And Allen Weh, the chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, told McClatchy News that he twice sought Karl Rove’s help — the first time via a liaison, the second time in person — in getting David Iglesias, the state’s U.S. attorney, fired for failing to indict Democrats. “He’s gone,” he claims Mr. Rove said. ~Paul Krugman, The New York Times
I’m sorry, but it’s episodes like this that make me yawn when I hear about this scandal. Trust me, nothing would please me more than to see Alberto Gonzales go down in flames from a fire that he started, and any self-inflicted scandal that could batter and humiliate this administration even more would be a great thing, but if New Mexico Republicans are complaining about a U.S. Attorney’s failure to indict New Mexico Democrats the complaints are almost certainly valid. There almost certainly was election tampering in 2000 and 2004. In some counties, the dead are regularly among the most reliable voters.
While it is supremely rich that Republican partisans now complain about the “politicisation of justice” when Libby is convicted for breaking the law, after the administration had just engaged in what an outside observer would probably regard as a much greater politicisation of justice, I have a hard time getting worked up over the fate of someone, such as Iglesias, who might very well have been overlooking the corruption of the Democratic machine in New Mexico if he wanted to have a future in state politics. Going after Vigil is one thing, since his corruption was too egregious even for the Democrats in the state to ignore. But if he went after the entire apparatus, he could forget about running for statewide office again.
Maybe that’s not the case. Maybe Iglesias really is the principled, decent public servant that his friends say that he is. Maybe Iglesias was pushed out because he refused to become a party tool and refused to engage in political witch-hunts. In New Mexico, it is always safer to assume that there are a lot of corrupt pols who are getting off scot-free with a wink and a nod from the attorneys with local connections. That is how New Mexican politics has worked for years, and I wouldn’t assume that anything has changed.
New Mexico has a culture of political corruption, and the Democratic Party has been the party in power for seven decades, which can only reinforce this culture. It would not surprise me that there were many Democratic officials in New Mexico who deserved to be investigated and indicted for corruption, vote-rigging or other crimes. We are coming off of one of the bigger bribery scandals in recent state history (a case, it is true, that Iglesias did bring to trial). Attorney General Patricia Madrid was probably complicit in or indifferent to the abuses going on under her nose, and she actively meddled in the federal investigation by indicting federally immunised witnesses. So far as I know, despite evidence that she was possibly personally implicated in aspects of the corruption cases under investigation, Iglesias never seriously looked into her involvement. News reports to this effect probably hurt her politically and may have been the reason why she lost the race for Wilson’s House seat, but there were no real legal consequences for her because of these reports. While her official intervention in the case might very well have been proof of Ms. Madrid’s now-legendary stupidity (she was famously flummoxed for about twenty seconds by the question of whether she supported raising taxes) rather than of her malicious intent to derail corruption prosecutions, it is representative of what passes for New Mexican government.
Since there were several other U.S. Attorneys removed at the same time, and probably for much the same reason, a pattern of improper politicisation does seem to emerge. However, using examples from New Mexico is probably not the wisest thing for Democrats who want to portray this purely as an issue of Republican corruption. Democrats in New Mexico do not want the national media crawling all over the state looking into the question of corruption. Referring to New Mexico examples in this scandal only weakens and undermines the general case against Gonzales and the administration.