Never Underestimate the Power of Conspicuous Relief
…as well as that of stupid people in large numbers.
Last Thursday, John Ashcroft marched to Congress to give testimony to the House Judiciary Committee to a verbal brass band of Congressmen. But who was blowing Ashcroft’s horn for him? The Republicans on the Committee? Nope, it was Democrats and not just any rank-and-file Democrats. We’re talking John Conyers and Robert Wexler.
And why did the father of the USA PATRIOT Act get a verbal fellating from Democrats, of all people? Because he was one of the few former Bush hacks who’ve actually bothered to show up when Congress wanted to talk to them.
Because Ashcroft has a problem with torture and illegal spying.
And, most importantly, because Ashcroft isn’t named Alberto Gonzales, absolutely the very worst Attorney General not only of this administration but in our nation’s history. And Ashcroft’s role when speaking before the House Judiciary Committee was essentially to confirm the Democrats’ deepest, darkest suspicions about that same administration: That they haven’t quite been honest with Congress and the American people and may have done a few unethical things along the way.
It reminded me of last year’s testimony given by another psychopath, Eric Prince, head of Blackwater Worldwide. Prince was supposed to deliver testimony to shed light on the massacre at Nisour Sq. in Baghdad last September 16th in which 17 Iraqi civilians were slaughtered by his own mercenaries. Instead, Prince didn’t shed light but actually tried to dim the light by telling the committee members that no Blackwater gunships had fired down on the cars below despite eyewitness accounts and bullet holes in the roofs of the cars that were there that day telling a completely different story.
Prince’s testimony was stacked so much in his favor that it was already agreed upon beforehand that mentioning his Republican connections was absolutely prohibited. Yet, at one point during the deliberations, even that wasn’t good enough. Daryll Issa, quite possibly the stupidest man in the history of Congress, then reminded the Oversight and Government Reform committee members not to mention Prince’s Republican affiliation, making Chairman Waxman, who did his level-headed best to comply with the minority Republican party’s dictum, to tell Issa, “Well, duh, no one has until now, shithead.”
Ashcroft’s game of softball toss with Congress, over three and a half years after his much-welcomed resignation, revealed nothing, gave us no new information and Ashcroft even refused to confirm saying to administration officials that “History will not judge us kindly” regarding our embrace of torture. At one point, the “new and improved” John Ashcroft / Guy Hovis actually almost burst into the national anthem.
To help lend his testimony credibility, the man who lost his Senate seat to a dead man was accompanied, for some reason, by Walter Dellinger.
Wait a minute. Walter Dellinger?!
That would be the same Walter Dellinger, attorney for Exxon Mobil, who just last February petitioned the Supreme Court to lower judgments regarding the Valdez oil spill that devastated nearly 33,000 Alaskan fishermen. It was the supertanker spill that was the environmental equivalent of Chernobyl.
So Ashcroft’s testimony was backed up by a super stooge of Exxon Mobil by the name of Walter Dellinger, who claimed that poor Exxon Mobil, who posts record profits for quarter after consecutive quarter, was victimized by Joseph Hazelwood and Alaskan courts.
How soon they forget why Ashcroft was universally despised on the left. The USA PATRIOT Act. Equating critics of the Bush administration’s legal philosophy (that includes the torture and illegal wiretapping of which Ashcroft was himself critical) with terrorist enablers. Allowing his Justice Department to be stuffed with undereducated Republican partisans from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.
Yes, sometimes Ashcroft followed the letter of the law. What else can you expect from the top law enforcement official in the land? Yet at other times the laws that Ashcroft obeyed and expected us to obey in turn were laws that he rewrote, laws that essentially were the first major assault on our constitutional rights and civil liberties.
But John Ashcroft has emerged from the ashes of a failed career in public service like a pudgy Phoenix and he has conspicuous relief and the even more disastrously failed public service of Alberto Gonzales to scratch against his own. Congress’s expectations and opinion of this administration is so low that when Ashcroft didn’t thumb his nose at their invitation to testify, when we were reminded that Ashcroft had a problem with torture and illegal spying on American citizens, our Congress treats him as if he’s Clarence fucking Darrow.
Lo, how the mighty (and its ideals) have fallen.