By now, I am semi-retired from this thing and certainly not within anyone’s loop anymore. But if a reader should happen across these pages, a couple of thoughts remain.
The Scott McClellan book has Siegelman implications. For the people who subscribe to wide-ranging conspiracies that encompass the highest level of our government, and for those who feel that there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence of governmental deception, McClellan offers verification and confirmation. This is important because with all of the real and imagined conspiracies, whether criminal or political, there is usually a grand web of connect-the-dots that “proves,” in the believer’s minds, that a nefarious deception is occurring. But until the physical habeas corpus emerges, until an eyewitness comes forward, until the damaging document is unearthed or the email cache is found on a forgotten unprotected server, there will always be a level of deniability, there will always be room for unassailable self-righteous proclamations. But the voice of one reliable witness, or the evidence from one authenticated document, can expose the empty denials, unravelling the deception. One substantiated lie calls into question all of the other ardent statements of fact or denial. So for instance, when Karl Rove says that he didn’t learn about Siegelman’s indictment until he read about it in the newspaper, or when Rove says he never heard of Jill Simpson, or when he makes a host of assertions about a case he claims to know nothing about, we have to factor in that Scott McClellan said that he was deceived by Rove, and that Rove not only misled the public but lied to an administration ally. With these assertions, we no longer have to trace the dots, linking up all of the questionable actions of Rove, from the “office bugging” incident in Texas to his dirty tricks on behalf of Alabama Judicial candidates, all the way back to his days with the College Republicans. In a culture of deception, how are we to believe in Karl Rove’s denials, let alone the bleatings of the DOJ? How would we able to ascribe truth to any statement from the administration, and why should Congress?
Having said that, and from my status of semi-retirement from the matter, there is one thing that makes me queasy about the whole thing.
Although I do believe that what happened in Alabama was a political prosecution and that Siegelman was railroaded into court and into prison, I think he is currently being used by the Democrats and by agenda-driven journalists as a tool to get the current Republican administration. If he was a Republican, or if his supporters could not have somehow linked Rove and Bush to the situation, I get the sense that very few of the people who are banging the drums for him would be supporting him or writing articles about his plight. Siegelman is fighting for his life and liberty and his willing and eager acceptance of help from all quarters is more than understandable, but his cause is not as much about an accurate accounting of Truth and Justice than it is about using humans as political missiles to attack opposing parties. Whereas Siegelman was once a tool for the Republicans to reclaim a Red State, he is now a tool for the Democrats to attack the current administration. The Democratic Party and the left-wing journalists did not show up in force until they could get Rove and ultimately Bush involved in the situation. (To my knowledge, neither of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates has so much as mentioned Siegelman, but the victor probably will if it becomes apparent that the case could be used to hurt McCain.)
A case in point is the forgotten man, federal prisoner Richard Scrushy. Note that in most articles about Donald Siegelman, Scrushy is barely mentioned, if at all. This is because most of the journalists believe that Scrushy is a criminal who should have been convicted of fraud, in Birmingham. To bring him up would expose the lie of their own biased reporting. The irony is that the media created the mythology around the open-and-shut Birmingham case, and even though the jury came to the correct verdict, the only verdict they could have responsibly returned, it didn’t fit in with the media story-line. And it is hard for them to now make the logical case that Scrushy has been just as shafted by the Justice Department as Siegelman. (It has always been my opinion that Scrushy was the missing link that allowed the DOJ to parlay public opinion into a conviction, and that in terms of a malevolent Justice Department, this under-reported fact outstrips any involvement Rove might have had in the case.)
Yes, I am glad the Siegelman situation is pressing forward toward an eventual all-out confrontation and thorough investigation of what transpired; and yes, I know that Scrushy’s deeds, actions and demeanor didn’t always do much to help his situation in either Birmingham or Montgomery, but the whole thing makes me queasy nonetheless.
Two innocent men are the pawns of journalists, politicians and the whims of public opinion. Maybe that’s what has become of justice in the 21st Century.
[Now that I have most likely alienated just about every faction who has ever read me, I'll hopefully shut up and fade away. But I suppose that's the beauty of the semi-retirement thing.]
Congressman Artur Davis has said that the House Democrat’s request for the recently freed Don Siegelman to testify in front of Congress is ill-advised, and that he would strongly advise Siegelman against making this trip to Washington. In published reports, the Congressman was quoted as saying it would be “extremely unwise” for Siegelman to appear because it would expose him to new Republican attacks. To Davis, a Siegelman appearance would not serve the interests of The Party because it would “undermine what we value most.” These words come from the same Democrats who did little or nothing, on a national scale, to address the circumstances of one of their own members being railroaded into prison as the result of a highly questionable investigation and trial. There were few words spoken by prominant fellow Democras, at least until Don Siegelman was already in prison, and not until they could mix the Siegelman situation with their own agendas concerning Karl Rove, and not until dozens of former Attorney Generals–including some Republicans–openly questioned the prosecution. This is the same Democratic Party, that while swirling into the midst of a particularly contentious election cycle, where the leading candidates routinely talk about Change and a new kind of politics, even when the candidates have yet to utter one word in defense of the persecution of one of their own members. It might be understandable that the political party would not want to spend any political capital on a corruption case–no matter how questionable or no matter how wrong–but it would be equally understandable if Governor Siegelman politely declines the advice of Artur Davis, and goes to Washington.
Davis said that he feared that Republicans would use the occasion of a Siegelman appearance to embarrass him, and to further discredit the former governor. With due respect to Representative Davis, and with a high regard for his motivation and sincerity, it would be hard for me to imagine anything that could be more embarrassing than to be shackled and jerked out of a crowded courtroom, and to be hustled off to prison. Siegelman went from General Siegelman and Governor Siegelman to not even being worthy of being called Mr. Siegelman, but more likely Convict or 24775-001. It is a pretty good bet that the most intense questions, the most vicious comments by members of Congress would not embarrass Don Siegelman any more than he has already been subjected to.
Artur Davis also said that his appearance could jeopardize his appeal or expose him to further charges like perjury or obstruction of justice. This is a legal matter, and I have no idea what Don Siegelman will choose to do, but if it truly was a politically motivated investigation and trial, then it would seem that having an opportunity to tell the truth could not possibly jeopardize further litigation. In fact, the Davis plan of hedging the bets might come off as a bunker maneuver that parallels the bunker mentality that has kept the truth buried and hidden throughout this whole affair. And even worse, Davis said that Congress might call some of the witnesses from the trial. Does he mean Nick Bailey? Again, I do not know what Siegelman’s plans are, but it seems that he would be delighted to have his old aide appear in a national venue. The exact nature of Bailey’s ever-changing testimony could be explored along with the circumstances of his interviews, the promises he was given, and his early release.
Davis curiously separates two related ideas. The Birmingham News quotes him as saying, “We will lose the high ground that maintains that the integrity of the criminal justice system is more important than an individual defendant’s guilt or innocence.” Yes, but one of the hallmarks of a Democracy is that the rights of every individual are important, and that if one innocent individual is deprived of his or her rights and is wrongly prosecuted, then it undermines the integrity of our entire system. Davis further asserts that Congress may be granting Siegelman his “day in the court of public opinion,” but that “critics will assail us for doing nothing more than second-guessing a jury-verdict.” But is bringing out the truth of a wrongful prosecution merely a matter of public opinion? Siegelman’s appearance will be up to him and his consideration of the counsel of Artur Davis. But I say bring on Nick Bailey. Give Karl Rove another chance to hide behind executive privilege, and give the administration another chance to say that most of the pertinent emails and documents have disappeared. Call Steve Feaga. Call Leura Canary. The more the merrier: Call investigator Bill Long. Call retired FBI agent Jack Brennan. Call Alice Martin. Even if the opposition is licking their chops, let them, as it is time to put it all on the table and allow the unvarnished truth to give us an answer. Davis might think it is risky–even distracting to their mission–but if the truth is on Siegelman’s side, let it erupt all over Congress. And then dare the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals not to kick the case out ot=f court and clear back to Mobile.
Public opinion indeed.
Uh-oh. Run for cover. The gates swung open today. Run and hide.
The Appellate Court’s ruling reached the same conclusions that would have been raised before Judge Fuller by Hiram Eastland, had he been allowed to address the court before Siegelman and Scrushy were hustled out a side door last summer: There were substantial problems with facts and law. Uh-oh.
Things could unravel and it may have already begun. When the Appellate Court found obvious issues, then why didn’t Judge Fuller allow the defendants to speak? Why was a Federal Judge presiding over a contentious white collar trial by treating the situation like he was adjudicating hard core thugs? And when Alabama Republican Party chairman, Mike Hubbard, says that Siegelman’s release does not, “change a conviction by a jury of his peers,” that is a good question. What about that jury? There were substantial allegations that the jury may well have been tainted, but Judge Fuller didn’t seem interested in finding out the truth. Run and hide. And Hubbard should know well that if a jury was given a trial presentation where there were “substantial problems of fact and law,” then the paradigms the jury was operating under were faulty so that even a conscientious effort could not produce an accurate result. Hubbard could join Fuller in the aftermath, and we could ask them both if either of them care about truth, justice and the constitution, or has their animosity and vindictiveness overwhelmed their rational and professional side so much that they just want to see a man punished and destroyed. Nine months is a long time. Unfortunately, the self-satisfaction enjoyed by his detractors can’t be taken back any more than the time can be given back to Siegemlan.
With the balance beam swinging back a little bit, evened by the added weight of the substantial problems of fact and law, the earnest, dire, pleading statements of the prosecutors–Feaga and Franklin–come into question, the secreted recusal of Leura Canary and the spidery connections that go through William Canary, Bill Pryor, Steve Windom, Bob and Rob Riley, and yes, Karl Rove, all come careening back into view. It is time to run and hide because if Siegelman was THAT dangerous of a voice that he needed to be shafted into prison, then he is now a dangerous voice with a story to tell. And he is free. Uh-oh.
Throughout time and recorded history Truth and Justice have had a way of bubbling to the surface and of finding a way of coming out. Whether or not the indictment, the investigation and the trial were bonafide and righteous, or whether they were motivated by a political agenda, I have said all along that the biggest red flag in this whole affair is the seemingly tireless effort to suppress the true nature of the charges and the investigation. No amount of press releases and declaratives from either side can change the Truth. It is immutable, unchangeable and ought to be a solid rock on which our system of Justice depends. So Judge Fuller’s swift administration of justice on June 28th, 2007, the diesel justice Fuller knew would follow, all the subsequent statements made by prosecutors Feaga and Franklin, the numerous press releases spewed out by the Republican Party, along with the decrees from people like Mike Hubbard, can not change or alter the Truth. For that matter neither can Siegelman’s attorney Vince Kilborn nor Congressman Artur Davis nor Don Siegelman himself. As of this writing, on this day, as Siegelman heads back to Alabama with his wife and daughter, the Truth has already happened and cannot be changed by words, thoughts, actions or emotions. But the complete nature of the problem arises when one side does not seem to care about uncovering the Truth, like finding out the circumstances of Leura Canary’s recusal, or fully investigating the allegations of Jill Simpson, or looking into the obvious problems with squeezed over-his-head witness Nick Bailey, or with investigating the facts behind allegations of a tainted jury, or being concerned with the lingering questions about Judge Fuller’s animosty toward Siegelman, especially with regards to the sentencing and the excessive leeway he seemed to give the prosecutors, or like looking into how Richard Scrushy was surreptitiously inserted into the trial in an effort to parlay public opinion into a conviction. And besides stridently wanting Siegelman out of prison–in light of all of these problems–the other side has steadfastly simply asked for the Truth.
Resolve these problems. Balance the scales. If Mike Hubbard truly cares about the will of a jury of Siegelman’s peers, and if he cares about Justice and the Constitution, then he would willingly join with Siegelman and people on both sides of the aisles, and work to balance the scales; he would welcome the opportunity to present justice–unadulterated facts–to a jury and see what happens.
So happy freedom Don Siegelman. You too Mike Hubbard, Steven Feaga, Bob Riley and Karl Rove.