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16 May

The Man Who Wasn’t There

At times, the fired U.S. Attorneys scandal is hard to fully appreciate.  However, it really is far worse than anything you could imagine.  It involves political favoritism, actions politically directed solely to influence elections, perjury, violations of federal laws intended to prevent politicization of career positions, obfuscation of congressional inquiry, and more.  And at the center of it is The Man Who Wasn’t There.

The Man Who Wasn’t There has little recollection of anything about why, when, or how he fired the U.S. Attorneys, but he knows he did it for the right reasons whatever they may be.  The Man Who Wasn’t There has little or no recollection of whether or how the White House was involved in the process, but he knows they would not have been.

And this isn’t the first time The Man Who Wasn’t There wasn’t there.  There are other semi-famous examples, including The Man Who Wasn’t There’s successful effort in getting Bush out of jury duty, thereby keeping his drinking and driving problems a secret.  Yesterday, we finally heard of another example, as former Deputy Attorney General (and former acting Attorney General) James Comey testified as to a story that has been circling around for some time, involving The Man Who Wasn’t There as chief counsel to the presdient.

As Attorney General John Ashcroft lie seriously ill and incapacitated in a hospital bed, and at a time that Comey was the acting Attorney General, the then-unknown NSA “terrorist”-surveillance (i.e. domestic wiretapping) program was coming up for Justice Department approval (it needed to be reauthorized every 30 days).  Comey believed, as the acting AG, that it was unconsitutional.  He had consulted with many, including FBI director Robert Mueller (a former United States Attorney himself) and Aschcroft in reaching this conclusion.  Mind you, we are not talking about a meeting of Robert Kennedy, Jr., Elliot Spitzer, and Pat Leahy.  No, these guys are republicans, likely conservative republicans, possibly Federalist Society members.  And they still deemed the program unconstitutional.  Comey told the White House he would not sign off on it. 

So, The Man Who Wasn’t There and Chief of Staff Andy Card decided to do a night-time end run around Comey and go straight to the incapacitated Ashcroft.  It is like a scene out of Weekend at Bernie’s, where the protagonists are trotting around the corpse of Bernie to convince people that they have his permission for something, with hijinks ensuing.  Comey got clued in to the plot because Ashcroft’s wife called him to say the President called looking to send someone over for the strong-arm.  Comey and his detail raced to the hospital, got there first, and waited with Ashcroft.  The Man Who Wasn’t There and Card showed up and, according to Comey, Ashcroft (who has never commented on the story) summoned the strength to say both that he wouldn’t approve it, and that he couldn’t because Comey was the man.  Card and The Man Who Wasn’t There then slunk out of the hospital without acknowledging Comey.  On his way out, The Man Who Wasn’t There had, according to Comey, “a memorable brief exchange” with Mueller, who had just arrived.

Comey then got summoned to the White House for an even later in the evening meeting with The Man Who Wasn’t There and Card.  Comey, sensed a trap and took Solicitor General Ted Olson (he who argued for Bush in the Bush v Gore Supreme Court debacle) with him as a witness.  So, the guy who argued to get Bush into the White House, whose wife was killed in one of the 9/11 planes, who is Bush-appointed to the position of Solicitor General to argue cases for the government before the Supreme Court, is there for Comey.  Card, apparently fearing that Olson had suppressed liberal political beliefs, refused to let him in the room for the meeting, and Comey relented and commenced the meeting without him.  The Man Who Wasn’t There showed up, and let Olson in for the meeting where Comey refused to back down and sign on to the NSA program.

The next day, the White House, without the required Justice Department attestation to the NSA program’s legality, reauthorized the program as is.  I’m certain that if called to be asked about this, The Man Who Wasn’t There won’t be able to recall much, but will be certain that proper procedures were followed.  The Man Who Wasn’t There will be unable to remember anything so as to substantively defend or explain the propriety of his and the White House’s actions, but he will have the firm conviction of their legality.  The Man Who Wasn’t There will not offer any recollection to substantively contradict Comey’s story, but will be certain that any critical inference to be drawn from it is wrong.

His actions are unclear, uncertain, and, above all, often unverifiable.  He does not know what he has done, but knows it was right.  He’s The Man Who Wasn’t There.

– BooRadley

2 Comments
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Anonymous

Boo, great writing and right on.
The McGlynn

Forex Research

I am now a regular reader of your stuff

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