A few mornings ago, Dennis called me from Billings to tell me that a Texas high court had overturned Tom DeLay’s convictions of money laundering and other high crimes. Dennis was an old friend who liked to talk irony when it came to government considerations and travesties.
“Tom Delay Gets Excused from his Crimes and Takes a Walk,” he said, “Sound familiar?”
“Sure enough?” I asked.
“Sure as shit.” he said.
So the same old plot and storyline in governmental high places was to play the same song, second verse of letting convicted criminals off the hook. Even though the former Speaker of the US House, aka the “Texas Hammer” had been convicted of money laundering and was facing a possible sentence of 30 months or more in prison, a Texas court of appeals had overturned his conviction. My old friend Dennis knew just how to play me. He knew that if he sprang such depraved news as that on me before morning coffee, that I might pace about and snort fire for the rest of the day.
DeLay, loved by Republicans, Tea Baggers, and Bible Thumping TV Evangelists alike had seen some hard knocks. He had been a man without a political home for years and had been reduced to a common criminal awaiting sentencing. He lost his position as Speaker of the House of US Representatives before you could bat an eye. His power slowly ebbed to nothing while the country and Texas watched in disbelief. Finally it looked like this time he was going to have to pay the piper and do some time for his crimes. The irony is that even though the conviction was in 2006, DeLay never has spent a night in jail.
What was all the ruckus about, anyway? Well, DeLay gave the RNC a check for $190,000 illegally, of course. The court that convicted DeLay said he wrote a $190,000.00 check to illegally fund the election of state representatives and senators to rearrange polling districts in Texas. The effort succeeded. And with the new laws that restructured Texas election polling districts, Texans would gain 7 new Republican seats in the US House of Representative. All of DeLay’s cronies loved it. The RNC hooped and hollered to high heaven. It proved simply brilliant! The Republicans pulled a fast on the Democrats. And DeLay was the engineer of mischief in the plan. Now more US Congressmen could tip the balance of power in Washington, D.C. more than just a smidgen. Hooray for the Hammer.
See, if you redraw the boundary lines of voting precincts, you can squeeze out the riff raff Democrats in every damned election to come. It happened. Slick as owl crap on a Sycamore limb in a fog.
It had been years since DeLay was caught, tried, and convicted of a jail offense for breaking the Texas law. As mentioned earlier, the Hammer never had to spend a night in jail. But then neither did Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s Best Boy at the White House when George W. Bush was president. Scooter was convicted of perjury in a high-profile case of exposing an undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. The prosecution in the high-profile trial contended that someone in the White House (much higher on the totem pole than Scooter) was being protected. So it was proven that Scooter had lied to protect a source many believed would have led right back to Dick Cheney himself. And though Plame was the target of White House vengeance (even if it mean shooting our good old USA CIA in the foot and endangering other agents, foreign and domestic) Plame was working with covertly on terrorist activities. Swell. Cheney and/or Bush had to have knowledge of the leak that exposed one of our own agents, but wait. Maybe Scooter Libby acted on his own in leaking her identify and status. You think?
What was Plame’s offence that drew the wrath of Cheney because he and GW wanted to attack Iraq, plain and simple? Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson had investigated the British intelligence report that Hussein had attempted to buy some yellow cake Uranium from Niger to build a nuclear bomb. Even though the British Intelligence report had been exposed as a forgery Bush still went ahead on and scared the dickens out of us all in his state of the union address right before he visited his “shock and awe” attack on Iraq as punishment. Attacking Wilson’s wife sent a strange message. It said, in essence, “Don’t f--- with us. Even if the British Intelligence report was proven to be false. Don’t bother us with trifles.”
A few days after Libby had been sentenced to do serious time in a federal prison Bush up and commuted Libby’s almost certain sentence of 30 months. When is a scapegoat not a scapegoat, then? When a presidential commutation of sentence or pardon comes like the Lone Ranger to the rescue.
People forget and yawn about high crimes, it seems, if there is no sex involved. Take Clinton’s Oval Office digression with Monica Lewinski. Funny thing about the American people when it comes to sexual indiscretions. Even if you are the president and the tete-a-tete with a tart is in the Oval Office. The ghosts of James Madison or Thomas Jefferson in the Oval Office might not give a rat’s ass about it all. But Americans become outraged at that kind of stuff, even though it does not involve illegal funneling of campaign money to secure an additional 7 seats in the US House of Representatives. Or if it endangers the United States by exposing the identity of an undercover CIA Agent like Valerie Plame who is assigned to something as grave as terrorism.
Sexual misconduct in high office begets high drama and high-toned moral judgments from all Americans, sometimes. These self-righteous critics might better serve themselves by reading what Jesus said about not judging the speck in your neighbor’s eye until you remove the plank in your own eye. But sexual indiscretion in high office does keep America on the edge of its seat. Special Prosecutor Ken Starr can spend 10s of millions on investigating such sexual misconduct and even prosecute for the impeachment of a president. But when it comes time for the next step (removal from office-DUH) all the pompous Congressmen and Senators fold their tents and fade away. Say what? You going to spend all the money and then pause like a deer in the headlights when it comes to pulling the trigger and removing Clinton from office? Hey, America, what’s up? You fall and hit your heads or what? Oy! Wake up. And go figure how Clinton is now the most popular of all living presidents who served 2 terms and left office over 10 years ago.
Then there’s Ollie North. He was President Reagan’s secret agent and engine sent to kill two birds with one stone. It was called the Iran/Contra Affair. North was convicted of selling arms to Iran (Lordamercy!) The creators of the plan felt it would promote a better climate for negotiations with Iran to release our hostages (which Iran did do right after Reagan took office). In addition America sought to unseat the Sandinista Government, a no-good communist regime) so it was a conceived win-win for all. Goody, goody, and all you had to do was keep it secret.
When the secret plot was discovered the sh—hit the fan. Reagan was such an old and loveable president who believed in keeping God in the process of government so when he scratched his head and said he knew nothing about the Iran/Contra secret affair, Americans believed him and excused him from any part in it.
But Colonel Ollie North, USMC, was busy with his secretary, Fawn Hall, shredding documents and erasing files. He was caught, tried and convicted of obstruction of justice in the Iran-Contra affair. North was found guilty of a high crime. But the popular opinion was on the side of Ollie who had the favor of the great Communicator and Actor, Ronald Reagan. And (poof) all was forgotten and good again. He received a lenient 3-year suspended sentence and fine for his high crimes. Reagan came out smelling like a rose in whole the Affair. Shucks, you caint punish the Gipper for something beyond the scope of his abilities, now can you? Forget that he is president where the buck stopped when Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office. Reagan made us all feel good about America again. The country believed him and that he had no knowledge of North’s secret crimes in breaking laws of the land.
Sure, North was convicted, but George W. Bush’s old daddy, “Poppy Bush” was waiting his turn as president. Poppy Bush, once in the White House, pardoned Ollie of his federal criminal conviction, and the radio talk show hosts like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh made Ollie a hero. By excusing North’s crime by the power of television and talk radio. Lordy. Forget the laws. Justice is best served outside of the courts, I guess. And the American people don’t even care. But if they did they would not want to see Ollie North punished for his crimes and shredding all the evidence. He had God and Ronald Reagan on his side. And always remember the immortal words of Sean Hannity: “Ollie North is a great American.”