by digby

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In my administration, we'll make it clear there is the controlling legal authority of conscience.

Remember that? It was awfully inspiring, wasn't it? In fact, conservatives all over the country smugly waved that bloody shirt in our faces, as if they were paragons of "honor and integrity," a line Bush also made a fetish of in his speeches.

Apparently the authority of their conscience allowed them to out CIA agents,lie to federal prosecutors, pay propagandists under the table on the taxpayers dime, even shoplift. They certainly have shown in the past few weeks that they have no conscience when it comes to politicizing the US Department of Justice and using the full force and power of the federal government to rig elections. Perhaps they could use a little of that old fashioned legal authority after all.

Today we see the latest act of hypocrisy from our good friend Bob Novak, who seems to spend most of his time defending Republican lawbreakers these days:

When Doan appeared before Waxman's committee March 28 on "allegations of misconduct," she was prepared to talk about her approval of a contract with Sun Microsystems that has been the subject of contention. Rep. Tom Davis, the committee's ranking Republican, who is not known to overlook GOP misdeeds, found "simply no evidence" that Doan "acted improperly."

Doan was taken by surprise that day to find Waxman concentrating instead on a Jan. 26 political briefing about the 2006 elections by Scott Jennings, deputy White House political director, to 30 GSA political appointees -- including Administrator Doan. Such briefings were delivered by Jennings throughout the federal government and are not viewed by the White House as violating the 1939 Hatch Act. Waxman fixed on this question said to have been asked by Doan at the briefing: "How can we help our candidates?"

That resulted in the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), which tracks Hatch Act violations, saying it could "imagine no greater violation of the Hatch Act than to invoke the machinery of an agency . . . in the service of a partisan campaign to retake the Congress and the governors' mansions."

But the Jan. 26 meeting targeted no candidate for support, solicited no GSA employee for political activity and resulted in no follow-up. Doan's question actually was addressed to Jennings. "The harsh penalties under the Hatch Act for a brief slip-up are unwarranted," a congressional Republican source close to the situation told me. "Doan's resignation is a punishment that does not fit the crime."

There was a time when Republicans were adamant about the need to literally interpret every single law on the books. Indeed, during the election recount in 2000 they made some extraordinary arguments in favor of interpreting deadlines and legal interpretations in the most restrictive way possible. And, of course, there was the impeachment, in which differing interpretations of the intentions of those who touched certain body parts in a sexual encounter constituted perjury. Many, many people in the Clinton administration were burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills over ridiculous, trumped up charges as a result of Dan Burton's or Al D'Amato witch hunts. There was a time when Republicans were apoplectic that anyone could transgress even the appearance of lawbreaking, even if it existed only in the fevered wet dreams of Matt Drudge and FOX News.

George W. Bush in particular shoved that down our throats over and over again for years, insisting that his morality, his integrity, his honor was superior to the rest of us. And here we are, six years later and it's clear that the Bush administration has illegally used the machinery of the federal government to rig elections. In the case of the US Attorney scandal it has done more to bring dishonor on the federal justice system than a thousand lies about presidential fellatio could ever do.

Listening to these phonies whine now about how Scooter didn't mean it and Lurita Doan never followed through and how the Democrats are "criminalizing" politics moves me not at all. In a world where Republicans hadn't impeached a president for purely partisan reasons, stolen elections, started unnecessary wars, pillaged the treasury and degraded the constitution I might be inclined to be compassionate toward someone like Doan, who was probably just doing what Karl Rove expected. Sorry, I'm fresh out of compassion for Republicans. As far as I'm concerned, Waxman should ruthlessly go after every single case. It is a moral hazard to allow these people to continuously get away with things of which they accuse others. It's got to stop.