Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Why Kerry is Fighting, Part Two

The Republicans he deemed 'radical' are indeed just that. Kerry knows that America is an idea in action, and is running so that we can preserve it. I'm reproducing here some issues that we went over in 1998 with Clinton's impeachment, because that was really the first overt sign of the power-grab, as well as Kerry's eloquent speech on the floor defending Clinton from removal from office.

A terrific discussion of historians versus journalists in Salon shows just how important this election is.

Some of the key "right-wing fanatics" who peddled "tainted, planted, unfounded, retracted, distorted, misleading and plain nonexistent evidence" that led to a "Kafkaesque" political "show trial" have more power than ever in politics and the media -- and have, it seems, actually benefited, personally and politically, from their attacks on the Constitution. The current corrected revised accounts by journalists leave the misimpression that only a few marginal right-wing zanies of passing importance were involved in the illegitimate effort to bring Clinton down. As the now uncontested facts around impeachment show, that is hardly the case.

Four examples:

One of the chief members of the "cabal of right-wing fanatics" was Theodore Olson, who, as counsel to the rabidly right-wing American Spectator, oversaw the notorious Arkansas Project that spread some of the most vicious lies about Clinton. (Olson was also one of the supposedly impartial "experts" who signed the petition attacking the historians in 1998.) In testimony before the Senate, Olson denied any involvement in the Project -- but that testimony was later fully documented as false. Yet Olson is now solicitor general of the United States, appointed by President Bush and approved by the Senate during the confusion that accompanied Sen. Jim Jeffords' defection to the Democrats in 2001. Among Olson's current tasks is selecting hard-right nominees for the federal judiciary, with whom the Bush administration is now trying to pack the courts. Many of those nominees are, like Olson, closely connected with the radical activist circles within the Federalist Society, the right-wing lawyers' group that also produced several of the so-called "elves" who plotted Clinton's downfall.

Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas did more than any House Republican to coerce his colleagues into supporting impeachment. DeLay privately threatened moderate Republicans who would not go along, using right-wing fundraisers and 60 designated whips to do his dirty work for him. "Coming out of the election," Republican congressman Peter King later said, "I didn't hear anyone discuss impeachment. It was over. Then DeLay took over." One by one, the moderates caved in to what DeLay and his minions were calling "the Campaign." At the time, DeLay was the House majority whip. Since then he has been promoted for his "deranged" attack on the Constitution by being named House majority leader.

In 1998, Bret Kavanaugh was a conservative lawyer on the staff of Kenneth W. Starr's Office of Independent Counsel. He coauthored the salacious so-called Starr Report that became the basis for the illegitimate articles of impeachment -- and the basis for Starr's aggressive testimony to Congress, in violation of the Constitution, that led the office's chief ethics advisor, Samuel Dash, to quit in protest. Today, Bret Kavanaugh is deputy legal counsel at the Bush White House.

In 1995, Michael Chertoff was chief counsel for Sen. Alphonse D'Amato's Senate Whitewater Committee that churned endless baseless allegations against the Clintons. Since then, he has served as Attorney General John Ashcroft's assistant atop the Department of Justice's criminal division (and a leading force behind the authorship of the so-called PATRIOT Act) and been nominated by George W. Bush to the federal bench.

And Kerry knows this. Read here his speech during Clinton's impeachment trial:

...let me say as directly as I can that no amount of inflated rhetoric, or ideological or moral hyperextension can lift the personal, venial aspects of the President's actions to the kind of threat to the fabric of the country contemplated by the Founding Fathers. I must say that I am truly somewhat surprised to see so many strict constructionists of the Constitution giving such new and free interpretation to the clear intent of the framers.

And I have, frankly, been stunned by the overreach, the moral righteousness, even the zealotry of arguments presented by the House managers.

No matter the words about not hating Bill Clinton, no matter the disclaimers about partisanship, I truly sensed at times not just a scorn but a snarling, trembling venom that told us the President is a criminal and that 'we need to know who our President is....

...I do not suggest that this was the right wing conspiracy bandied about on the talk shows. But I ask you--are we not able to acknowledge that this was a legal and political war of personal destruction--not just a civil rights case?

And we cannot simply dismiss the fact that all of this turmoil--these entire proceedings--arise out of this deeply conflicted, highly partisan, ideologically driven, political civil rights case with incredible tentacles into and out of the office of the independent counsel.

This is not Bush-lite.


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