The Appearance of an Independent Judiciary Goes Up in Smoke

Things are looking grimmer and grimmer for U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales these days. The scandal involving the firing of 8 U.S. attorneys has led to accusations that Gonzales runs the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to suit the Bush Administration's right wing political ideology instead of to protect the interest of U.S. citizens. Now Sharon Eubanks, the lead attorney in DOJ's racketeering case against the major American tobacco companies, has emerged from her silence and confirmed suspicions of the extent to which politics is running DOJ instead of public interest. Eubanks told the [ Washington Post] that Bush administration political appointees within DOJ repeatedly ordered her to take steps to weaken the government's case against the industry. Eubanks says she was ordered to tell key witnesses change their testimony, was forced to ditch her own closing remarks and made to read closing arguments that her superiors had written for her, and that the DOJ team was told to greatly scale back its requests for remedies against the tobacco companies. Of course, high-ranking Justice Department officials claimed at the time that there was no political meddling in the case, but tobacco control people following the case knew differently. Now Ms. Eubanks has confirmed what we knew all along.

Political meddling in the case sadly isn't surprising. Bush's ties to Big Tobacco go back quite a ways. Karl Rove, Bush's chief political advisor, was a [[Philip Morris]] (PM) lobbyist and consultant for years in Texas before moving to D.C. An internal PM [ email] shows that after he failed to win re-election, PM feted Bush's father around the country in a corporate jet, arranged and paid for speaking events for him and delivered Molson Ice beer (a PM product) to his doorstep in Kennebunkport. In return, Poppy Bush publicly promoted PM's [[Accommodation Program]], which was designed to stave off legislated smoking restrictions.

Thanks to political meddling, DOJ's historic case against Big Tobacco ended with a whimper instead of a bang, and the government missed a tremendous opportunity to positively impact public health by changing the way tobacco companies do business. Eubank's boss, [[Robert Davis McCallum, Jr.]] (an old Yale classmate of Bush 43 and the political appointee most frequently credited with helping scuttle DOJ's case) got rewarded for his efforts by getting a plum appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Australia, a country he reportedly had never been to and knew nothing about prior to his appointment.

Is politics running DOJ instead of public interest? Is there any longer a doubt?

Heckuva job, Bushy!