No Comment — July 2, 2007, 7:54 pm

Javert in Alabama, Continued

Some friends down in Alabama chide me justifiably for failing to note what may be the single most striking editorial run today in the Heart of Dixie. It comes from the pages of what I’ve long considered the best independent paper in Alabama, The Anniston Star, and it addresses our topic head-on.

The editorial starts with a recounting of the October 1999 referendum on a state lottery to support education, which was at the heart of Governor Don Siegelman’s political agenda. It went down to defeat. But that entire controversy was a considerably darker and more twisted tale than Alabama’s major papers let on. In fact, it was in connection with that referendum that I first heard of the efforts to ensnare Don Siegelman – hatched in Washington. Several years later, I was doing some work to support Senator John McCain, and he and his staff were deeply enmeshed in a study of Jack Abramoff and his manipulation of Indian casino gambling interests for political purposes. Siegelman and his education lottery initiative were very bitter adversaries for Abramoff and his team.

And the federal prosecutors who were going after Abramoff? Well, let’s just say for the moment that there’s a very strange tale to be unfolded. And at its core is the fact that these federal prosecutors were obsessed – not with the pursuit of justice though the heavens may fall – but with stemming the political hemorrhaging coming out of the Abramoff investigation. They were concerned about the damage it was doing to the Republican Party, and they were particularly concerned about Don Siegelman, a Democrat who seemed to work magic down in territory they had taken for their new heartland. The solution was therefore to cook up something to take down Siegelman. And that’s exactly what they did.
That’s springing several chapters ahead in a story which needs to unfold, in its sordidness, very steadily over the coming months.

However, the Anniston Star piece is prescient, because it’s pointing exactly where I believe this entire scandal is headed: deep into the Department of Justice, an institution whose deeds no longer bear much relationship to its name, and its very improper relationship with the unholy redeemer of the Alabama GOP, Karl Rove.

But now for the Star and its analysis:

Tarnishing political foes is a job for politicians, not for partisan prosecutors. The pursuit of Siegelman by the offices of Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys, aggressive as it might be, cannot be dismissed as pure politics. Siegelman and Scrushy might be guilty, as a jury found them. However, evidence is growing that the partisan politics that has infected the Justice Department during President Bush’s time in office might play a role here. According to one survey examining the prosecution of politicians during the Bush years, seven Democrats have been charged by the feds for every Republican prosecuted.

Add to that the firings of U.S. attorneys who declined GOP demands to pursue bogus charges against Democrats.

Add to that the close relationship with Karl Rove to the nastier side of Alabama politics.

Add to that accusations from a north Alabama Republican lawyer, who claims a big-time Republican player in the state hinted in 2002 that Siegelman would be taken care of by federal prosecutors.

Add to that the non-pursuit of campaign cash money-launderers on the other side of the 1999 lottery vote.

Putting all this together doesn’t clear Siegelman or Scrushy. It does raise questions, tons of them. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, ought to follow the advice of a former Arizona attorney general. Grant Woods, a Republican, told the Los Angeles Times, “From start to finish, this case has been riddled with irregularities. It does not pass the smell test.” His counsel: “Congressional committees ought to investigate what in the world went on in this case.”

This page agrees, and so does the concept of equal justice under the law.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2016

Bird in a Cage

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Hidden Rivers of Brooklyn

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Save Our Public Universities

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Rogue Agency

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mad Magazines

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Killer Bunny in the Sky

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Save Our Public Universities·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Whether and how we educate people is still a direct reflection of the degree of freedom we expect them to have, or want them to have.”
Photograph (crop) by Thomas Allen
Article
New Movies·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Force Awakens criticizes American imperialism while also celebrating the revolutionary spirit that founded this country. When the movie needs to bridge the two points of view, it shifts to aerial combat, a default setting that mirrors the war on terror all too well.”
Still © Lucasfilm
Article
Isn’t It Romantic?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He had paid for much of her schooling, something he cannot help but mention, since the aftermath of any failed relationship brings an ungenerous and impossible impulse to claw back one’s misspent resources.”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Trouble with Iowa·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It seems to defy reason that this anachronistic farm state — a demographic outlier, with no major cities and just 3 million people, nine out of ten of them white — should play such an outsized role in American politics.”
Photograph (detail) © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Article
Rule, Britannica·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is the strange magic of an arrangement of all the world’s knowledge in alphabetical order: any search for anything passes through things that have nothing in common with it but an initial letter.”
Artwork by Brian Dettmer. Courtesy the artist and P.P.O.W., New York City.

Number of people who attended the World Grits Festival, held in St. George, South Carolina, last spring:

60,000

The brown bears of Greece continued chewing through telephone poles.

In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War

By

Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.

Subscribe Today