The Department of Justice constantly seems to be shooting itself (and us) in the foot, while allowing apparent political and financial miscreants to walk away scot-free. Those of us who thought the DOJ was doing a poor job under the leadership of Attorneys General Gonzales and Ashcroft during the Bush years have to admit that its record under Eric Holder is also far from stellar.
After the reversal of the conviction of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska in 2008 because of prosecutorial misconduct, one would have expected the DOJ to be cautious in terms of whom it goes after and how it proceeds. But does that explain its unwillingness to bring charges against corrupt politicians such as Senator John Ensign of Nevada, Congressmen Don Young of Alaska, Alan Mollahan of West Virginia and Charles Rangel of New York, all of whom appeared to have broken various laws.
And why haven’t they tried any of the people responsible for the financial meltdown. Many of these men, like Angelo Mozillo of Countrywide, Kerry Killinger of Washington Mutual and Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers, among others, walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars after lying repeatedly to stockholders and analysts, and countenancing other criminal activities at their firms. And evidence just came out that Ken Lewis, the Chairman and CEO of Bank America did not reveal the extent of losses at Merrill Lynch to stockholders prior to approval of its acquisition in 2008. He left with an $83 million package upon retirement in December 2009. Why weren’t criminal actions taken against at least some of these men along with other Wall Street titans and financial executives who flouted the law?
On the other hand, the recent failure of the DOJ to obtain a conviction of John Edwards after a huge expenditure of time and money on charges that were questionable in the first place, is merely the latest in a series of high visibility blunders. In a similar vein is the effort to convict Roger Clemens for perjury the second time around, which seems to be a big waste of tax-payer funds even if he is found guilty. The anti-trust action against Apple and five publishers is another example of misguided DOJ focus, where the agency acted to help a near monopolist, Amazon, improve its market position to the detriment of struggling publishers, authors and independent bookstores. We can add to these mistakes the DOJ attempt to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York City that had to be abandoned because of financial and security concerns.
There’s also been the fiasco of the Fast and Furious program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is under the aegis of the DOJ. This attempt by the ATF to trace firearms sold in the U.S. that went to Mexican drug dealers was halted only after many weapons were transferred to criminals and utilized in violent crimes.
Though there have been a few bright spots in the DOJ’s activities, such as the work of the New York Federal prosecutor, Preet Bharara, against insider trading, they have been far outweighed by the missteps of the agency and its unwillingness or inability to pursue high profile political and financial corruption. Whether Obama wins or loses in November, it appears to be time for a change in leadership at the Department of Justice.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.