William Kristol blows hard with a poorly constructed meme: criminalizing conservatives.
THE MOST EFFECTIVE CONSERVATIVE LEGISLATOR of–oh–the last century or so, Congressman Tom DeLay, was indicted last month for allegedly violating Texas campaign finance laws, and has vacated his position as House majority leader. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for his sale of stock in the medical company his family started.
White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby have been under investigation by a special federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, for more than two years. When appointed in 2003 by the Bush Justice Department, Fitzgerald’s mandate was to find out if the leaking to reporters of the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was a violation of a 1982 statute known as the Philip Agee law, and if so, who violated it. It now seems clear that Rove and Libby are the main targets of the prosecutor, and that both are in imminent danger of indictment.
What do these four men have in common, other than their status as prosecutorial targets? Since 2001, they have been among the most prominent promoters of the conservative agenda of the Bush administration. For over four years, they have helped two strong conservatives, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, successfully advance an agenda for change in America. To the extent these four are sidelined, there is a real chance that the Bush-Cheney administration will become less successful.
And so, even though all of these men may have done something wrong, question their prosecutions simply because they are fellow conservatives.
Check out this little bit of “conicidence” Kristol points out.
Bill Frist suddenly and unexpectedly became Senate Majority Leader in December 2002. In the 2004 campaign, Frist broke Senate precedent and visited the state of his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, to campaign for Daschle’s Republican opponent.
Then, in 2005, Frist launched a campaign against Democratic judicial filibusters. Though he did not succeed in his goal of a Senate rules change, his efforts are widely believed to have greatly reduced the possibility that Democrats could successfully filibuster a Bush Supreme Court nominee. Having emerged in the last year as a conservative leader, Frist now finds himself under investigation. Just another coincidence?
No, probably not a coincidence. What’s most likely is that what Frist did was questionable:
Aides to Frist, the Senate majority leader, acknowledged yesterday that the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York have requested information from him about the June sale from his blind trust of all his stock in HCA Inc., the health-care giant his family founded.
Frist requested that his shares be sold June 13, a month before the price dropped nearly 9% in one day on a weaker-than-expected earnings report. The sale came amid a wider sell-off of HCA shares by insiders.
And maybe it might also have to do with the fact that he said he had no knowledge of these transactions, but the record shows that he certainly should have had some knowledge.
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was updated several times about his investments in blind trusts during 2002, the last time two weeks before he publicly denied any knowledge of what was in the accounts, documents show.
Documents filed with the Senate showed that just two weeks before those comments, the trustee of the senator’s trust, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., wrote to Frist that HCA stock was contributed to the trust. It was valued at $15,000 and $50,000.
On Nov. 20, 2002, Scobey wrote Frist that 14,781 shares of HCA were sold, along with three other investments. The same day, Scobey wrote that four other investments were sold, none of them HCA stock.
On May 16, 2002, Scobey advised Frist that four investments were contributed to a Frist blind trust, including HCA stock valued at $500,000 to $1 million. A second letter the same day mentions the same four investments going into a different trust, but with different valuations, including HCA stock valued at $250,000 to $500,000.
On Jan. 14, 2002, a trustee for Frist’s children notified the secretary of the Senate that two investments were added to the blind trusts of Frist’s sons Jonathan and Bryan including HCA stock valued at $5,000 to $10,000. It was not clear whether Frist received a copy of the letter.
Frist didn’t know about stock valued somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million? Forgive me William, but I’m not buying it. First isn’t SO rich that he wouldn’t notice a transaction that big.
And of course, Kristol’s piece ends with the expected clarion call.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers, or a solid answer even to one of these questions. But it’s a reasonable bet that the fall of 2005 will be remembered as a time when it became clear that a comprehensive strategy of criminalization had been implemented to inflict defeat on conservatives who seek to govern as conservatives. And it is clear that thinking through a response to this challenge is a task conservatives can no longer postpone.
Yes, don’t postpone it any longer. Dig in. Find out the truth. And report back to me when you do.
But caution Mr. Kristol, you may not like what you find.