A Banana State of Mind

Claudia Rossett helps us to consider the case of New York state politics as a rival to Chicago Way politics:

…Eight years ago, a Senate seat from the Banana [New York] State was won by the wife of a sitting president of the republic. That wife had never before resided in Banana State, but she bought a house there, campaigned with the aura and entourage accorded to a presidential spouse, and with one leap, winning her first elected office ever, she became a senator.

Riding a national political machine to re-election for a second term, that former first lady swiftly turned her Senate seat into a springboard for her own campaign for the presidency. She lost, but took a job in the new administration, leaving the governor of Banana State to appoint a replacement senator.

That governor was himself a replacement, due to the resignation of the elected governor, a crusading moralist caught in a prostitution scandal. As the replacement governor prepared to name a replacement senator, a former president’s daughter declared her interest in the Senate seat — which one of her uncles had won some 44 years earlier, and was using as a springboard for his own presidential run, after serving as attorney-general in his brother’s presidential administration. This former first daughter had recently worked on the campaign of the President-elect — an experience that awakened in her an appetite for politics – but she had reached the age of 51 with no direct experience of her own in public office. Nonetheless, another of her uncles, also a senator, was ready to endorse her for this leap to the Senate. So was the mayor of Big Plum (the biggest city in Banana State), who on his own turf had just succeeded in scrapping a two-term limit so he could run for a third term — which he justified as a way of offering people a broader choice (namely, himself).

That’s how it works in Banana Republics. Whatever Caroline Kennedy’s native abilities, celebrity mantle and political connections, if she thinks this is a good way for things to work in New York State, that alone is reason to worry about her qualifications for the job.

And Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn on the leftists’ radical chic fantasy that the Guantanamo “detainees” are David to the U.S. Government’s Goliath:

…In the popular mind, the 200 or so Guantanamo detainees filing for habeas corpus in federal district courts are up against the full powers of the United States government. And they are. But practically speaking, this means that 60 or so Justice Department lawyers are handling the bulk of that legal load.

Against these 60 attorneys are arrayed some of our nation’s most prestigious private firms. Last year, at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, the National Legal Aide Defender Association bestowed its “Beacon of Justice Award” on 50 law firms for their pro bono work on behalf of the detainees. These firms included WilmerHale; Jenner & Block; Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan; Paul Weiss Rifkin; Mayer Brown; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Dechert; Pepper Hamilton; Venable; Perkins Coie; Hunton & Williams; and Fulbright Jaworski. These firms in turn are joined by law professors from Stanford, Yale and Northwestern right on down to Fordham.

The imbalance was illustrated by a scene last week at the federal courthouse building in Washington, D.C. There Judge Thomas Hogan was to consider rules governing the habeas corpus petitions of the detainees. That meant half a dozen Justice Department lawyers waiting in a room packed wall-to-wall with high-priced partners — many backed up by legions of associates, outside legal experts, human-rights centers, and concerned law students.
Andrew McCarthy, the former assistant U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted some of those responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, knows the disparity firsthand. His organization, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, is one of the few filing in defense of the government. “When we file an amicus,” he says, “it goes on top of a three-inch pile. Against that is a 20-foot stack of thick amicus [briefs] written by everyone from the American Civil Liberties Union to [Yale Law School Dean] Harold Koh.”

Now, nothing against those who simply want to ensure those at Gitmo have access to a good lawyer. And if Seton Hall Law School wants to hold teach-ins featuring the poetry of these men — one of whom murdered more than a dozen people in a suicide bombing in Mosul after his release — well, that’s the school’s business. But with all these top-flight lawyers providing separate defenses for each detainee or detainee group, the good men and women at the Department of Justice might stand a little outside help…

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