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The George Polk awards remember a great CBS correspondent who died covering the Greek Civil War. They are, alongside the Pulitzer Prize, a recognition for the profession’s high achievers. Today Talking Points Memo, the team web effort led by Joshua Micah Marshall, has received a Polk Award for its coverage of the U.S. Attorneys Scandal. The award is well warranted, and TPM’s work on this front has been invaluable.
Of course, the Mukasey Justice Department recognized TPM in a different way. It declared the internet publisher persona non grata. That may be an equally significant badge of honor.
For most of the nation’s broadcast and print media, the announcements of a stream of resignations by U.S. attorneys across the country were not significant news. They were seen as routine personnel transitions. Marshall and his group are among the handful of people who quickly detected a pattern in the news and worked hard to bring the facts to the forefront. Notwithstanding a torrent of misleading statements gushing from the Justice Department and the White House, they succeeded in laying bare a plan involving Attorney General Gonzales, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, and the President’s key political advisor, Karl Rove. Not coincidentally, all three have since left the Bush Administration. But the White House and Justice Department’s stonewalling continues. Indeed, it seems to get more melodramatic every week, as last week’s contretemps in the House showed.
The story of the eight or nine (or perhaps even a dozen) U.S. Attorneys cashiered by Alberto Gonzales at the end of 2006 hasn’t yet run its full course. Gonzales’s lies about what he did, and the deceptions and misstatements of four other senior Justice Department officials, led to a clean-sweep of the upper reaches of the Justice Department and to an internal probe. Official Washington is still awaiting the results of the Justice Department’s internal investigation of the scandal. While a whitewashing can’t be ruled out, it now seems much more likely that a report will emerge documenting that unlawful, and probably criminal, purposes figured in this scheme.
Applying a “but-for” test of causation is always a bit tricky, but I think that this vital chapter in the politicization of the Justice Department might have been swept under the carpet as a “mere personnel dispute” without Marshall’s tenacious treatment of the issues. So from all who care about justice in America, and for all who long for restoration of the integrity and quality which once were the hallmarks of the Justice Department, heartfelt words of congratulation to Marshall and his crew are in order. I note this falls just after Josh’s birthday, so he’s got plenty to celebrate.
In the meantime, many of you will have gotten the current Harper’s in your mailbox and with it my article, “Vote Machine.” It’s my attempt to survey the horizon of political manipulation at Justice, and my surmises about whether and how this can be set straight by the next president. Readers of this column will find it a worthwhile excursion.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Amount traders on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange can be fined for fighting, per punch:
Philadelphian teenagers who want to lose weight also tend to drink too much soda, whereas Bostonian teenagers who drink too much soda are likelier to carry guns.
Nuremberg’s Neues Museum filed a criminal complaint against a 91-year-old woman who completed a crossword puzzle that was in fact a $116,000 piece of avant-garde Danish art.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”