Monday, March 17, 2008

Stein On Spitzer

I'm definitely not a fan of Ben Stein. This guy was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon and later defended his crimes, accusing Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee of hurting the country by exposing Watergate. He's also the star of the new intellectually dishonest, Intelligent Design institute-financed, anti-evolution movie Expelled. As you may have guessed, he and I don't see eye to eye on many issues.

That's why this segment he did for CBS' Sunday Morning about the Eliot Spitzer scandal caught me totally off guard; I actually found myself nodding in agreement with him. So much of this story has been about the prurient details of Spitzer's sexual relationship with "Kristen" that many other aspects have been completely missed or outright ignored by the media. Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the video:

I have to admit that this issue had not occurred to me as it applies to this situation and others but the precedents being set are disturbing indeed. It is dangerous when a handful of appointed bureaucrats have the power to virtually pick and choose which elected officials they will pursue investigations against and perhaps eventually force from office. Now I'm not suggesting that politicians not be investigated after entering public office when it is reasonable to suspect that they may have committed a crime. That's perfectly acceptable; it's what the Justice Department is for.

The reason I find this practice so troubling is because of how recklessly and brazenly partisan the Bush administration has been in it's manipulation and coercion of the federal government and it's employees. The lines between what are supposed to be the objective arms of government and partisan politics are being blurred more and more every day. The firing of the nine federal justices last year, the testimony and pathetically transparent amnesia of then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before Congress and now this business with Spitzer and the IRS being cases in point. Actions like these send a clear message to all employees of the federal government: either fall in line with our agenda or you will lose your jobs.

Now of course I'm not accusing George W. Bush of writing a memo instructing someone to specifically take down Eliot Spitzer. He's been too busy flying to other countries and embarrassing us as a nation with his dancing. I'm just positing that the outright politicization of what are supposed to be nonpartisan branches of the federal government should be something that angers and upsets American citizens and that it can have dangerous consequences for democracy when it infects our tax and justice systems. And I agree with Ben Stein that political appointees should not have sole discretion to decide which elections by those same citizens they are going to nullify with their bureaucratic meddling. Their only guidelines should be the laws of the United States. Period.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

for somebody who doesn't like people who repeat after talking heads, I find it slightly surprising that you're already casting judgment upon a movie that has not been released yet.