Since the peoplesâ€™ anti-war movement propelled him into this critical position, Conyers can now update his Articles of Impeachment and lead the fundamental fight for truth and reconciliation our nation must undergo before we can face the world with cleaner hands. The grass-roots impeachment movement must frame our demands to help Conyers. If the corporate media (McClatchy Publishing Co., publisher of the News & Observer, is the only national media that has done any good work on this story) will not do the investigation behind the fall guys, we must do it.
Libby and Gonzalez are the street dealers. They have been caught lying as they try to protect their kingpin dealers. They know what their kingpins knew, when they knew it and how they intentionally lied to Congress and the American people about the fundamental issues of war and peace, torture, mass wiretapping, illegal â€œsigning statementsâ€ and the racist voter suppression tactics that Rove/Bush used to win in 2000 and 2004. Libby now faces from two to 25 years in prison. The pre-arranged right-wing effort to pardon him â€“ so he couldnâ€™t be squeezed â€“ was unsuccessful.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald should be encouraged to talk redemption with Libby and his lawyer. â€œGive us Cheney and Iâ€™ll recommend the court go easy on you.â€ Youâ€™ve seen the scene hundreds of times on Law and Order.
At this writing, in late April, Gonzalez is still un-indicted. The tangled web heâ€™s weaving, however, is eerily similar to the convoluted stories Libby told the FBI and the grand jury. Gonzalez was an active member of the White House conspiracy to subvert the Constitution. What is now apparent is that his participation in the common plan to suppress minority voters in swing states has placed our nationâ€™s federal judicial system in a crisis. The independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of our liberty. Most minorities have never believed they would be treated fairly when they walked into the courthouse.
Many of us participated in a great engagement experiment called the Civil Rights Movement in the l950s and â€˜60s which led to sweeping court decisions and legislation that re-affirmed the Constitutionâ€™s promises of equal protection under the law. The movement and the reaffirmations of long-dormant constitutional protections encouraged oppressed minorities to engage in the social and political life of our great experiment in democracy called America. The tens of millions of new people becoming politically engaged were, duh, direct threats to the rich white men who had run the government for themselves, by themselves and of themselves. Their old party, the Democratic Party, had been taken over by newly engaged citizens, so they decided to remake the Republican Party into the White Manâ€™s Party. To do that, they had to subvert the new laws.
In 1962, as the radical racist right began to position itself to take over the Republican Party, a young lawyer named William Rehnquist was caught testing out the tactic of minority voter suppression at a polling place in Phoenix. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Brosnahan investigated after several minority voters reported that Rehnquist and other Republicans were aggressively questioning them about their voter credentials with no basis for the challenges. Based on his interviews of polling officials and his fellow assistant U.S. attorneys, Brosnahan found that Rehnquistâ€™s challenges were â€œdesigned to reduce the number of black and Hispanic voters by confrontation and intimidation ….â€
Brosnahan described the scene:
â€œWhen we arrived, the situation was tense. At that precinct I saw William Rehnquist, who was serving as the only Republican challenger. The FBI agent and I both showed our identifications to those concerned, including Mr. Rehnquist … The complaints did involve Mr. Rehnquistâ€™s conduct.
Our arrival and the showing of our identifications had a quieting effect on the situation and after interviewing several witnesses, we left. Criminal prosecution was declined as a matter of prosecutorial discretion.â€ (Brosnahan, Testimony, Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings into Rehnquistâ€™s nomination for Chief Justice by Pres. Ronald Reagan, 1986)
Rehnquist and other architects of the Republican â€œSouthernâ€ (i.e., racist) strategy taught their eager white apprentices well, including a young man named Karl Rove. An August 2006 email that did not get lost cautioned Rove that he might be overreaching when he tried to slip one of the best minority vote suppressors in the country, Tim Griffin, into Little Rock to prosecute all federal crimes in Arkansas last fall. Monica Goodling, who is now negotiating for immunity before testifying before Congress, wrote an email she believed would never see the light of day to the White House and to Gonzalezâ€™s deputy, pointing out the obvious about Roveâ€™s nominee. If Griffin came before the Senate for confirmation (and in August 2006, Goodling assumed it would be Republican Arlen Specter still chairing the judiciary committee), it would be hard to cover up Griffinâ€™s central role in the Republicanâ€™s illegal voter suppression campaigns in the swing states. Many insiders knew Griffin was one of the masterminds of minority voter suppression. Goodling reminded the White House that Griffin would face strong opposition in the Senate because of his part â€œin massive Republican projects in Florida and elsewhere by which Republicans challenged tens of thousands of absentee votesâ€¦. Coincidentally, many of those challenged votes were in black precincts.â€ (Goodling email, August 24, 2006, Washington Post)
Roveâ€™s voter suppression campaigns (with the full knowledge of Bush and Cheney) are the real story of the Gonzalez inquiry. Intimidating voters because of their race is a federal crime. Rove and Bush, through Gonzalez, desperately overreached with the Griffin nomination. They tried to insert a trusted operative into a key swing state for the 2008 elections to prosecute a few high-profile people (probably with connections to the Clintons), who were helping older, poorer, black and brown people get registered and get to the polls, for the Republicanâ€™s favorite election crime â€“ fraud.
The inside-out nature of the strategy has a familiar ring to it. Charging people who have given their lives to siphoning fear out of the registration/voting process, and in the process spew a fog of fear into the election process.
The work of the Grassroots Impeachment Movement is clear. Through word of mouth, blogs, websites and, yes, old-fashioned meetings, rallies, marches and lobbying, we must force the corporate media to investigate the men behind the fall guy rabbits they keep sending out. We should demand Fitzgerald use the leverage of prison time to bring a modicum of integrity back to Libby. We should demand Conyers use the same approach to Gonzalez. Why was Gonzalez memory so selective when it came to his interactions with Bush and Rove?
This ainâ€™t Rome. We donâ€™t go for people falling on their swords to deflect from the real criminals.
Impeach Cheney first. Then Bush. Donâ€™t allow them to call in â€œsickâ€ and resign. We must conduct a clean, open course in how the criminal conspiracy worked and in how it was covered up â€” much as Sam Ervin did in the l970s. This will inoculate our children against the cancer of arrogance and greed that has overtaken the body politic. Impeachment hearings are clean, peaceful, direct, open and healthy. Cover-ups, resignations for health reasons and playing games for political advantage in 2008 are dirty, costly, violent, secretive, circuitous and unhealthy for us and our children.
Al McSurley is a civil rights lawyer in Chapel Hill and a member of the Grass Roots Impeachment Movement; 4th Congressional District, North Carolina