Monday, March 26, 2007

Pleading the Fifth

Ok, so Monica Goodling, senior official at the Justice Department, will decline to testify before Congress, pleading her fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination. Now, doesn't this just leap out at you as a bad thing. I mean, senior official at the Justice Department can't talk about what she's doing because it might incriminate her. Um, shouldn't the folks at the Justice Department, that is the department in charge of identifying and prosecuting people engaged in criminal activity, have particularly little concern about incriminating themselves. Ok, I know that I'm one of Atrios' dirty fucking hippies, but isn't it kind of a big, I mean really big, problem if the folks in the Justice Department are generally engaged in criminal activity. I would describe this a surreal, except that implies too high a degree of normalcy.

On a related note, I wonder who now is our nations chief law enforcement officer. Why do I wonder that you say? Well it is kind of a semantic issue, but one which is illuminating nonetheless. For nearly all of my life, the phrase nations chief law enforcement officer has referred to the Attorney General. See for example here, here or here. This has been the meaning of the phrase, except during a brief period of the Clinton impeachment when the president became the nation's chief law enforcement officer. See, for example, the list of 81 impeachment questions. It made the whole thing seem more serious to have the nations chief law enforcement officer doing something illegal, so of course the phrase had to change meaning. So, I'm wondering, given Alberto Gonzales's recent divorce from honesty, will the problems for the Bush administration be worse having Alberto as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, and if so will the Republican approach be the same, change the meaning of the phrase.

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