Tom Finneran: Just Say No (To A Special US Prosecutor)
Friday, June 07, 2013
Well, those famous words have applicability today but in an entirely different context. We should all just say “NO” as loudly and as frequently as possible to calls for a Washington D.C. special prosecutor.
By now you’re familiar with the outlines of three “scandals” engulfing President Obama and the White House. The Benghazi murders of four Americans and the Obama administration’s alleged cover-up of the hard facts of the case, the IRS targeting of Tea Party, conservative, and pro-Israel groups, and the tapping and interception of AP reporters’ phone calls and emails by the Department of Justice. That’s quite a trifecta and it’s only been five months since the President was sworn into his second term. Things are getting quite ugly quite quickly.
Nonetheless, calls for a special prosecutor should be rejected. Why? Because special prosecutors are, by definition, immunized from politics and therein lies the rub. Some years ago, Congress finally came to its shrinking senses, and, in a bipartisan vote, decided to end the practice of incessantly calling for the appointment of special prosecutors up and down the political food chain. It was a wise vote then, but sadly too late for those American citizens who were persecuted and crucified by prosecutors whose “independence” and unlimited authority runs counter to every American principle enshrined in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Too late also for the American taxpayer who had to foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars in extraordinary and unnecessary costs associated with the offices of those special prosecutors.
Picture James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams considering the following proposal–an office with the ability to investigate virtually anyone, seize papers, wiretap phones, harass and terrorize witnesses, indict, and try American citizens, with unlimited budget authority, unanswerable to any one of the three co-equal branches of government. Talk about an intrusive and bullying sovereign…King George the III and his edicts were tame compared to the abuses seen and suffered under the tyrannies of special prosecutors. Madison, Jefferson, and Adams, after scornful laughter followed by withering denunciation, would have pointed out that the nature of man and the concentration of power must always be watched and checked and counter-balanced. Do you remember the implacable and fanatic Javert, the police inspector from Les Miserables, the one who wants to impose a twenty or thirty year sentence for the theft of bread on behalf of a starving child? Javert would be a special prosecutor today…utterly without judgment, utterly without restraint, utterly without consideration of anything but self-serving headlines and the determination to “get somebody,” that somebody being a soon to be bankrupt American citizen.
Such a scenario was repeated over and over and over again, ad nauseam, in a Washington D.C. tit-for-tat dance, first the Democrats, then the Republicans, each bludgeoning each other in a political frenzy to tarnish the other team’s reputation for honest and capable administration. This was decidedly not a process designed to achieve justice, determine the truth, or secure any of the other high ideals claimed by proponents of these prosecutorial schemes.
What is needed is more politics, not less. Let the Congress, with all its partisan challenges and limitations; undertake the hearings necessary to get to the bottom of these episodes. Let the Congress call witnesses. Let the Congress argue about the interpretation of conflicting testimony. Congress works for the public. They are in the public eye. Their hearings are open and are part of our public records. Most importantly, they are a constitutional branch of government, checked and balanced by both the executive and the judicial branches, even as they act as a check and balance upon the other two.
You might hate the Republicans for their political games and gimmicks. Or you might hate the Democrats for their similarly unsavory antics. After all, the country is closely divided in its politics and there is more than enough to denounce in Washington D.C. But at least with Congress, there is an outlet for venting your anger. That outlet is your Congressman, and the venting occurs when his or her re-election rolls around. The American people are more than capable of rendering periodic judgment on whether the Congress and their Congressional representative has served the public interest by delving into allegations of official misdeeds. Trust the American public. And don’t trust some modern day version of the KGB.
Just say “NO”.
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