Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gonzales aid to invokes the Fifth

And we're not talking liquor. Monica M. Goodling, an aide to Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department's liason to the White House, has told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she plans on invoking her fifth amendment right against recrimination. Now, the cynical partisan in me would love nothing more than to jump on the bandwagon with my Democratic colleagues and imply that the reason Ms. Goodling is doing this is because she has something to hide. However, it should be noted that the fifth amendment protects the innocent as well as the guilty, an argument made by Ms. Goodling's lawyer yesterday. One need only look as far back as the McCarthy hearings on alleged Soviet spies to cite an example.

Over the years myself and many others have called the erosion of civil liberties the greatest casualty of the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, I have railed against both parties and the Bush administration for their eagerness to shred the basic tenets of this country while at the same time doing so in the name of protecting those tenets. In these crimes, Democrats AND Republicans share blame. Just look at the voting records on the so-called Patriot Act and the authorization for funding for the Iraq War. Look at the record for the "debates" (blood lust pornography orgies might better describe them) surrounding passage of those two as well as debates around Guantanamo. They disgust me and they should disgust any thinking person who actually considers the actions taken beyond the empty rhetoric shrouding them.

Given that disgust, should we not also regard an invocation of the fifth amendment with at least a modicum of respect for it's dual edged intent? Give Ms. Goodling the benefit of the doubt? Rather than just pile on and snide remarks about how this obviously points to her guilt, lets dig a little deeper, look at the strategy, and try to understand what's really going on here. It's easy to take the position that this is an admission of guilt, but it's also giving into the same tendencies which seek to erode hard fought liberties when the country experiences times of distress and turmoil.

My first, and also cynical, reaction when I read the news of Ms. Goodling this morning was that this is a strategy being floated by her superiors in order to prevent sworn testimony. The President has made it abundantly clear that he will invoke Executive Privilege in order to prevent his aides from testifying under oath. The problem with that position is that it's unseemly to an American public that prefers more transparency in government officials and it's not been tested judicially. If Bush were to pursue this position, then his poll numbers might fall even lower and, worse yet, he might lose the case thereby precluding future administrations for using this negotiation leverage. He had hoped Congressional leaders might back down for fear of losing their own case, but the comments this past weekend from Senators from his own party made it clear that this was not going to be a sure fire win. So, his handlers came up with the idea of invoking the fifth amendment. Offering a second prong to the strategy, one that seems defensible to the public, may prevent further poll sliding. (Note: I'm not certain that this second prong will prevent poll sliding. It depends upon how successful each side is at spinning the issue. The public isn't concerned about the facts, here, as it is generally lazy on such things, but rather how successful each side appears. Likely, the public will perceive both positions as strong, resulting in a wash stuck in the spin cycle, which is not good for the Shrub. He needs a win and without it the stain on his administration over this continues to grow).

However, if this is a second prong to the strategy to prevent sworn testimony, then there are bound to be records of it in the White House or in Justice. Congress should pursue emails and voice mails regarding this strategy for, if it is there to just prevent testimony, then it is not a proper invocation of the fifth amendment, but rather a cynical use of it that actually undermines the original intent of the amendment. There's irony for you and one we've come to expect from these crooks: the party that so often screams loudest about "original intent" when it comes to constitutional interpretations by the judiciary might actually be thwarting "original intent" of the fifth amendment in order to pursue it's own authoritarian ends. The Senate Judiciary Committee should be investigating if this is the case at the same time it is investigating perjury as regards to Congressional testimony in the firings of the federal prosecutors.

Talking Points Memo readers also have something to say regarding this issue. Laura Rozen also reports on some background on Ms. Goodling.


Scott said...

You definitely need to keep an eye on both parties. When talking of the McCarthy era witch hunts, remember one of the underpinnings for the most egregious government actions was the McCarran Act named for a democrat. Admittedly while he was like that sack of shit Zell Miller, it had bi-partisan support.

I am not inclined to be very understanding of the new Monica, though that is somewhat ameliorated. I'd heard a news report yesterday that Sampson was going to take the fifth, and it seems that was in error. Must have got morphed by myself or in the news item itself.

Monica II has every right to take the fifth, but I wonder if it will turn out to be a big mistake. Suppose she had been candid, and actually did incriminate herself. Sampson's testimony may well incriminate her if there really are crimes, or show she misused the fifth and incriminate her for that, in which case she dug the hole much deeper, both for her and the masters she serves.

B.D. said...

Indeed, she may well have taken on a poor strategy. Unless the rest of the guard takes the same poison pill, the strategy won't work for those who swallowed first.

I'll see your sack of shit, Zell Miller, and add a stinking pile of Joe Lieberman.