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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Beldar on Berger: If he comes back, blame politicians, not the prosecutors

When I read of Sandy Berger's plea bargain, I wasn't immediately offended.

I started with my usual presumption that our federal prosecutors who negotiated and approved the deal knew well the legal thresholds that they would have had to meet to obtain a conviction for a more severe crime or a higher sentence. I presumed as well that they were intimately familiar — far more than I or the general public could be — with the specific facts disclosed through their investigation. In every criminal prosecution that pleads out (and for that matter, in every civil lawsuit that settles), the advocates are required to make very subjective predictions and judgment calls on the basis of factors largely hidden from public view — how will this witness and that witness hold up on cross? what emotional hooks in my case and my opponent's are likely to grab with the jury?

At the press conference announcing the deal, no one's throwing bricks back and forth, and therefore the prosecution's case as there described usually sounds a lot cleaner and more persuasive than what would actually have emerged from the messy smoke, heat, and occasional light of a trial. But I recognized — as I'm sure the prosecutors did — that Berger would have been certain to have had essentially unlimited resources and legal talent available for his defense, plus a sympathetic MSM and an artful PR campaign waged by (unfortunately) well-practiced spinners and sycophants.

I also was inclined to defer to the prosecutors' judgment about striking an appropriate balance between zeal to enforce our national security laws and realpolitik concerns: On the one hand, Berger was a career public servant of at least some merit, and we're not talking about selling nuclear secrets to Iran. On the other, Berger only had access to the documents that he stole and destroyed because he'd undertaken a public trust; and even if the only consequences of his betrayal were political ones, such betrayals (perhaps especially such betrayals for such venial purposes) ought to be conspicuously punished.

It's a conviction, I thought to myself — albeit only for a misdemeanor, without jail time, and with (in context) a trivial fine — but a final, definitive judgment of conviction that isn't subject to years of appeals. Berger is now an admitted criminal. There's been a symbolic stripping of his security clearance, which heaps justifiable shame on the man. His place in history will ultimately be as a joke punchline, I thought. Onward and upward, I thought, and attaboy to the prosecutors for wrapping this up.  And when I read the first reaction of my blogospheric friend and fellow lawyer John H. Hinderaker (a/k/a Hindrocket) over at Power Line, I thought he was being reflexively overcritical in writing that Berger had "got[ten] away with a criminal cover-up" through the plea.

But today I read the WaPo article on the plea bargain. And then I read Hindrocket's expanded analysis in which he persuasively explains why "[c]asual readers of the news will have no idea what to make of Sandy Berger's guilty plea," and why their impressions are likely to be badly at odds with the actual facts. My blood ran cold when I read these two sentences:

One aspect of Berger's sentence that seems almost humorous is the fact that his security clearance is suspended for three years. He wasn't going to need it during President Bush's second term, in any event, and he'll have it back in time for the new Democratic administration that, he hopes, will begin in 2009.

It's not a felony conviction. The buffoonish schtick — "he stuffed the documents into his pants and his socks, fer pete's sake, har har har!" — is what will stick in the public memory, not the federal criminal conviction for a confessed and indisputable breach of a public trust. And the groundwork has been laid for what suddenly seems to me to be a very likely PR campaign by the once-and-would-be-future Clintonista spinmeisters:

"That crazy Sandy, what a wonk! Yeah, he had that slap on the hand, but hey, he took his medicine like a mensch, Senators — and look at his career in context! Can you let this silly misstep from years ago, during the crazy post-9/11 hysteria, disqualify him from distinguished service in the Hillary Administration? Will you deny the public the benefit of his expertise and his insights for such a trivial matter? Why, that would be crass partisanship, Senators. The President and the public have forgiven him; indeed, the President pardoned him on her first day in office. Onward and upward, Senators!"

I'm still not willing to second-guess the prosecutors for approving the plea bargain. Their concerns ought not to have been, and presumably weren't, absolutely ensuring Berger's everlasting political destruction. And my objection to the result of the plea bargain is chiefly that it may fail to accomplish that destruction. As the WaPo story reports, the prosecutors did their job in requiring that Berger admit on the record to his intent, and in establishing that what Berger destroyed were non-identical copies that might have contained unique "marginalia" embarrassing to the Clinton Administration:

The terms of Berger's agreement required him to acknowledge to the Justice Department the circumstances of the episode. Rather than misplacing or unintentionally throwing away three of the five copies he took from the archives, as the former national security adviser earlier maintained, he shredded them with a pair of scissors late one evening at the downtown offices of his international consulting business.

The document, written by former National Security Council terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke, was an "after-action review" prepared in early 2000 detailing the administration's actions to thwart terrorist attacks during the millennium celebration. It contained considerable discussion about the administration's awareness of the rising threat of attacks on U.S. soil.

Archives officials have said previously that Berger had copies only, and that no original documents were lost. It remains unclear whether Berger knew that, or why he destroyed three versions of a document but left two other versions intact. Officials have said the five versions were largely similar, but contained slight variations as the after-action report moved around different agencies of the executive branch.

So if Sandy Berger indeed still has a future as a political appointee, that will be the fault of the politicians, not the prosecutors. I therefore can't quite join in Hindrocket's conclusion that the plea bargain itself is "a disgrace": Maybe it's light, but maybe it reflects prosecutorial judgments based on facts and subjective evaluations that neither Hindrocket or I have available to us — and it beats the hell out of an acquittal in any event!

But for what it's worth, if my nightmare scenario comes to pass — if the Senate is ever again asked to confirm Sandy Berger for any public post — I believe it would be wrong for the opposition to filibuster his nomination. Oh, no — he'll deserve an up-or-down vote on the merits, with every senator going on record! But as a matter of principle, that vote ought to be, must be, against confirmation. The Constitution requires the Senate either to consent, or to withhold consent. But with respect to Sandy Berger, that future political judgment on the Senate floor ought to be — may not turn out to be, but ought to be, if principle can indeed prevail over spin — preordained by this week's legal judgment in a court of law: GUILTY.

He is guilty. Forever, undeniably — guilty. Pardoned or not, rehabilitated or not, penitent or not, buffoonish or not — self-admittedly guilty of deliberately, intentionally, cynically, cravenly betraying the public trust and the national interest of this country. And then he lied about it to the public, before finally confessing as part of his guilty plea.

Bookmark this post for 2009 — just in case. You might want to email a link to it to your senators then.


UPDATE (Sat Apr 2 @ 8:45pm): Two more news stories leave me a bit confused. Per the NYT:

Some Republican leaders have speculated that he took the documents because he was trying to conceal material that could be damaging to the Clinton administration. But Noel L. Hillman, who leads the Justice Department's public integrity section, said after the hearing on Friday that the department's investigation had found no evidence that Mr. Berger had intended to hide anything from the Sept. 11 commission. Indeed, the commission had access to all the original reports on the 2000 threat assessment, Mr. Hillman pointed out.

And per a new WaPo article:

The Justice Department said yesterday there was no evidence that former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger was trying to conceal information when he illegally took copies of classified terrorism documents out of the National Archives in 2003....

Noel L. Hillman, chief of the Justice Department's public integrity section, said Berger "did not have an intent to hide any of the content of the documents" or conceal facts from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks....

This leaves me wondering whether Mr. Hillman's comments may have been literally true but misleadingly spun. If, as the previous WaPo story indicates, what Berger took and destroyed were non-identical copies — themselves photocopies of a memorandum whose pristine version appears several times in the archives, but bearing, on those unique and irreplaceable versions, handwritten comments ("marginalia") that comprised various individuals' comments on and reactions to the text of the original memorandum — then there may literally have been "no evidence" left in existence to prove precisely what Berger destroyed. There would therefore be no "direct evidence" to directly prove what has been lost, shredded by Sandy Scissorshand. And his defense team would be able to argue that the prosecution was simply speculating when arguing that anything significant was on the non-identical copies. And that may have been what Mr. Hillman meant, in context, when he used the words "no evidence." I'd very much like to see his full statement, if anyone can find it online; it's not yet on the DoJ website's press release section.

However, if, as I suspect was true, the Archive's standing policy was to preserve (and to number and log) precisely one version of each "non-identical copy," then there might indeed be a compelling circumstantial inference that there was at least some marginalia on the documents that Berger destroyed. But whether trivial (like a doodle) or significant (like "Holy cow, President Clinton is letting Osama get away!") would still be a matter of speculation without direct evidence (that is, without the destroyed documents themselves).

But not all evidence is direct evidence, and circumstantial evidence can sometimes be incredibly probative. If there were no marginalia at all on what Berger destroyed, or if it was only trivial marginalia, then why did he destroy some but not all of the documents he'd stolen? Berger may be a geek, but he's also a deliberate thief and admitted spoliator of evidence, and whatever he did was not random. It was purposeful. Combine that with the subjective motive that can also be reasonably inferred to be possessed by someone in Sandy Berger's position, and a jury might, repeat might, have drawn an inference that he destroyed what he destroyed precisely because it was damaging (even if we'll never know how precisely how damaging).

I'm still not persuaded that the prosecutors screwed up. The distinctions I'm drawing in this post about non-identical copies, spoliation, direct versus circumstantial evidence, etc., are familiar to good trial lawyers. I have no reason to doubt that the prosecutors grasped those distinctions, and factored them into their judgment call on whether to go to trial or offer the plea bargain. I do wonder, however, whether this "no evidence" bit is being spun — hard and misleadingly — by a sympathetic MSM to make Berger look significantly better than he deserves.


UPDATE (Mon Apr 4 @ 6:05pm): The official DoJ press release doesn't clear up my confusion. Key paragraphs:

According to the facts admitted during his guilty plea, Berger was reviewing classified documents at the National Archives in July, September and October of 2003 in connection with requests for documents made by the National Commission Investigating Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9-11 Commission). On September 2, 2003, and again on October 2nd, Berger concealed and removed a total of five copies of classified documents from the Archives. The documents were different versions of a single document. Berger, who possessed a United States government security clearance and was aware of the laws and rules regarding classified documents, knew he was not authorized to remove the classified documents from the Archives.

Berger took the documents to his office in the District of Columbia, where he destroyed three of the copies. Soon after the October visit, the Archives discovered that documents were missing and, two days later, contacted Berger. Initially, Berger did not tell the Archives staff that he had taken the documents but later that night told Archives staff that he had “accidentally misfiled” two of them. The next day, he returned to Archives staff the two remaining copies of the five documents he had taken during the September and October visits. Each of the five copies of the document was produced to the 9-11 Commission in due course.

The only way I can make sense of the last sentence is to presume that the Archives — contrary to Berger's hope and expectation when he destroyed the three nonidentical copies — actually did have additional photocopies of those same versions with the same marginalia. If so, that would undercut my speculation that DoJ's Mr. Hillman was taken out of context on his "no evidence" statements. Perhaps Berger was stupid enough to think that destroying the three nonidentical copies would hide the facts of his crime, if not the details of the marginalia on those specific pages. But if so, then why didn't he destroy all five? Why return two?

My friends from both sides of the criminal defense bar tell me that it's a mistake to presume rational behavior from criminals. And I suppose it's possible that the confusion left about what Berger actually destroyed, and why, is a product of national security concerns; there may have been some deliberate ambiguity on the part of the prosecutors in describing the facts. In any event, the facts that have been described — and conceded by Berger as part of the plea bargain — ought to disqualify him from further public service, as a matter of political good sense if not as a solid and legally enforceable penalty.

Posted by Beldar at 12:02 PM in Global War on Terror, Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Beldar on Berger: If he comes back, blame politicians, not the prosecutors and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Beldar on Berger from Media Lies

Tracked on Apr 4, 2005 9:48:50 PM

» Berger was going to need his clearance from ThoughtsOnline

Tracked on May 23, 2005 7:22:26 PM


(1) Cloud Master made the following comment | Apr 2, 2005 12:34:33 PM | Permalink

Security clearence back just in time for Hillary to appoint this trustworthy guy to a cabinet post?

(2) Al made the following comment | Apr 2, 2005 10:37:00 PM | Permalink

Is there a way to get the plea bargain itself? FOIA?

Because I'd like to know if a line similar to "The government agrees not to prosecute a charge of treason based on this evidence" is in there.

'Yes it does' and 'No it does not' are both entertaining.

(3) sammy small made the following comment | Apr 2, 2005 11:12:01 PM | Permalink

One of the basic questions I haven't seen addressed is why Berger would take five copies of the same document, unless he knew that each was uniquely significant in its own characteristics.

There is a pattern to this mess that smells to high heaven. Five unique copies reviewed and illegally spirited away, three cut up, and the other two returned only after a federal investigation.

Had he discovered the documents were classified by chance, an innocent yet forgetful person would have been wise to have returned them, not cut up three and retain two.

I have little faith in the justice system in D.C.

And gig em!

(4) Rod Smith made the following comment | Apr 3, 2005 11:27:21 AM | Permalink

I am convinced we should have a "Public Hanging."

Whether or not Burger stole copies or originals is beside the point. Any copy assumes the classification of the original. Not only is this a security violation, but it is theft of government property. Then there is the destruction of government property on top of that.

Add to all this the fact that he did not properly protect this classified data -- kept it on his desktop I think -- and it becomes a major security violation. Makes you wonder if the cleaning lady dusted around it.

Lets see -- so far we have:

Theft of government property (multiple counts)
Violation of security regulations (multiple counts)
Destruction of government property (multiple counts)
Lying to Federal Officials (Let's see, didn't some celebrity go to jail for this recently?)

But we also need to consider that the workers at the National Archives should have carefully inventoried what the supplied to this man -- eer ah, thief -- and inventoried what was returned as well, regardless of the celebrity, status, or clearance of the "customer."

If this had been done, and the missing documents discovered stuffed in his clothing, I suspect he might have at least spent some time in a cell.

But it didn't happen. The only conclusion I can reach is that these "clerks" were incredibly inept, and thus unfit for the job, or that they aided or abetted Mr. Burger.

Either way, they should hang too.

Anyone for a double hanging?

(5) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Apr 3, 2005 12:49:13 PM | Permalink

"Oy. I yawn. Martha went to jail. So what?"

Kafka would have understood.

While Berger actually broke the law, he plea bargained away jail time.

Martha appears to have stood on principle, and refused to admit to something she hadn't done. She got prosecuted, and the prosecution got away with conflating Sam Waksal's insider trading with her perfectly legal sales of her own stock.

Though, I expect the appeals court will throw out her conviction.

(6) Steve H. made the following comment | Apr 3, 2005 1:00:23 PM | Permalink

Rod hits on one of my main areas of concern - the fact that Berger was able to do it at all is quite alarming.

I have worked in government positions before, and can't think of a single one where I could go back and say "Remember me? I used to work here. I'd just like to look through the files."

This seems like a major failure, and this may be the reason no one wants to come after Berger all that zealously; because we can't expose his crime without also exposing the ineptitude, collusion or whatever other flaws allowed this to happen. And THAT yoke would be hung right around this administration's neck. YIKES!!!

(7) Bill M made the following comment | Apr 3, 2005 3:34:34 PM | Permalink

Thank you Beldar for another direct analysis. I find I agree with you completely.

There is no doubt in my mind that the "marginalia" on the documents which were destroyed contained interesting comments and reactions from the people who made them. I wonder if the archives can determine whose copies were destroyed. Copies of documents are circulated for comment. If they were deemed important enough to retain in the archives as uinque documents (certainly due to the marginalia), then it seems likely that each copy was associated with a particular person's comments. I have never seen anything indicating which members of the Clinton Administration was associated with which document.

Is this important? I would think so. If the Third Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defenses' copy had notes and the Secretary of Defense's copy had notes, wouldn't it be significant as to which of those was destroyed and which was retained? In particular, was Sandy's copy retained or destroyed? Did Hillary get a copy? If so, was her's destroyed? (And yes, she could have gotten a copy. She was much more deeply involved in the administration than is commonly known, I betcha. That's speculation, it's true, but I'll bet it's accurate.)

(8) Elmer Lewis made the following comment | Apr 3, 2005 6:29:35 PM | Permalink

Was not Martha Stewart's crime lying to the FBI? Did Burger lie to the investigators? It would seem to me that the Justice Dept owes Martha Stewart an apology.

(9) Carol Johnson made the following comment | Apr 3, 2005 8:55:58 PM | Permalink

Do not forget that Mr. Berger testified (presumably under oath) to the 911 commission! What of his "testimony"? In my view this is immediately suspect. Does the commission have any legal recourse? Does anybody care?

He should NEVER be allowed to hold a government position again!!! Let alone be privy to Top Secret documents that relate to the National Security. This is WRONG!!

(10) Boger made the following comment | Apr 4, 2005 2:26:03 PM | Permalink

I appreciated Beldar's analysis. However, I can't see how Berger has any public service future, whether official or unofficial. It just seems like it would be political suicide to me.

But I do have a question on the legal side. I am aware that charges can be plea bargained. But not that sentences can be. How can the executive unilaterally remove sentencing options from the judiciary? As I understand it the misdemeanor statute that Berger is pleading guilty to allows for jail time (up to a year, I believe). But it has been reported that the Judge who hears this case will be unable to send Berger to jail for a single day.

Pleading there is no such thing as a dumb question, I would like to be enlightened. Thanks.

(11) Beldar made the following comment | Apr 4, 2005 5:50:13 PM | Permalink

Boger, I've got no expertise with the federal sentencing guidelines, but my understanding is that they circumscribe fairly tightly the range of sentences that a federal judge can impose. Notwithstanding the guidelines, the prosecutors and defense team can tailor the plea — number of counts pleaded to, and precisely what offenses — to narrow the possible outcomes, and of course the prosecutors' recommendation is quite properly a factor in most judges' rulings. The newer WaPo article I linked above in the update to my original post says:

Berger has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and accept a three-year suspension of his security clearance, a sentence prosecutors endorsed. The maximum potential sentence for this crime is one year in prison, but that is unlikely because of sentencing guidelines and because prosecutors do not recommend it. A judge will make the decision.

If I understand the system and this deal, then, there's not a guarantee that Berger won't do any time. But it looks very unlikely.

(12) The Drill SGT made the following comment | Apr 4, 2005 8:05:36 PM | Permalink


a few observations. As I understand it, these documents weren't just plain ol' secret stuff, but rather Top Secret (Special Compartmentalized Information (SCI)).My experience (TS documents custodian) is that this type material would be stored in safes with double locks(e.g. takes 2 people to get at it) Each time the material would come out of the safe (safe meaning either a small container or a large vault area)the document would be inventoried by 2 people and page counted. We aren't talking about a big file folder with uncounted odd pages. Each doument would be given a serial number and each copy would be counted and tracked. Berger would normally be under observation with those documents in his possession, and when returned, they would be page counted, returned to the safe, and logs annotated. Beyond Berger, the TS costodian an the National Archives should be in an unemployment line after having screwed up his duties as this guy appears to have done. Anybody else with experience want to comment?

(13) sammy small made the following comment | Apr 4, 2005 9:15:43 PM | Permalink

Drill Sgt.

I agree that TS would be likely, but SCI might not be appropriate for these kinds of top level plans and reports. Nevertheless, I can't understand how Berger could have walked out and thereafter cut up these documents without being confronted. With security like this, its no wonder that Washington can't keep a secret.

(14) Mescalero made the following comment | Apr 4, 2005 10:02:16 PM | Permalink

I'm having a hard time finding the relevance of Martha Stewart to Sandy Berger's trashing of classified information procedures. As a individual who has been briefed many times on the consequences of improper conduct in this area, by the way forgetfullness is not a allowable excuse here, Berger's light sentence is absolutely unacceptable! But then what could we expect of a president (Clinton) who just chuckles about this episode, a president who was a draft dodger and who didn't have a clue about national security issues and who handed off 9/11 to a Republican president for ultimate resolution?

My question, to the voters in the election of 2008 would you vote for a Democratic candidate who included Sandy Berger as a possible candidate for Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense? If such a idiot is elected, Canada here I come!

(15) Boger made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 3:01:14 AM | Permalink

Beldar, thanks. But still my mind is spinning with lack of understanding, and questions.

Assuming a plea bargain is finally reduced to a document: Is the plea a signed agreement between the defendant and the government (prosecution); or is it a signed agreement between the defendant and the court; or is the plea a signed agreement requiring 'signature' by all three parties? Does the plea agreement stipulate in exat detail the maximum sentence the judge can impose, ie that the defendant will accept. Is the government able to keep the document secret, ie protected from FOIA? Is Berger able to keep the document secret (ala, Kerry and his right of privacy over his military records)?

My main hang up is the idea that the defendant and prosecution can put a deal together, waltz into court and have it rubber-stamped by the court, even if the judge disagrees that the deal is a reasonable one or that the public's right to justice is satisfied. Anywho, I look forward to more details as the story unfolds.

(16) The Drill SGT made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 8:32:17 AM | Permalink


here is a link the the NRO Story that forms the basis for my assumption it was SCI:


"The documents Berger took — each copy of the millennium report is said to be in the range of 15 to 30 pages — were highly secret. They were classified at what is known as the "code word" level, which is the government's highest tier of secrecy. Any person who is authorized to remove such documents from a special secure room is required to do so in a locked case that is handcuffed to his or her wrist."

(17) Carol Johnson made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 12:24:20 PM | Permalink

Since these "code word" Secret documents have been out of the archives custody (and they were entrusted with the highest level of security we have), who knows how many times they've been copied, who had the "privilege" of seeing them, and all this time we are taking Sandy Berger's "word for it" that he destroyed three copies. Anybody wanna bet? He's already an admitted liar! Perjury doesn't mean anything these days I guess. Even IF he doesn't do any jail time, he should at the very LEAST lose the privilege of serving this country. For God sake...Nixon shredded documents to cover his crimes...and look what it cost him! You mean to tell me that there are simply NO meaningful consequences for this?? A $10,000 fine just doesn't cut it!! As far as a 3-year suspension of his security clearance...PLEASE!!!! Martha Stewart's mess had NOTHING to do with National Security...it's not even in the same league with this.

I just went out to vote in the local elections today (school boards, township president, and trustees, etc.) We simply MUST NOT give away accountability to politicians who think that we give our consent to things like this. As long as we continue to let the people who run for office think they are above the law, we are doomed to repeat over and over what we are seeing now. The last election was so close...like a bad dream you say? Well, hold on people, the next one will be a nightmare by comparison.

(18) ncoic6 made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 3:01:55 PM | Permalink


How would a prosecutor distinguish between a Martha Stewart lying to a investigators and a Sandy Berger lying to investigators?


(19) The Drill SGT made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 3:37:17 PM | Permalink

I'll take a shot at that one.

It all depends on whom the "who" is.

Martha lied in sworn statements to Federal investigators. The Feds, particularly the FBI don't like being lied to.

Sandy, as far as I have read, made false and misleading "public" statements (e.g. spin to the press). As we all know the press likes being lied to by democrats. If Sandy lied in sworn statements to Feds, I don't see that there would be a difference.

(20) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 4:26:23 PM | Permalink

"Martha lied in sworn statements to Federal investigators."

No, she didn't. She wasn't even charged with that.

(21) The Drill SGT made the following comment | Apr 5, 2005 5:20:28 PM | Permalink

Do you live in an alternate universe. What part of this isn't clear?


headline: NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A jury found Martha Stewart guilty Friday on all four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a well-timed stock sale, and the former stockbroker turned style-setter could face years in jail.

(22) ncoic6 made the following comment | Apr 6, 2005 7:03:54 AM | Permalink

Stewart wasn't under oath when she lied to the investigators, but it is a crime nonetheless for which she did the time.

This makes the Berger affair even more interesting. What standards do federal prosecutors use in deciding who gets nailed for lying to them during an investigation, and who gets off the hook, and why?

(23) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Apr 6, 2005 10:21:42 AM | Permalink

"Martha lied in sworn statements..."

In this universe, the above means under oath, and she wasn't. She also wasn't recorded. It's a matter of whose memory of what she said is to be believed, and what pronouns she used and to whom they referred.

Since at least one juror has been recorded saying he voted to convict because Martha cheated small investors--and she wasn't charged with anything like that--her conviction is going to be overturned by the appeals court.

(24) Carol Herman made the following comment | Apr 6, 2005 6:05:31 PM | Permalink

Nixon would have been a great president. But he was surrounded by people who HATED him. He also disliked CONGRESS. Both sides. House and Senate. And, both GROUPS: Dems and republicans.

He wanted to do something bold with the Executive Branch. He wanted to consolidate his cabinet down to four people, who would have super-cabinet positions. Pulling together a number of the buracracies.

At the time of his presidency there were all of 35 hostile republican senators in Congress.

And, yes, Nixon was more of a "dictator type," that a gent that got along with all sorts of people. No smaller talker, he.

How did he fall? The same way Julius Caesar did, long ago. Forgotten now. If not for Plutarch. And, Shakespeare.

But Nixon was a patriot. He wasn't pocketing the country; the way you're reading about Canada, now. And, the way Carter went about getting rich. Nor the way Clinton didn't care much about decency. (Just crowds. He loves being in Rome, now. And, he actually said Pope John Paul II always knew how to gather crowds.) Clinton's reference is how he's judged his own leadership qualities, by the way.

And, I still can't get excited about Richard Clarke's memos. (Nor would Condi.) However, Clarke, who at first tried to use his memos to indict Bush II. Perhaps even having him impeached (inside the democratic dream machine), for being "slow" and not saving the Twin Towers from destruction on 9/11; has really gotten a "pass" from the American people.

Sandy Berg(l)er? Yeah. He did some mischief. And, from what Clinton said about Sandy's notorious slovenliness, Clarke's memos weren't the first thing swallowed by his desk.

But the good thing is that people are talking. AND, THE REPUBLICANS AREN'T OVER-REACTING! They're just letting it sit out there. Does it matter that MacDougal, the husband, and Susan, and Webb Hubbell, all rolled over for Clinton and went to jail?

This makes you happier?

I could care less.

And, Martha's jury saw an out of control black woman judge who absolutely hated Martha on some gut level. I'm not impressed with the black female appointment. Affirmative action stinks.

That Martha sailed into jail? Wouldn't be the first time there was a miscarriage of justice. (And, Martha served, even though she could have waited out all this crap while her appeal wound its way around the court houses.) She's actually got better attorneys now. Ya know? In the legal world trial attorneys don't do appeals. For that, ya go to "specialists." And, I'm still not impressed.

I think Gerry Spence was right. Martha hired a country club member as her attorney. She didn't think she had to rub elbows with the general clientele that falls victim to trial lawyers.

Like Spence explains so eloquently; if you hire a country club attorney the chances are high he hasn't tried many cases in front of juries. And, juries, when they're foreigners to your mentality, aren't about to be swayed by your eloquence.

Also, Martha's main accuser worked for a stock broker, but wasn't one, himself. And, he was all of 23 years old. Just a young kid SQUEEZED by the prosecution. And, Martha's poor choice of an attorney went at this kid like a bear ripping apart a sleeping camper. It wasn't pretty.

Do lawyers know what they're doing?

Ever hire the wrong doctor? The guy wore nice suits. And, went to your church? Stuff like that? Ya can get killed in the wrong hands, ya know?

Geez. Every day that passes I just respect most lawyers less and less. But thanks to men like Gerry Spence, if you know what to look for, you can find the good ones.

Same way in a supermarket with vegetables. No reason to buy the rotting stuff, if you learn to cook well, that is. (But don't send kids to run errands. Laziness has a price.)

Country club lawyers? Save them to be your golf partners. The best lesson from all of this is to find TALENT when you're in trouble.

By the way, Sandy Berg(l)er did. Now he needs a stomach stapling and a good plastic surgeon. So that he can return looking like Linda Tripp. I job in a future democratic establishment, though? I doubt it.

(25) Carol Herman made the following comment | Apr 7, 2005 9:56:27 AM | Permalink

RED FLAG: There are lawyers, here, who think it's a shame that Sandy Berg(l)er actually bought great legal talent?

What are you selling? How many reefers do you need to smoke to lose the concept of decent representation? Oh. And, the 5th. Why, exactly, did Sandy have to incriminate himself?

Lawyers who hate their own system?

I'm not the only one, then, who hates what goes on. But oddly enough I respect the part where you can hire a good lawyer!

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