Thursday, February 17, 2005

Is There A Standard Here Or Not?

There has been some chatter about a statement made by some New York state GOP official that the Democrats "have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart and Howard Dean."

The sticking point here is that Lynne Stewart is the "civil rights lawyer" recently convicted of aiding terrorist operations in Egypt. This got Howard Dean and other Dems in an uproar, (see post on The Moderate Voice and The Daily Kos) saying how outrageous it was to link Democrats with someone as despicable as Ms. Stewart. The Democrats have nothing whatsoever to do with such radical left wing riff-raff.

O.K. fair enough. But, if this is true let's see you stick to it.

Word now comes that billionaire George Soros has been bankrolling Stewart's defense. Up until now the Democrats have had no trouble taking Soros' money and associating with the man and the various organizations that he funds, such as

Of course, it could be argued that Democrats didn't know about Soros' involement with Stewart. Fair enough again. They know now. It seems to me that in order to retain the slightest modicum of consistency the Democrats have to shut Soros and his money out from this point forward. In the case of The People of The United States vs. Lynne Stewart, George Soros has clearly made his stand behind Lynne Stewart. That being so, standing behind Soros is the equivalent of standing behind Stewart as well.

Logically the Democrats have no choice but to make it clear that George Soros is not on their side, his money be damned.


Anonymous said...

Oh come on. This is your example of logic?

A) George Soros gives money to Democrats.

B) George Soros gives money to a legal defense fund for Lynne Stewart.

C) Therefore, Democrats have supported Lynne Stewart.

That's about the worst case of fallacious logic I've ever heard. (But I probably spelled "Fallacious" wrong).

If the Democrats are taking money from Soros, are they standing behind him, or is he standing behind them? It would seem to be the latter. There are countless contributors to both parties whose political leanings are more to the right or left of the repsective parties they contributed to, and no reasonable person suggests that by taking the money of these people, the parties are implicitly accepting the whole of the contributors' belief systems, or support every stand that the contributors take.

The Republican party routinely gets money from people who give money to causes, or people, that the Republicans don't always support. Many of the contributors to David Duke's campaigns also gave to the Republican party, but the GOP, while distancing themselves from Duke, didn't necessarily distance themselves from those contributors. Was the Republican party, by taking money from the same people who gave money to Duke, taking a stand behind Duke? According to your logic, they were. (And I recognize that some Democrats made the same charge, but I disagree with that stance).

Think about all the Republican candidates who get money from the both the NRA and the Fraternal Order of Police, who have been at loggerheads over armor piercing bullets. By your logic, the FOP should not take a stand behind those candidates, even if it may be in their interest to do so, because they also received money from the NRA, which wants no restrictions on a product that endangers the lives of the FOP members. And by taking the NRA's money, the candidate's are supporting the use of armor piercing bullets. Obviously, some do, but many don't, yet continue to take the NRA's money.

My ultimate point is that in broad-based political parties, there will be people with common aims who want to support the party. But they likely will not share the same view on every issue, and at times, one of them will be disgusted with the other's actions. I believe it is fair in that case to expect the one party to be critical of the other. But to say that if you don't sever all ties because of the disagreement, you are therefore accepting of the other side's position in toto, is extreme, and a way to demonize one's opponents. It's really the equivalent of suggesting that if you like the Beatles, and your wife can't stand them, then you should get a divorce (a position you might possibly agree with).


The Iconic Midwesterner said...

"The Republican party routinely gets money from people who give money to causes, or people, that the Republicans don't always support. Many of the contributors to David Duke's campaigns also gave to the Republican party, but the GOP, while distancing themselves from Duke, didn't necessarily distance themselves from those contributors."

If they had the visibility and access of a George Soros I would say absolutely,in that situation, the GOP would be leaving themselves open to criticism.

The question becomes how extreme is George Soros? Is it unseemly to have a person with such extreme views buying influence in the Democratic party? Has Soros put himself into the Ramsey Clark/Lynne Stewart category by his actions? To my mind absolutely.

I'll admit I'm more strict about these things than a lot of people are. Hell, I wouldn't even consider voting for Bush because he VISITED Bob Jones University. All I'm saying is you hob-nob with bigots and racists, or Geroge Soros, you have a harder time distancing yourself from them. If mentioning Lynne Stewart and Democrats in the same sentence is "beynd the pale" as has been suggested, then how is acceptable to work with one of her main supporters and benefactors? Its like saying you cant associate with Beria, but Stalin's fine.

I'll agree that if we are talking about largely anonymous Joe Schmo's giving $100 here and there to dubious causes AND major parties, yeah you can't make Dems or Reps repudiate all such people. Soros is no Joe Schmo, and he isn't cutting $100 checks.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the level of giving of George Soros to progressive causes makes him, and at times, the Democratic Party, ripe for criticism. But let's not kid ourselves about the money flowing to the Republican party from contributors like Richard Mellon Scaife, whose actions and support of extreme causes on the right at times make Soros look like a Boy Scout. One of the reason that Soros gets so much attention, and a shitload of disinformation (though I'm not necessarily claiming that in this case), is that he is one of the few really rich men in this country who gives money to the Democrats. The Republicans and their far right buddies have targeted him, and tried to demonize him, not because of any sense of moral outrage at his beliefs, but because they feel that hardball politics will be effective.

I agree that the Democrats are being somewhat disingenuous when they act shocked ("shocked, I say") at the fact that someone would link them to a leftist figure like Lynne Stewart. And I don't think that it is "beyond the pale" to use them in the same sentence, but certainly is dirty politics. The reason that the Republican chair from New York lumped Lynne Stewart in with the Democrats is the same reason the Demcocrats went ballistic at the comparison. It's financially rewarding to continue the name-calling and paranoia.

But I would hardly call Soros, or the Open Society Institute, one of her main benefactors. They gave $20,000 to her defense fund. They asserted, and you're free to be skeptical of this, that the reason for giving the money had to do with "right to counsel" issues. Giving money to a defense fund is very different than supporting somebody's actions directly. One may think, as I believe this to be the case with the Open Society folks, that Lynne Stewart was the target of a politically motivated prosecution that wants to stifle dissent and inhibit the vigorous defense of suspected terrorists. If you think that might be the case, and you want to give money to ensure that people like Lynne Stewart have a strong defense team and a fair trial, that does not necessarily mean that you condone the actions that she is accused of. If the case is open and shut, and you give money, then I think you can be legitimately accused of condoning the crime. But my reading of the stories about this case before and after the conviction, suggests that it was not open and shut and there were legitimate reasons to believe in Stewart's innocence. That's not the same thing as saying she's innocent and disregarding evidence in a court of law that proves her guilt. But it certainly makes contributing to her defense fund not quite the horrific offense that you and those on the right seem to think it is.


The Iconic Midwesterner said...

The "right to cousel" argument is a bit of a joke dont you think? "My goodness, how is Lynne Stewart gonna dig up a lawyer! What are the chances that a lawyer will know any other lawyers!" I don't know, maybe should could use some of her honorariums from university speaking gigs to pay for one. Or better yet get one of her cronies to do it.

I'm sure right this moment there is some poor schumuck waiting in a cell for his extradition hearing that could REALLY use money for a good lawyer. Why ignore that guy and give money to Lynne Stewart? Maybe its cynical to think of it as an endorsement of her views, but sometimes such cynicism is well placed.

Stewart isn't the first defense attorney who crossed the line and eneterd into criminal conspiracies with the clients. Mob lawyers got in trouble for such activity all the time. She won't be the last either. The idea that of the 10's of thousands of pending legal cases George Soros picked this one to support simply as a matter of justice and NOT because of the underlying politics involved doesn't fly with me.

The suggestion that this was "politically motivated" is just as heinous as what Stewart was charged with. The idea that the government is somehow framing Lynne Stewart to silence a critic of the administration is every bit a derogatory as linking Ms. Stewart's name to the Democratic party. But no one seems to have the same sort of problem with that.

Anonymous said...

The right to counsel argument is not just about access to a lawyer. Just because Lynne Stewart will have access to a lawyer, and likely a good lawyer, doesn't mean that giving to a defense fund is absurd. Costs, including but not limited to lawyers fees, can be staggering, and it's certainly not unreasonable for someone to want to help cover those costs. Especially if they believe that there is doubt about her guilt.

Nice straw man in that guy in the cell who needs counsel. What does that have to do with Stewart? That is such a lazy rhetorical device- "well if they really cared about the issue, they'd give money to some poor schmuck." It's the equivalent of me saying that "if the government really cared about fighting terrorism, they wouldn't worry about some stupid lawyer in New York, but stop supporting the Saudi government." While it might be true, it's inflammatory and irrelevant to the argument. And guess what, the Open Society does give money to organizations that work to provide counsel for indigents.

You have got to be kidding if you think that that the suggestion that a trial such as Stewart's could be politically motivated is as heinous as what she is charged with. Believing that a charge may be trumped up in this day and age is unreasonable? Come on. Do you read the newspapers? This adminstration has sought to stifle dissent through a variety of means-questioning the patriotism of dissenters, firing govt employees, browbeating opposing news organizations. While this is not necessarily the situation with the Stewart case, to suggest that it's wholly unreasonable to think that a prosecution such as this is politically motivated is naive. Would the govt out and out frame somebody like Lynne Stewart? I doubt it. But would it bring charges which may not be very strong, or present evidence that can be interpreted in a very different light than a danger to national security (which is what was presented to the grand jury) in order to bolster its case, yes, I believe they might. If you don't think that it is possible that a prosecutor would salivate at the chance to bring charges against a defense attorney for terrorists, and intimidate her and her colleagues, then you are not being cynical enough.

But here's the nuance, because what is life with nuance?. That is not to say that this happened in the Stewart case. Given the verdict, it is fair to believe that this was a justified prosecution (depending on how good the jury was, and I'll absolutely give them the benefit of the doubt). But giving to a defense fund because of a fear of a malicious prosecution, and wanting to ensure a fair trial, is not unreasonable if one is worried that defendant is being railroaded.

I don't disagree, and I don't think I suggested, that the Open Society's actions did not have an underlying political basis. And that is their distrust of the motivations of the Bush administration. And it certainly constitutes a political basis for the Open Society to choose a high profile case like's Stewart's to become involved with. However, the involvement as matter of justice is not mutually incompatitble with these other reasons. That they merge is not surprising. Is one basis more important, or influential than the other? Probably. We can only make an educated guess about that and I respect that you are less enamored of the justice argument. But the political basis that you seem to imply is a tacit support for terrorists. And I don't think that argument concerning the motivations of the Open Society is reasonable. (I may not be fair to you here- the political basis you may be assuming could be a hatred for all things Bush).

An interesting question I have is how much influence does Soros have on day-to-day decision-making of the Open Society. Does he okay every check cut, or is that decision made by a Board of Governors? Certainly, if he wants the money spent, or doesn't want it spent if that be the case, he'll be listened to. But I wonder how much involvement he had with this particular decision. The National Review link does not spell that out.

But this is fun. Too bad I'm blowing off my work right now.