William Kristol wants to know

by Henry on October 15, 2005

Q: ‘Why are conservative Republicans, who control the executive and legislative branches of government for the first time in living memory, so vulnerable to the phenomenon of criminalization?’

A: Because there seems to be prima facie evidence that prominent conservative Republicans were up to their eyes in criminal activities.

Number 1,411 in a series of easy answers to unnecessarily complicated questions (with apologies to “The Poor Man”). Hat tip: Laura Rozen

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The Lion And The Donkey:Official Blog of the Columbia Democrats » Blog Archive » Poor William Kristol
10.15.05 at 12:09 pm

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1

Kieran Healy 10.15.05 at 10:17 am

“vulnerable to the phenomenon of criminalization?’”

I thought only wooly-headed sociologists were supposed to talk like that.

2

Adam Kotsko 10.15.05 at 10:25 am

“I thought they were supposed to be in power — doesn’t that make everything they do automatically right?”

3

Matt Weiner 10.15.05 at 10:50 am

Kristol and Bell say: But the inspector general’s investigation of Tomlinson’s conduct as chairman, designed by Obey and Dingell and their liberal staffers, continues with no end in sight.

Irony just died again!

4

craigie 10.15.05 at 11:12 am

Yes, there’s nothing like controlling the entire government for making yourself a poor, vulnerable bunny rabbit, always at the mercy of those evil libruls.

wah wah wah!

5

Brad DeLong 10.15.05 at 12:28 pm

The interesting thing is who Kristol fingers as the head of the left-wing conspiracy so immense:

John Ashcroft–he appointed Patrick Fitzgerald, after all.

6

abb1 10.15.05 at 12:29 pm

I sincerely hope he’s right; I hope the reason for this is that everyone hates these guys and their freakin “conservative agenda” and will use any freakin excuse to kick them. And I hope this goes for freakin William Kristol too.

7

Matt McGrattan 10.15.05 at 12:53 pm

You know, without wanting to be unduly harsh, this type of conservative complaint can be explained by realising that they are wimps. Pathetic and weak and afraid. Unfortunately, the pathetic weakness and fear is combined with selfishness and vindictiveness. Great combination.

8

JR 10.15.05 at 3:08 pm

You’re missing the point. Kristol doesn’t “want to know” anything. Kristol is being deployed by his masters. This is a pre-justification for the firing of Fitzgerald and replacing him with a lapdog – something Gonzales can do by picking up the phone. They do not intend to permit a prosecutor to force Rove to stand trial.

Fitzgerald’s term as U.S. Attorney in Chicago ends at the end of October. Bush is under no obligation to re-appoint him. It would be the easiest thing in the world for Bush to choose to appoint a new U.S. Attorney in Illinois and at the same time for Gonzales to announce that, given the end of Fitzgerald’s distinguished service to the country, he has decided to hand the Plame investigation over to another full-time government prosecutor.

So Kristol is trotting out the message that will be spouted by the Noise Machine before, during, and after the firing of Fitzgerald.

9

yabonn 10.15.05 at 4:27 pm

so vulnerable to the phenomenon of criminalization?

Too young, too beautiful, too pure.

Ah, the world.

10

otto 10.15.05 at 5:25 pm

Leaving aside WK, is there any actual research or systematic analysis on whether “criminalisation” of politics, in the sense of the criminal prosecutions of government and party officials, is in fact increasing over time?

11

MQ 10.15.05 at 8:47 pm

Comment #9 nails it. Don’t understand these pieces by Kristol et. al. as “arguments” that try to use “logic” to prove a “point”. They are propaganda, verbal screens for whatever exercise of power is coming down the pike. Now the challenge for the Democrats is to scream bloody murder when the Repubs strangle the investigation.

12

paul 10.15.05 at 11:52 pm

In terms even nepotism-Bill can understand: you do the crime you do the time. Isn’t that what he and his peeps been after all this time? And as was noted above – he can’t write.

13

Matt McGrattan 10.16.05 at 1:12 pm

“Now the challenge for the Democrats is to scream bloody murder when the Repubs strangle the investigation.”

I think one of the striking things in recent years has been the sheer brazenness of both the Republicans and New Labour in the UK. Both seem to have realised that they can literally get away with anything. Anything.

Screaming bloody murder only works when the people you are screaming about, or people who have influence over them, have the capacity for _shame_. However, politicians resigning because it’s the ‘decent thing to do’, because they are ashamed of their actions or ashamed of being caught, that seems to be a thing of the past.

And elections every 4 or 5 years just aren’t a robust enough check and balance on the politicians if all the other informal mechanisms — personal shame, the media, etc. — that have always coexisted alongside elections have been gutted.

14

Cheryl 10.16.05 at 1:18 pm

William Kristol wants to know he isn’t above the law.

Q: ‘Why are conservative Republicans, who control the executive and legislative branches of government for the first time in living memory, so vulnerable to the phenomenon of criminalization?

Gosh, Mr. Billy wants know why Patrick Fitzgerald isn’t under control?

But that’s my question too?

The Bush administration HAS literally been above the law, so why hasn’t Republican control congress been able to stem his prosecution of Karl Rove and Libby Scooter and whomever else Patrick indicts?

Law Professor Jeff Cooper has link on his website of a more in-depth look at who is behind Patrick Fitzgerald – and shock of all shocks it’s a Republican Party member related charge – who would have thunk it?

Does the Republican Party have ANY saving grace or virtues these days? Well, apparently somebody(ies) in the GOP have something of a conflict with King George and present company.

And surely the hapless centrist Dem control liberal party wasn’t EVER going to do anything except belly-ach about it. Harry Reid’s last poll numbers showed a dismal 28% (and isn’t Reid up for re-election in 2006?) so that the question becomes – why do Washington DC Dems seem HELL bent on being so meaningless? If the Minority Leader is pulling such a low score – why is the Dem Party doing nothing about it? They seem hell bent on being a party of demise – not worth even asking for paper ballot – Dems Party never comes together on anything, except when proded by bloggers. Social security was saved – not by the Democratic congressional Party members in Washington, whom care as much about old folks as Bush does, but from a nation-wide stand by liberal bloggers.

15

yabonn 10.16.05 at 2:14 pm

New Labour in the UK. Both seem to have realised that they can literally get away with anything. Anything.

By the by, there was that funny bit of info about Blair having to inform to Murdoch about his policies – a former aide’s book or something. Did it fizzle or something? Can’t find much on the subject.

16

James 10.16.05 at 2:36 pm

Mr. Kristol is merely bemused about the apparently recent confusion over the “IOKIYAR” rule in the MSM and general public. Perfectly sensible bemusment (“Why did IOKIYAR apply perfectly for so many years and suddenly become inoperative??”).

Irony is indeed dead again (from an overdose).

17

Dan Kervick 10.16.05 at 3:08 pm

I think Kristol raises an interesting question, at least from the standpoint of the urbane cynicism which characterizes the Washington outlook – and particularly the neoconservative variant of that outlook. Kristol preumably doesn’t care whether the legal charges have intrinsic merit or not. His expectation is that the accession of conservatives to institutional power in American society should have put an end to the legal investigations and scandals that have undermined Republican administrations in the past. The investigations would all, in principle, be blocked by loyalists who occupy the key decision nodes – whether the charges have merit or not. So, he reasons, since some of these investigations have gotten traction and moved forward, that must mean that there are important sources of power that the Kristolites don’t control. Their enemies must occupy these positions instead.

Now surely, Kristol must be at least partly right about this.

It is true that Kristol ignores the possibility that the investigative traction may be assisted by some Republicans who, though conservative, are also honest and dedicated public servants committed to the rule of law, and inclined to base their decisions on the institutional requirements of their jobs rather than the subterranean requirements of factional loyalty.

And it may be hard for Kristol to accept that there are plenty of ordinary Americans who are also interested in good, clean government and the rule of law. The public is not as uniformly ruthless and partisan as the Washington power-broker circles in which Kristol moves. So if the suspicion of wrongdoing rises into the field of public awareness, and generates calls for investigation, even partisan hacks cannot face down the political pressure indefinitely, and must respond.

Kristol also fails to recognize other sources of group solidarity and self-protection that are motivated by neither ideology, nor a disinterested commitment to professional or civic responsibility. When officials in the Bush administration outed Valerie Plame, they wildly shot off a bullet that whizzed far too close to CIA heads for comfort. Even partisan conservative loyalists in the agency, otherwise disposed to scheme on behalf of the cause, don’t look favorably on people who mess with their own cover and personal safety. This is a case where the covert operatives all stick together.

But Kristol is right to recognize that the anti-corruption spirit can’t be mobilized unless the public first finds out about some possible malfeasance. And for that to happen, at least some journalists have to disclose it. Kristol assumes that the journalists who do so are not all motivated by an impartial concern for the public welfare, but have partisan reasons. And I suspect he is right about this. Can anyone doubt that if conservatives controlled the media entirely, many of the disclosures of Republican illegality would never see the light of day, or would be squelched and downplayed if they were reported?

The neoconservatives are obsessed with the remaining stores of liberal power in the academy, the media and judiciary. That’s why they are so determined to purge all of these institutions, and to bring about a total revolution in American political culture.

I think Kristol is certainly right about the importance of liberal ideological motivation in important US institutions. For example, if Kristol and his allies were thoroughly in charge of the entertainment industry, we would not likely be treated to a good liberal morale booster like Good Night and Good Luck. We would probably get a pro-McCarthy, Whitaker Chambers-like view of the period instead.

Still, it is important to recognize the significance of non-partisan professionalism and honesty in checking the power of the ideologues. The neoconservatives, like their Jacobin and Bolshevik forbears, don’t understand this factor, since they operate in a moral landscape of perpetually remote and deferred background idealism dominated by a foreground of ruthlessness and lies. They have a genuinely idealistic commitment to certain long-term, revolutionary, and probably unachievable goals, but are willing to engage in all manner of mean and remorseless subtrefuges to achieve their ends.

18

JR 10.16.05 at 5:42 pm

The Rove-DeLay-Cheney administration has been behaving as if the coup d’etat were complete, when in fact significant power bases are still not under the control of the center. This is not because they are stupid. Part of the reason is that they have limited time, part is that they must move audaciously and illegally to gain control over independent actors, part is that control from the center requires tremendous attention to detail, which is not always possible.

Fitzgerald is perhaps the last chance to push back the coup. Rove recognizes the danger and that is why Kristol has been wheeled out to spew this nonsense. Arguing with Kristol on the merits is a waste of breath. You’re talking to a machine.

The question is, will they have the nerve to fire Fitzgerald? I think they will- they have never yet shown lack of will and they have their backs to wall now.

Given that there is no way that Congress will impeach, there will then be no check on the administration’s power. The only effective response would be the response to any coup- a rising in the streets. That is not going to happen- and so I’m afraid I see no hope. But I’m a pretty pessimistic guy- so perhaps I’m wrong.

19

abb1 10.16.05 at 6:16 pm

Come on Jr, cut the dramatics. I’m just as cynical as the next guy here, but this is not so close to totalitarism as you would like us to believe. They get reckless, get carried away – they’ll burn eventually.

20

Dan Kervick 10.16.05 at 6:44 pm

jr wrote:

Fitzgerald is perhaps the last chance to push back the coup…

The question is, will they have the nerve to fire Fitzgerald? I think they will – they have never yet shown lack of will and they have their backs to wall now.

Given that there is no way that Congress will impeach, there will then be no check on the administration’s power. The only effective response would be the response to any coup- a rising in the streets. That is not going to happen- and so I’m afraid I see no hope. But I’m a pretty pessimistic guy- so perhaps I’m wrong..

Last chance??! Oh, come on, chin up jr! Delay is screwed, and Bush’s popularity is down to 38%. These guys are now losing the political war and are losing their cool and their edge. A transparently Nixonian move like firing the prosecutor would virtually guarantee a massive Congressional turnover in 2006. Terrified Congressional Republicans would be lining up on street corners to save their asses by calling for resignations, investigations, etc. of the lame duck Bush administration. Whatever Fitzgerald has would come flooding out in a series of leaks that would become a deluge.

The pendulum is swinging back.

21

nick s 10.16.05 at 7:07 pm

Kristol’s lament was much funnier in its earliest incarnation: ‘Why Do These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?’

22

snuh 10.17.05 at 1:22 am

“What do these four men [delay, frist, rove and libby] have in common, other than their status as prosecutorial targets? Since 2001, they have been among the most prominent promoters of the conservative agenda of the Bush administration. For over four years, they have helped two strong conservatives, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, successfully advance an agenda for change in America.”

none of the five most senior bush administration officials – cheney, rice, rumsfeld, gonzales and, of course, bush – are currently under indictment. which is, uhm, odd, at least if “a kind of ideological criminalization of active, visible conservatives” really has become “almost second nature to the left”. it’s almost as if the prosecutors in each case are objectively assessing the evidence pointing toward the gang of four’s criminality. crazy!

also, apparently the entire CIA is “almost universally anti-Bush and anti-conservative”. the CIA is of course dominated by leftists, just like “the elite professions, including journalism and teaching”. heck, given our dominance at the CIA, maybe we should quit with our strategy of “ideological criminalization”, and have them launch a coup already. they will install noam chomsky as president, don’t you know.

23

Tom Doyle 10.17.05 at 1:40 am

“The defendants denounce the law under which their accounting is asked. Their dislike for the law which condemns them is not original. It has been remarked before that: “ ’No thief o’er felt the halter draw with good opinion of the law.’
Robert H. Jackson

Closing Argument for the United States of America, Robert H. Jackson, Chief Prosecutor; Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, July 26, 1946

24

Roberto 10.17.05 at 3:28 am

It looks to me like Kristol’s trying to sell us another boatload of the ol’ “persecuted Republican” nonsense. The unnerving thing is that I really think he, and many others of his ilk, believe that they’re victims despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

25

Brett Bellmore 10.17.05 at 6:06 am

“No thief o’er felt the halter draw with good opinion of the law.’”

Nor did any resident of the gulag feel much enthusiasm about the KGB. These campaign regulations are a direct attack on freedom of political speech, and Democratic enthusiasm for them has done more to put the lie to your claims of being free speech advocates than any college speach code.

26

Steve LaBonne 10.17.05 at 8:17 am

C’mon, guys, where’s the empathy here? This crowd controls all 3 branches of government, and they were even able to get the Supreme Court to install their fearless leader in office, so of course they assumed they were above the law! Can’t you find it in your hearts to feel just a little bit of their pain at discovering that it ain’t necessarily so?

27

Uncle Kvetch 10.17.05 at 1:07 pm

Nor did any resident of the gulag feel much enthusiasm about the KGB.

Wow; hijacking the thread and using a laughably over-the-top analogy to do it! Nice twofer, Brett.

28

harry b 10.17.05 at 2:37 pm

Brett, I agree that the campaign finance regulations are bad law; and, in fact, deeply unprogressive. And oppose (and have always opposed) campus speech codes. But I also believe that people who break the law, even when it is bad law, should be prosecuted. (Note: the law against perjury is a good law, so the impeachment/prosecution of Clinton does not fall under this description). Politicians, in particular, deserve to be prosecuted with the full force of the law when they violate statutes with the intent of securing political power. These people and their apologists are extremely powerful, and have made it clear that they regard themselves as above the law. What makes their whining particularly unseemly is that they hold everyone else to much higher standards.

29

snuh 10.17.05 at 7:29 pm

Nor did any resident of the gulag feel much enthusiasm about the KGB. These campaign regulations are a direct attack on freedom of political speech

yes, i hate those “campaign regulations” which make it illegal to burn CIA agents. also, those pesky laws against insider trading? yet more “direct attacks on freedom of political speech”. it’s, like, the same as the gulag.

30

abb1 10.18.05 at 4:33 am

How do you equate campaign regulations with ‘direct attack on freedom of political speech’, Brett? Campaign regulations are designed to protect political speech, so that people who plundered a lot of money wouldn’t have undue influence. Do you have a problem with that?

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