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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sen. Grassley's McCarthyism

In 2008, Michael Gabelman successfully ran a campaign to unseat judge Louis Butler from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Gabelman's campaign was so slimy, so dishonest, that it gained national attention. That campaign can be summed up with one ad:

The ad was compared to the infamous "Willie Horton" ad run by then Vice President George HW Bush against Michael Dukakis. But this was actually worse -- it misrepresented Butler's role in the case of Reuben Lee Mitchell, a child molester.

Some of the ad's statements are true. But the conclusion a viewer would naturally draw from the construction of the ad – that Mitchell was freed as a result of Butler's legal finagling (or maybe a decision he made since he became a judge), and used that freedom to commit more crimes – is not.

Butler was a public defender for part of his career. His job as a defense lawyer was to protect the rights of the accused. His job now as a judge is different. To say he "worked to put criminals on the street" while showing him in a judge's robes hoodwinks the viewer on two counts.

So Butler was being faulted for doing what he was constitutionally required to do as a public defender. In my opinion, anyone who would so mischaracterize the way the criminal justice system is supposed to -- hell, designed to -- work has no business in any courtroom, let alone a state's highest court. Any judge who would portray public defenders as inherently evil can't possibly be a good one. And, so long as Michael Gableman sits on Wisconsin's Supreme Court, any rational observer should question every finding that court hands down. It is now a court without credibility.

So what do you care about some Wisconsin election some slimeball won? Pretty much the same thing is happening again, on a national scale:

Washington Post:

Conservatives who are unhappy with the decision to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have trained their fire on an unusual target: political appointees in the Obama Justice Department who represented detainees earlier in their careers.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has been demanding for months the names of nine appointees who previously advocated for or represented detainees in their private law practices. Grassley has argued that the lawyers' backgrounds could pose "conflicts of interest" and complained that the department had been "nonresponsive" to his requests.

The rhetoric reached new levels this week when Keep America Safe, a group affiliated with Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Richard B. Cheney, released a YouTube video that featured the headline "DOJ: Department of Jihad?" and asked, "Who are these government officials? . . . Whose values do they share?"

Here's that video:

So, to make a long story short, Chuck Grassley and Liz Cheney are slime on the scale of Michael Gableman. People in Gitmo are entitled attorneys -- even the Bush administration agreed with that -- but Cheney would have you believe that the right to an attorney is some legal loophole only criminal sympathizers would fill. The charge is not only plain wrong, but immoral and contrary to the Constitution. Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald:

This slander encompasses scores of American military lawyers, who have vigorously, passionately and often successfully defended numerous Guantanamo detainees, including those accused of being Al Qaeda operatives. Adam Serwer and Spencer Ackerman both have excellent pieces on this ad, featuring quotes from several military officers who have defended accused Terrorists, including retired Col. Morris Davis, who was once a lead prosecutor in Guantanamo's military commissions only to became a vocal critic of that system. Watching as their integrity and character are smeared by the likes of Dick Cheney's daughter and Bill Kristol is really revolting.

This is McCarthyism, pure and simple. There is no other word for it. And it's the lowest, most useless, most despicable form of politics. That Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney would engage in this is no surprise -- they're both worthless pieces of crap, fearmongers and cowards of the very worst kind. But that a sitting senator would join in should give us pause. We've been down this road before and we know where it leads.

At long last, Senator Grassley, have you no decency?


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