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Sunday, August 10, 2003

Bloggers (except me) still demand Jamie Gorelick's resignation from the 9/11 Comm'n because Wilmer Cutler defends a Saudi prince

[Fri Aug 15 Update: Those coming here from InstaPundit's link may prefer to read this post last for continuity.  Oldest to newest, my three earlier substantive prior posts on this subject are as follows: first, second, and third.  Otherwise my references to "dog slobber" and "unicorns in Lafayette Park" may be a bit ... obscure.  Welcome to BeldarBlog. — The Proprietor]

Jamie GorelickDwight Meredith at P.L.A. has posted again about Ms. Gorelick and was kind enough to link and quote from my overlong first post on the subject.  He cites me as the contrarian example to the general proposition that "there is a consensus across the political spectrum that Ms. Gorelick should resign from the 9/11 commission," and indeed, so say the bloggers he's linked.

I persist in believing that "absolute purity" is an unrealistic and probably unattainable standard, but I guess it shouldn't surprise me that folks whose political starting point is on the left would be more idealistic about this than I am.  So here I stand — a voice in the wilderness, a lone conservative willing to defend a Clinton administration official from slings and arrows coming from both left and right, yet desperately trying not to channel the voice of Hillary.

Taking up my challenge to find some unicorns in Lafayette Park, Mr. Meredith nominates Gary Hart and Warren Rudman.  I'll agree that the latter is at least a hoss, and he might fit, if his law firm — Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP — doesn't represent any clients with vested interests in the Commission's potential findings.  But I'd frankly be fairly surprised if Paul Weiss doesn't have airlines and/or Middle Eastern governments somewhere on its client list too.

As for former Senator Hart, he's still listed as "of counsel" with Coudert Brothers — another big, international law firm, heavily into lobbying, which is likely to represent ... well, see the pattern developing here?  I know some have been heralding his political rehabilitation and return from exile, and his long suit as a Senator was indeed intelligence and foreign affairs.  But in contrast to either Ms. Gorelick or, say, Warren Rudman, if you ask ten people on the street whether they recognize the name "Gary Hart," I'll bet five or six of them would.  And what they remember about Hart was a lack of intelligence and a domestic affair, all embodied in that incredible photograph of him grinning for the reporters while sitting on the back of the good ship "Monkey Business" with Donna "Not-His-Wife" Rice on his lap.  I suppose the condition of his lap, occupied or otherwise, doesn't relate directly to the qualifications for this Commission that were specified in the enabling statute (which I linked to and quoted as part of the Correction at the end of my second post on Ms. Gorelick).  But like Dr. Kissinger — who, as I noted in my tedious third post on this subject, was Dubya's uninspired original choice to chair the Commission — Senator Hart still has "high negatives" in general, and he'd diminish, rather than add to, the Commission's credibility with a substantial segment of the public.

Mr. Meredith is right, however, to note that there's no reason whatsoever that any seat on the Commission, including the one presently occupied by Ms. Gorelick, must be occupied by a lawyer.  Hey, maybe that's how the Democratic pols in Congress could nip the Draft General Wesley Clark movement!

(PS: Sorry about not giving a permalink to Mr. Meredith's posts, but the archives for Blog*Spot seem to be busted.)


UPDATE (Tues Aug 12):

Odd what does and doesn't turn up in one Google search that turns up in another — especially when it's from the Associated Press, which you'd expect would be pretty widely reprinted — but in an article that I just found whose main focus was on potential conflicts of 9/11 Commission members whose law firms represent airlines, there's this fairly interesting stuff:

Some say the same factors that produce potential conflicts may make the commissioners especially qualified.

Commissioner Jamie Gorelick said she is prepared to recuse herself if the commission explores actions made by the Justice or Defense departments while she worked for them.

But she added, "As I've said to the families (of victims), I come with broad and deep experience in the areas of law enforcement, defense and our intelligence community, which I think will be helpful to the commission."

I agree with her, but I still seem to be the only person commenting on this in the blogosphere who's willing to call dogslobber.  The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has a new post up cleverly entitled, "Ms. Gorelick And The 9/11 Commission - It's Not As Bad As You Thought...It's Worse."  As always, I appreciate his cross-link (although I was merely reporting and commenting on Dwight Meredith's suggestion of Warren Rudman as a possible replacement, not suggesting him myself, since ... well, dogslobber).

Update (Fri Aug 15):  Professor Glenn Reynolds a/k/a InstaPundit yesterday linked and quoted from Tom Maguire's Tuesday "Worse" post, and tonight Prof. Reynolds was also kind enough to link to this post to give some exposure to the "Jamie Is Not Necessarily an Unethical Slut" point of view (of which I seem to be the only proponent).  This proves that the InstaPundit is indeed fair and balanced.  Hello and welcome, InstaPundit readers.  Please accept my apologies that my arguments run so long and are so spread out, but such are the natures of lawyers and running debate. 

InstaPundit on EthicsI have not read Prof. Reynolds' book Appearance of Impropriety: How the Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society (written with Peter H. Morgan), but Prof. Reynolds blogs that in it,

we argue that appearance ethics are proper for people in judicial-style roles, but shouldn't be applied in political-style settings. So the question is, is the 9/11 inquiry commission essentially judicial (supposed to be independent, focused on facts, non-political) or is it political (involving accommodations between interest groups). It seems to me that it ought to be the former. Sounds like it's shaping up to be the latter.

This is an intriguing distinction — enough so that I may actually go buy the book tomorrow! — and it feeds nicely into one concern that I've had:  With respect to a Commission like this, where the entire American public is, in effect, Ms. Gorelick's "client," who if anyone should have standing to make the decision whether or not a potential conflict ought to be waived?  Arguably, no one can speak for everyone, which might be one reason for the distinction Mr. Morgan and Prof. Reynolds draw.

My initial reaction to this, though, is that it's still too idealistic and impractical an approach.  And the enabling legislation more or less anticipated this problem by requiring that membership on the Commission be divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, and that Congressional leaders from each party (and indeed, from each legislative chamber! although that level of detail may have been ignored in practice from what I can tell) would make these sorts of decisions as part of the selection process.  In this view, the Democratic leadership was speaking on behalf of its national constituency in deciding, "Is this a serious problem that should disqualify Ms. Gorelick, or is it just dog slobber?"

The idea that the Democrats who selected Ms. Gorelick were positioned to, and effectively did, make a knowing and informed waiver of her potential conflict is of course undone by the slight problem of timing:  When they picked her, she was still at Fannie Mae.  So then did Jamie Gorelick call her Democratic party sponsors, to seek their consent to the change in circumstances before she agreed to take the Wilmer Cutler job?  So one might hope, and if she did, and if they approved, then I'd have thought that decision would have been publicly announced with the same fanfare as her original appointment.  Here, as in most things political, any smell of cover-up attracts the conspiracy buzzards.  If Senator Daschle or Representative Pelosi have decided (as representatives of their national constituency) that it's in the nation's best interest to waive this conflict, they ought to be willing to run the Sunday-morning talk show gauntlet to explain why.

Posted by Beldar at 11:15 PM in Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Bloggers (except me) still demand Jamie Gorelick's resignation from the 9/11 Comm'n because Wilmer Cutler defends a Saudi prince and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Tom Maguire made the following comment | Aug 11, 2003 8:47:33 PM | Permalink

I will bet as much as fifty cents that Rudman is a Republican. And since I know you have checked the law creating the commission, I know that you know that the law call for no more than five Republicans, and no more than five Democrats.

What I don't know is how, if Gorelick (a Dem) resigns, she can be replaced by Rudman (a Rep), mainly because I haven't gone into the footnotes of the legislation to check for exceptions and waivers.

But my current guess is, there is no easy way for Rudman to replace her.

9/11 Commission website

9/11 Commission legislation (Sect. 6)

6.03 (b) is what I am looking at:

Qualifications; Initial Meeting.--
(1) Political party affiliation.--Not more than 5 members of
the Commission shall be from the same political party.

Great work, BTW. And congrats on the prized "Corner" link.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 11, 2003 10:15:08 PM | Permalink

You're right! One less hoss who could be the unicorn.

(3) Mark Kleiman made the following comment | Aug 12, 2003 1:29:42 PM | Permalink

Aside from the question of information leakage, Gorelick is in a position where decisions she makes as a commission member can directly help or hurt a client of her firm. The fact that virtually every other lawyer with enough gravitas to be on such a commission is similarly compromised is exactly what Dwight Meredith, Glenn Reynolds, and I are complaining about.

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