Sunday, March 18, 2007

New Mexico on the National Scene

Mikaela has already commented on the role New Mexico is playing in the current U.S. attorney firing scandal. The firing of David Iglesias of New Mexico is probably the most troublesome of all the firings, and the most damning towards the Attorney General's office and the White House. You can get a general sense of the problems behind Iglesias's firing here, but in the article, there is a quotation worth parsing.

“If you watched felony events take place and you reported it to police, would you be happy if they didn’t do anything?” asked Allen Weh, the state Republican Party chairman, who said he complained to an aide to Karl Rove, the White House political adviser. “That is the kind of stuff that makes the average person’s blood boil.”

At hand for Republicans, including senator Pete Domenici and representative Heather Wilson of Albuquerque, was the fact that there were cases of voter fraud, and no subsequent indictments. As an attorney for the government, working within a system in which evidence is necessary to make possible indictments, Iglesias simply didn't have enough evidence that fraud was being committed with the intent to influence elections. And so Republicans get angry, and suddenly a guy who was a "top performer" in the government's own evaluation system in 2005 loses his job in 2006.

What is problematic about Weh's quotation is the poor analogy. What Weh seems to want to say is that, "well, we Republicans saw some sketchy stuff happening for the Democratic party, and asked Iglesias to take care of it, and he didn't do anything." The details of the case seem to indicate otherwise, however. It's not that Iglesias did nothing - it's that he didn't find exactly what the Republicans wanted. He performed his job as any lawyer trying to remain within the ethics of their profession did - he looked at the evidence, carried out interviews, and while he clearly found some troubling practices (registering 13 year olds to vote), he just didn't find enough evidence to indict. And for this, he lost his job, facing pressure from Republicans. This reveals the dangerous practice here, because, as Weh's quote and subsequent details reveal, the Republicans didn't actually want him to do his job correctly - they wanted him to do it so it could benefit them and damage their opponents.

That's what's so troubling about this case - it's becoming patently clear, in the case of Iglesias (and maybe others), that when representatives, politicians, and advisors tied to the White House say they want the system to work like it's supposed to, they define "supposed to" as "having the system nail my opponents when I want it to".

Allegations of voter fraud in any precinct, for any party, at any time, should absolutely be investigated, and the 13 year old receiving a voter registration card is troubling and needed to be and was investigated. However, when a high-up attorney, appointed by Republicans, for the Republican government, says there wasn't enough evidence to indict anybody, well, I imagine he's experienced enough as a "top performer" to understand when one can and cannot prosecute. The problem is, apparently other politicians in the executive and legislative branches do not understand the difference, and instead, we are stuck in this current crisis (and it is no less than that).