“Never mind!” dep’t

Michael Barone tells the truth about U.S. Attorney firings!
Well, no … not perzackly. In fact, some mischief-maker hacked a little bit of truth onto Barone’s reliably wingnutty website. Barone says he’s too busy to discover whether the Bush Administration has been obstructing justice.

Updated … and even funnier. See Update below.

Michael Barone is one of the most reliable recyclers of RNC talking points in the entire world of journamallism. He is no more likely than a Fox News anchor to tell the truth about the venality of the current ruling clique. So it was a considerable shock to see the following remarks from him about the U.S. Attorney purge:

Lawmaker’s Intervention in Law Enforcement Crosses Line

The emerging scandal surrounding the dismissals of eight former U.S. attorneys should signify to American voters the depth, breadth, and permeation of corruption in the Bush administration.

When a U.S. senator (to wit, Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican) feels free to call a prosecutor at home and hang up on him for resisting political pressure in the course of executing his prosecutorial duties, the line between politics and law enforcement has been so thoroughly violated that it no longer exists.

As was revealed in Tuesday’s congressional hearings on the scandal, David Iglesias described the phone call from Domenici as follows:

“He wanted to know if the [indictments] would be filed before November. … I gave an answer to the effect of I didn’t think so. … He said, “I’m very sorry to hear that,” and the line went dead, the telephone line went dead. I thought to myself, did he just hang up on me? … He didn’t call back; I didn’t call back. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that something bad had happened, and within six weeks I got a call from [senior Justice Department official] Mike Battle saying that it was time for me to move on.”

Domenici would not have made that call had either a Democrat or a law-abiding Republican been in the White House. He would not have had the temerity to throw his weight around to such an outrageous extent.

What’s going on in Washington is not sufficiently removed from the routine doings of a tawdry Third World dictatorship to give any American comfort.

Every word of that is accurate, of course, and exactly as nasty as the language Barone uses when he’s criticizing Democrats. But it seemed almost too good to be true that something as relatively minor as massive obstruction of justice might have finally driven Barone over the edge into reality.

Scratch “almost.” It was altogether too good to be true. Barone tells Andrew Sullivan:

I’m pretty sure I haven’t commented on the firing of the U.S. attorneys. I really haven’t looked into it enough to be able to comment knowledgeably.

Now there’s the true Barone. “I really haven’t looked into it enough to be able to comment knowledgeably” is Winglish for “I’m pretty sure that if I looked at this too closely I’d find facts inconsistent with my prejudices, and with my financial interest in continuing to draw wingnut welfare rather than having to make a living as a journalist. So I plan not to look into it.”

It’s just like the response the non-sadistic minority of Bush supporters offers when asked about waterboarding:

“Gee, is that really torture? I heard it wasn’t. I guess it’s really too complicated to figure out. I’m still against torture, you understand, I just don’t have time to figure out whether the guy who gave me the tax cuts I wanted and the war I wanted is committing war crimes in our name. And those lefty bloggers and Democrats are sooooooo shrill! So you can put me down as anti-torture but pro-Bush (or at least anti-anti-Bush).”

All of the people in Blue Blogistan who linked to the piece that was hacked onto Barone’s site owe him an apology for imagining, even for a moment, that he might act like a journalist and the citizen of a republic rather than as a partisan hack.

Of course, Barone isn’t alone: despite all the fuss Josh Marshall has raised, despite all the lies that have been revealed, despite two days of Congressional hearings in which Republican Presidential appointees testified that the testimony of other Republican Presidential appointees was false, despite the fact that a senior Republican Senator has now hired a top-gun criminal defense lawyer (last seen working out a plea bargain for “Duke” Cunningham) to defend him against an ethics hearing into his attempt to use political muscle to force a prosecution that would have helped Republicans win an election, the story has still not even been mentioned on either ABC or NBC.

Update Turns out that it wasn’t a hacker after all. As Josh Marshall pointed out, the joke had a rather more subtle flavor than a hacker would have been expected to enjoy. Apparently U.S. News just put Barone’s by-line on an essay by his colleague Bonnie Erbe.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com