Eugene Robinson, hands down the worst Washington Post columnist, devotes today’s offering to what he asserts is a lack of credibility on the part of several figures associated with the Bush administration. One of Robinson’s targets is Paul Wolfowitz. He accuses the World Bank head of corruption in connection with dictating the terms of an agreement under which his girlfriend was detailed to the State Department with a generous pay raise. Robinson states that “Wolfowitz first gave the impression that he recused himself from involvement in the deal when, in fact, he was right in the middle of it.”
But according this account in the Wall Street Journal, which is based of a review 109 pages of relevant documents, Wolfowitz did recuse himself from all personnel matters involving his girlfriend at the World Bank. However, “ethics” officials at the Bank decided that the woman, Shaha Riza, would have to leave her job there due to her relationship with Wolfowitz. The same officials instructed Wolfowitz to provide Riza, who was slated for a promotion at the World Bank, with a pay raise that would offset the damage to her career caused by her ouster. Wolfowitz complied. The Bank’s ethics czar subsequently told Wolfowitz that his resolution of the matter was satisfactory.
Robinson omits all of these facts. It is therefore Robinson who lacks credibility.
Robinson also goes after Alberto Gonzales. In an op-ed piece on Sunday, Gonzales wrote, “To my knowledge, I did not make decisions about who should or should not be asked to resign.” Robinson asks, “Is Gonzales in the habit of making decisions without his own knowledge? Does he have multiple-personality issues?” (the emphasis is Robinson’s).
I hesitate to put words in Gonzales’ mouth (though someone probably should), but it seems clear enough that Gonzales meant that, to the best of his recollection, he didn’t make any decisions about which prosecutors to terminate or retain. One’s present knowledge can only extend as far as one’s present memory, so Gonzales’s statment, though characteristically inarticulate, is not incoherent. But Robinson cannot resist the cheap shot.
Richard Cohen, a credible candidate for worst Post columnist until Robinson got his sinecure, also attacks Gonzales by comparing him to Mike Nifong, the disgraced Duke prosecutor. Cohen’s argument is that both bowed to political pressure when it came to decisions about prosecutions.
The comparison is specious. Nifong ginned up a bogus prosecution, apparently to help his political career. Wrongful prosecution is a crime. Gonzales approved the removal of eight prosecutors, some of whom appear to have been recommended for removal because they weren’t serious enough about prosecuting certain crimes including (in one or two cases) voter fraud.
Cohen cites no evidence (and I’m aware of none) that anyone was fired for not conducting a prosecution that would have been wrongful. Instead Cohen simply asserts that “voter fraud is, like alligators in the New York sewers, an urban myth.” Thanks for clearing that up, Richard. Sorry for being naive enough to think that a political machine might try to steal an election.
Lacking evidence, Cohen resorts to sanctimony. He states, Gonzales’ “most solemn obligation was to the sanctity of the country’s criminal justice system, and to the belief (no matter how naive) that politics will not interfere.” But politics does not improperly interfere with the criminal justice system when an administration insists upon the enforcement of duly enacted laws such as those prohibiting voter fraud. To be sure, enforcement of such laws may aid candidates from the administration’s party. But if that were reason enough to eschew voter fraud prosecutions, voter fraud would often go unpunished.
But I forgot, voter fraud is an urban myth. Richard Cohen says so.
UPDATE: Eugene Robinson, by the way, is the guy who predicted that Duke University’s weasel of a president Richard Brodhead “may emerge. . .as a true hero” from the affair stemming from the rape allegations against members of the Duke lacrosse team. Robinson managed to find heroism in Brodhead’s premature claim that the case raised “concerns about the survival of the legacy of racism [and] about the deep structures of inequality in our society . . . and the attitudes of superiority those inequalities breed.”
As it turned out the case raised no such concerns, but did raise concerns about Brodhead’s unwillingness to support innocent members of the Duke community until far too late in the day.
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