Republicans have contracted a flesh-eating disease caused by a steady diet of unchecked power and severe deficiency of principle. It attacks the brain’s capacity to tell the truth. Loss of face follows. The only known cure is loss of the very unchecked power that triggered the disease in the first place.
In human beings, a malady called necrotizing fasciitis spreads under the epidermis and literally eats the body alive. In the case of the GOP, it is former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias who’s gotten under their skin, and he’s laying their bones bare.
Iglesias, if you don’t know by now, was once a darling of the GOP. Sen. Pete Domenici got him the post of U.S. Attorney for New Mexico. The Department of Justice praised him. He deserved his reputation for competence and integrity. His political future sparkled.
But he wouldn’t turn the powers of his office over to Republican hacks. So he got the axe. Like a good Bushie, he accepted his fate and resigned as requested. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed to be a reference as he looked for new work. Iglesias was shifting gracefully from a life of public service to a life of billable hours when his party kicked him on his way out the door.
Years of unchecked power have addled Republican brains. The GOP has always been mean. Now it’s grown stupid as well. They smeared Iglesias by telling the public he’d been dismissed for incompetence. They were shocked, shocked, when he fought back.
Iglesias scorched the GOP in his Congressional testimony. He hurt them on local radio and national television. The New York Times published his column “Why I Was Fired” for millions to read. A Democratic Congress is busy dropping subpoenas on White House insiders. Democrats have extracted 3,000 pages of internal Justice Department e-mails revealing how Republicans politicized the prosecutorial function of the United States government. Though we’re far from the next election, Democrats have unleashed radio hits against Rep. Heather Wilson for her part in the affair. Not-So-Saintly Pete has lawyered up with the same high-priced suit who defended a congressman now sulking in prison.
And we’re barely two months into this scandal. Stay tuned.
New Mexico Republicans brought this on themselves. They considered the office of the U.S. Attorney a political bauble. Its powers existed for their advantage in tight elections. Iglesias’ star crashed because he knew better and took his oath of office seriously.
The now-famous telephone calls to Iglesias from Wilson and Domenici certainly look bad, though they did not explicitly ask him to do anything improper. More disturbing is the story behind the scenes, the machinations of local Republicans to “get” Iglesias because he wouldn’t climb down into the gutter with them.
Three prominent Republicans have fessed up to the campaign to trash Iglesias. They are State GOP Chairman Alan Weh, lobbyist/lawyer Mickey D. Barnett and Albuquerque attorney Patrick J. Rogers. They acknowledge working on Domenici and their connections in the Bush administration. Their public line is they wanted Iglesias removed because he was ignoring evidence of voter fraud and dragging his feet on public corruption cases. That's as laughable as Roger's claim, reported by the McClatchy news service, that he can't remember attending a $5,000 per plate lunch with Karl Rove at Weh's house last September where Iglesias was surely discussed.
An e-mail from Barnett signals the real motivation for the campaign to scuttle Iglesias. After allegations of voter fraud arose in the heat of the 2004 campaign, Iglesias established a joint federal-state task force. According to The New York Times, “soon after announcing his plan, [Iglesias] received an e-mail message from Mickey D. Barnett, a Republican lawyer who represented the Bush campaign in New Mexico, urging him just to bring federal charges against any violators.”
Iglesias refused to file charges just to give the Bush campaign something to crow about. That Republicans would even suggest the U.S. Attorney start a federal criminal prosecution as a campaign stunt gives the lie to everything they say about why Iglesias was forced out of office. In fact, it was when Iglesias declined to just haul off with politically expedient charges that talk about his removal began.
This is a made-in-New Mexico scandal. Democrats are drawing big headlines for pursuing Bush’s big fish.