A Scourge of Lawyers Post-Watergate

Forty years ago, in the wake of Watergate and at the urging of political novices like Hillary Rodham, Washington and its various tendrils adopted reforms intended to end forever the ability of a president and his supporters to abuse federal executive power the way that Richard Nixon and his helpers had done. 

In the Watergate scandals, lawyers were so ubiquitous that John Dean exclaimed, “How in God’s name could so many lawyers get involved in something like this?”  Lawyers famously whispered in the ears of their lawyer clients testifying before congressional committees the mantra “to the best of my knowledge at this point in time” in answering congressional committee questioners. 

Bar associations throughout the legal system adopted requirements that lawyers receive regular training in “legal ethics.”  Young leftist lawyers like Lois Lerner joined – indeed, Lerner was president of – the Council on Government Ethics Laws, founded in the middle of the Watergate scandal to insure that lawyers never again would feel that they could participate in such shenanigans. 

These reforms are a total failure.  The villains in all the dreadful deeds of Clinton and Obama presidencies are lawyers.  They use their skill to thwart honest answers (“it depends on what the definition of is is,” as Clinton put it), and even worse, these corrupt lawyers abuse the powers of their office to persecute political enemies (ask Ted Stevens, Scooter Libby, Rick Perry, or Bob Menendez) and exonerate political friends like Lois Lerner.

If the innocent are tormented by prosecutors for the sin of offending the president, then the culpable escape the criminal justice system through a politicized Justice Department that refuses to prosecute or even seriously investigate Executive Branch miscreants like Lois Lerner and Hillary Clinton, who by their own statements have violated myriad federal laws.  The Office of the Independent Prosecutor ended during Clinton’s last year as president, but there it is possible to appoint special prosecutors, if the Justice Department wishes to do so.  Instead, virtually every decision regarding the criminality of Obama appointees has been dismissed by other Obama appointees. 

Watergate reforms were intended to end the practice of Executive Branch agencies hiding information and using spurious claims of privileged communications.  New laws like the Presidential Records Act, the Ethics in Government Act, and the Sunshine Act were enacted, and the Freedom of Information Act was amended to close loopholes for rogue presidential administrations.  Never again, the left, the sponsor of these notional reforms, proclaimed, could an executive branch hide information, keep information on citizens and hide that fact from the citizens, or claim all sorts of “privilege” rights to keep information in the shadows.

The Obama administration hides everything that may hurt it politically or uncover its wrongdoings.  Every sort of spurious “privilege” is claimed, even to the point of the IRS refusing to give taxpayers information collected about the taxpayers themselves on the grounds that it would violate confidentiality rules.  The e-mails Hillary hides or destroys or blends with her personal e-mails, and so keeps from us, represent the nadir of failures of these Watergate reforms.  No bad politician before Watergate reforms was as bad as Hillary after them.

Judicial oversight of the Executive Branch was considered essential by the left during Watergate, but now the Obama administration defies and ignores federal judges with impunity and drags its feet in answering every judicial order.  The left has scrupulously filled the federal bench with ideologues whose loyalty is not to the law, but to partisan interests.  Consider Supreme Court Justice Kagan.  She refused to recuse herself from litigation regarding Obamacare though she worked in the Justice Department on that law.  Even more nauseating, Kagan admitted that when Reagan won the presidency, she got drunk, noting also that “a lot of people” got drunk, too.

As soon as Republicans win the White House, control the relevant Executive Branch offices, and have the power to grant immunity (and so compel the testimony of now Citizen Lerner and Citizen Clinton under oath and under penalty of perjury), they must have joint congressional hearings to expose all the sickening corruption of the Obama administration, and particularly its punishing political enemies and exempting criminal misconduct by its members. 

The goal of these hearings must not be to send Lerner or Hillary to prison, but to expose their corruption (which, as long as they do not lie under oath in these hearings, will go unpunished) and note that these lawyers fully endorsed the Watergate reforms, and utterly ignored those reforms as soon as they were in power.  Every nasty trick, every blatant lie, every toying with the system must be exposed, and the message presented to the American people must be this: every single one of the Watergate reforms failed utterly and contemptibly. 

The only reform that can work is to strip from the Executive Branch of government so much power that there will be very little power to abuse in the future.  Abolish the IRS, abolish much of the Justice Department (federal laws can be enforced perfectly well by state government), abolish most or maybe all of the “independent” federal regulatory agencies, strip the president and his cabinet officers of vast amounts of power currently delegated to them by Congress, and recognize that the only cure for political corruption is to take as much power away from Washington politicians and lawyers as possible.

Forty years ago, in the wake of Watergate and at the urging of political novices like Hillary Rodham, Washington and its various tendrils adopted reforms intended to end forever the ability of a president and his supporters to abuse federal executive power the way that Richard Nixon and his helpers had done. 

In the Watergate scandals, lawyers were so ubiquitous that John Dean exclaimed, “How in God’s name could so many lawyers get involved in something like this?”  Lawyers famously whispered in the ears of their lawyer clients testifying before congressional committees the mantra “to the best of my knowledge at this point in time” in answering congressional committee questioners. 

Bar associations throughout the legal system adopted requirements that lawyers receive regular training in “legal ethics.”  Young leftist lawyers like Lois Lerner joined – indeed, Lerner was president of – the Council on Government Ethics Laws, founded in the middle of the Watergate scandal to insure that lawyers never again would feel that they could participate in such shenanigans. 

These reforms are a total failure.  The villains in all the dreadful deeds of Clinton and Obama presidencies are lawyers.  They use their skill to thwart honest answers (“it depends on what the definition of is is,” as Clinton put it), and even worse, these corrupt lawyers abuse the powers of their office to persecute political enemies (ask Ted Stevens, Scooter Libby, Rick Perry, or Bob Menendez) and exonerate political friends like Lois Lerner.

If the innocent are tormented by prosecutors for the sin of offending the president, then the culpable escape the criminal justice system through a politicized Justice Department that refuses to prosecute or even seriously investigate Executive Branch miscreants like Lois Lerner and Hillary Clinton, who by their own statements have violated myriad federal laws.  The Office of the Independent Prosecutor ended during Clinton’s last year as president, but there it is possible to appoint special prosecutors, if the Justice Department wishes to do so.  Instead, virtually every decision regarding the criminality of Obama appointees has been dismissed by other Obama appointees. 

Watergate reforms were intended to end the practice of Executive Branch agencies hiding information and using spurious claims of privileged communications.  New laws like the Presidential Records Act, the Ethics in Government Act, and the Sunshine Act were enacted, and the Freedom of Information Act was amended to close loopholes for rogue presidential administrations.  Never again, the left, the sponsor of these notional reforms, proclaimed, could an executive branch hide information, keep information on citizens and hide that fact from the citizens, or claim all sorts of “privilege” rights to keep information in the shadows.

The Obama administration hides everything that may hurt it politically or uncover its wrongdoings.  Every sort of spurious “privilege” is claimed, even to the point of the IRS refusing to give taxpayers information collected about the taxpayers themselves on the grounds that it would violate confidentiality rules.  The e-mails Hillary hides or destroys or blends with her personal e-mails, and so keeps from us, represent the nadir of failures of these Watergate reforms.  No bad politician before Watergate reforms was as bad as Hillary after them.

Judicial oversight of the Executive Branch was considered essential by the left during Watergate, but now the Obama administration defies and ignores federal judges with impunity and drags its feet in answering every judicial order.  The left has scrupulously filled the federal bench with ideologues whose loyalty is not to the law, but to partisan interests.  Consider Supreme Court Justice Kagan.  She refused to recuse herself from litigation regarding Obamacare though she worked in the Justice Department on that law.  Even more nauseating, Kagan admitted that when Reagan won the presidency, she got drunk, noting also that “a lot of people” got drunk, too.

As soon as Republicans win the White House, control the relevant Executive Branch offices, and have the power to grant immunity (and so compel the testimony of now Citizen Lerner and Citizen Clinton under oath and under penalty of perjury), they must have joint congressional hearings to expose all the sickening corruption of the Obama administration, and particularly its punishing political enemies and exempting criminal misconduct by its members. 

The goal of these hearings must not be to send Lerner or Hillary to prison, but to expose their corruption (which, as long as they do not lie under oath in these hearings, will go unpunished) and note that these lawyers fully endorsed the Watergate reforms, and utterly ignored those reforms as soon as they were in power.  Every nasty trick, every blatant lie, every toying with the system must be exposed, and the message presented to the American people must be this: every single one of the Watergate reforms failed utterly and contemptibly. 

The only reform that can work is to strip from the Executive Branch of government so much power that there will be very little power to abuse in the future.  Abolish the IRS, abolish much of the Justice Department (federal laws can be enforced perfectly well by state government), abolish most or maybe all of the “independent” federal regulatory agencies, strip the president and his cabinet officers of vast amounts of power currently delegated to them by Congress, and recognize that the only cure for political corruption is to take as much power away from Washington politicians and lawyers as possible.