Viewpoint - November 12, 2008
Guest opinion: Advance notice of Barack Obama
by Henry Organ
Early in this decade, I attended a political function at the home of Rep. Anna Eshoo where the guest of honor was Sen. Barbara Boxer. Toward the end of the event, Sen. Boxer told the gathering that there was a young man on the horizon whose star would be rising. She spoke enthusiastically about him, and what she foresaw. She said he had an unusual name: Barack Obama.
At the time, her prophetic assessment did not register with me, but I am grateful that my senator had been astute enough to bring such promising public servants to the attention of this gathering. It is this element of his election that registers significantly with me.
The last eight years have demonstrated to me more acutely than ever the importance of public service, and the equal importance of electing to office those of competence, ethics, and an appreciation and respect for this "constitutional experiment." This appreciation and respect has been shamefully lacking in George W. Bush and Richard Cheney.
Yet, blame need not be placed on these individuals alone. One of the requirements of this kind of government is an informed and compassionate voting population. Often, this is not demonstrated at the ballot box. This election, in my opinion, was a referendum on whether the nation believed in meritocracy — as is often boasted — or mediocrity, tainted with a bit of racism. Apparently, meritocracy prevailed. (I am reserving my incremental celebration until after the president-elect is sworn into office.)
Finally, as an alumnus of the civil rights movement, I have always felt going to the voting booth (as opposed to mailing in a ballot) to be a spiritual pilgrimage. I was even more overwhelmed on this occasion. An added reward on Nov. 4 was the presence of several young people of diverse ethnicity working at the polls. But for Barack Obama, this would not have been the case.
These are the early dividends of the election of a new public servant who has prepared himself to serve the people, and restore integrity to the presidency and retrieve respect from around the world.
No more shock and awe.
Henry Organ lives on Euclid Avenue in Menlo Park and is an occasional contributor to this page.
Posted by Not my president,
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 18, 2008 at 8:04 pm
We didn't nominate Hillary for a reason. Who needed all the stink of the Clinton years scandals, Travelgate, Rental of the Lincoln Bedroom, Stealing furniture from the White House, Perjury, Impeachment.
Now it seems we elected Obama or Clinton-Lite. Who is up for Attorney General, none other than Eric Holder (who would have been Hillary's pick). The lawyer right in the middle of the corrupt Marc Rich amnesty case. Add him to Hillary as Sec State, Emmanuel and Podesta, and Jesus Christ! This qualifies as Clinton-redux, with all the sleeze and moral corruption that implies.
Eric Holder played a leading role in one of the most infamous events of a presidency filled with infamy: the pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Morris dubbed candidate Obama's decision to select Holder as one of three people charged with vice-presidential vetting his "first clear, serious mistake."
Rich, of course, was the commodities trader who fled the country in 1983 to escape prosecution for tax evasion, racketeering, and trading with the enemy. Rich's attorneys circumvented normal procedures, took the pardon to the White House attorneys, and gained pardon for their client, whose wife just happened to be a friend and major donor to the Clinton library, the Democratic Party, and Clinton's legal defense fund. A firestorm ensued as did congressional investigations in which Democrats as well as Republicans excoriated the Clintons' conduct.
Most see this as a source of bipartisan outrage. Republicans and Democrats alike were dumbstruck by the Rich pardon. The federal prosecutors who indicted Rich are especially livid, particularly because, by definition, Rich appears to be ineligible for a pardon: He never took responsibility for his actions or served any sentence. The congressional panels were called to investigate the path to Rich's pardon which, as various documents seem to indicate, did not follow usual channels. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. pardon attorney Roger Adams says when the White House sent over Rich's name for pardon consideration only a few hours before the president was due to leave office there was never any mention of Rich being a fugitive.
Rep. Henry Waxman declared that it was a "bad precedent, an end run around the judicial process, and appeared to set a double standard for the wealthy and powerful" and that had a Republican president "presided over a pardon process that resembled the chaotic mess that seemingly characterized the final days of the Clinton administration, I would be outraged and would criticize it."
In a Senate hearing Senator Herb Kohl asked Adams how he viewed the affair:
KOHL: And in this case, do you feel good about that pardon?
ADAMS: All I can tell you, Senator, is that this case was clearly not this was a very unusual situation. The Rich and [Rich partner Pincus] Green case were not handled anything approaching the normal way. I guess I have a parochial interest in seeing that they I would prefer that things be handled the normal way. But when a president, for whatever reason, decides not to handle things in an orderly in a way in conformity with the regulations, there's very little that I can do about it.
No less than Maureen Dowd remarked that on this one the Clintons
perverted the legal system and may have traded a constitutional power for personal benefit. … The Clintons ran a cash-and-carry White House. They were either hawking stuff or carting it off.
Holder's role is not in dispute. Without him this travesty would likely not have occurred, as described here:
Mr. Holder, the [Congressional] report says, played a major role, steering Mr. Rich's lawyers toward Jack Quinn, a former White House counsel. Mr. Rich hired Mr. Quinn, whose Washington contacts and ability to lobby the president made the difference, according to the report. It says that Mr. Holder's support for the pardon and his failure to alert prosecutors of a pending pardon were just as crucial. …
The panel criticized Mr. Holder's conduct as unconscionable and cited several problems. It cited his admission last year that he had hoped Mr. Quinn would support his becoming attorney general in a Gore administration.
So to be clear, Holder helped steer the attorney for Rich, a fugitive whose pardon request would likely have been rejected through normal channels due to his status as a fugitive, to the man Holder wanted assistance with in getting his next job. Now there's a man who knows something about conflicts of interest.