Sunday, March 18, 2007

Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan: tool of fraud.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is merely the tip of the iceberg where the ongoing Republican purge of Democrats is concerned. Eight U.S. Attorneys were fired for following an insufficiently partisan pattern of prosecutions—specifically, they were called out for refusing to investigate Democrats while leaving Republicans alone. More scandalous, however, are the 84 U.S. Attorneys who weren't fired. One of them is the U.S. Attorney for western Pennsylvania, Mary Beth Buchanan.

KDKA News in Pittsburgh reports that Buchanan refused to investigate former Republican Senator Rick Santorum when he was accused of sending his children to private school in Virginia while getting a tuition refund from the state of Pennsylvania. At the time of Santorum's corruption coming to light, though, Buchanan did decide to start investigating Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht.

Wecht was indicted on 84 counts of mail fraud in January 2006, around the same time Senator Santorum's reëlection campaign was starting up. Wecht's defense team included former Attorney General and former Pennsylvania Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh.

Thornburgh is a decent man, a relic from the days when non-corrupt Republicans were much more common. His vouching for Wecht is a good sign that there's not much substance to these charges. Mary Beth Buchanan needs much more scrutiny, as do all the other U.S. Attorneys who weren't fired during the Bush administration's recent purge. The fact that these attorneys were viewed by the Bush administration to be doing a good enough job is fishy as hell. That doesn't automatically make them all guilty, of course, but it does call for plenty of scrutiny right now.

It's sad and disturbing to realize that we can't trust the U.S. Attorneys' offices around the country at least until they're replaced, and that all investigations, legitimate or otherwise, are gummed up by this need for scrutiny for the duration of Bush's term in office. Yes, it's sad to think of the long list of careers that have been damaged or destroyed by this purge, but it's sadder still to think about the irreparable damage done to the credibility of U.S. Attorneys and the entire Judicial branch of our government. Even when President 44 gets elected, and even if that president is honest and a Democrat, the stain that Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove and George W. Bush have left won't be scoured. Hopefully time will heal this scar, but for now, we don't have a credible Judicial branch, since it was sacrificed for the Republican Party's political gain. It will take more than just another presidential election cycle to regain some of that lost trust, and worse, it'll take years before we realize just how much damage was done by these crimes. This is quite a legacy for George W. Bush, whose administration will be remembered for being more corrupt than Grant's or Harding's or Nixon's, or of any other administration that came before his. As someone who has opposed Bush since well before he took the White House, I take no joy in any of this, because while this scandal will at least diminish Bush's stature (if not take him down altogether,) it damages my country and its system of justice, and there's no good side to that.

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