Originally posted by Jeffrey Lord at Conservative Review
Will Republican senators play hardball – as a legendary Democratic attorney general once phrased it – with the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the chief law enforcement official in the land? Will they stand up for the Constitution?
Will they focus on corruption at the Justice Department? The blatant misuse of raw governmental power for political purposes?
If there were any issues central to President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as the Attorney General of the United States, these three issues – and the Constitution, corruption at the Justice Department and abuse of governmental power for political purposes are actually one and the same issue – would be it. Will Republican senators have the guts to stand up on the Lynch nomination and illustrate just why she should not be confirmed?
The issues pertaining to the Lynch nomination are not new ones. Here’s some history.
The Attorney General of the United States was furious.
And so he convened a grand jury. His target? A business, and not just any business but a major American corporation. Why? The business, a publicly traded corporation, had displeased the president of the United States by raising its prices. No laws were broken, the company’s board of directors had approved the increase for the perfectly legitimate free-market reason of competitiveness. And so the order from the Attorney General had gone forth. He was going to play, in his words, “hardball.” The Department of Justice would be used for raw political purposes – to deliberately intimidate the leaders of the corporation. In the words of the attorney general himself, he would go after them “as individuals…We were going to go for broke – their expense accounts and where they’d been and what they were doing. I picked up all their records…I told the FBI to interview them all – march into their offices the next day….We weren’t going to go slowly…So all of them were hit with meetings the next morning by agents. All of them were subpoenaed for their personal records and…their company records.”
As if this weren’t enough, when a newspaper ran a story related to the price rise, citing information from another company, the Justice Department wanted to know the paper’s sources. So the FBI swooped down on the reporters – at their homes. Before dawn. Pounding on their doors and rousting them out of bed to question them about what they knew and how they knew it.
It was indeed hardball. But one would never know it today. The Attorney General – Robert F. Kennedy – wound up with a political black eye at the time, as did the president he served. That would be his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Cries of the Justice Department as the “Gestapo” filled the air. The company in question – United States Steel – had raised the price of steel by six dollars a ton, upsetting JFK’s political plans to fight inflation. In the heat of the moment the President had snapped: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches,” and that attitude had been directly transmitted to his brother, the attorney general. Bludgeoned politically and intimidated legally, US Steel would roll back their increase – seemingly giving JFK a victory. But it was a pyrrhic victory. Eventually the company – as was its right – raised its prices piecemeal, finally getting the desired increase it sought in order to remain competitive.
Today the building that houses the Department of Justice on Pennsylvania Avenue is named after Robert F. Kennedy, a tribute made in the presidency of George W. Bush. RFK is recalled today as a martyr, his tenure as attorney general most often associated with the fight for civil rights. A perhaps understandable and decidedly sentimental reaction to his assassination six years after the episode with US Steel when by-then Senator Kennedy was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Yet the conduct of the Justice Department in 1962 – a flagrant abuse of raw power to achieve a flagrantly political goal – Is a reminder (if one is needed in the Eric Holder era) not just of the power that rests with the office of the attorney general but the ease with which even one of its most revered occupants could abuse the public trust in the interest of raw politics.
Read Jeffrey’s entire commentary here.
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