Friday, March 30, 2007

Firedoglake's Christy Hardin Smith on The Thom Hartman Program

Christy Hardin Smith was a guest on the Thom Hartmann Radio show earlier this afternoon. The following is one of those "rush transcripts", but hopefully I've corrected any major typos...

Thom Hartmann: Christy, welcome to the Thom Hartmann Program.

Christy Hardin Smith: Thanks Thom, great to be here.

Thom: A recovering attorney?

Christy: Yeah, I'm no longer practicing.

Thom: I see.

Christy: I'm blogging now.

Thom: And it's great that you're doing that, and bringing the perspective of somebody who understands the legal system to this. A whole lot of things happened in this Kyle Sampson testimony. I have some specific points and questions that I'd like to toss out and get your response to. But first, I'm curious as to what your take is on what really happened here yesterday?

Christy: Well, you know, it was funny. One of the commenters on my site today said that in looking at all of this, it was amazing that we'd gotten back to the point where the word fealty had been reintroduced into the political system in the United States. That essentially what the Bush administration was asking was that the U. S. attorneys either be loyal to them and, in effect, swear fealty to what they considered were important political positions or they would be removed from their office. Whether or not those positions were sustainable in terms of looking at the rule of law, whether the law was whatever the Bush administration said they wanted them to do. And that, I think is really troubling.

Thom: Yeah, fealty is such an anachronistic word. Probably most people don't even know the origins of it in feudal society. You want to just give us a 10 second definition?

Christy: Sure. In feudal society, you'd have someone who was the lord of a certain area of land, and those people who lived on that land had to swear to be loyal to the person who owned that particular plot. And they had to give part of their grain, and they had to fight for them when they were asked to. Everything was for that person--it wasn't for the good of the community, it was only for the good of the person who owned that particular plot of land.

Thom: Right, and that person even had, in many European communities, the "right of the first night". It just got very bizarre--absolute power.

Christy: Right. Which is not what we're supposed to have here--we fought a revolution in 1776 for a reason.

Thom: Yes. And so we're back to fealty--it's incredible! So, you were saying...

Christy: We were talking about this quite a bit actually, today we were going over a sort of review in one of my posts of what we had learned yesterday, and additional information that's come out today. The former head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times today talking about the problems with civil rights enforcement, and how, instead of being enforced for the benefit of minority groups or women's groups or religious minority groups who may have had issues of oppression, that the civil cights division had been converted to prosecuting voter fraud cases which were *very* questionable. And would be brought up essentially as a suppression issue in areas where they were expecting high Democratic voter turnout--

Thom: Among minorities.

Christy: Right. So they saw that in Florida, and there were other areas of the country, in Ohio, where cases were brought. And that's just one more drop in the bucket of what's been done.

Thom: And they've been able to get away with talking about this in public because the average American doesn't understand the difference between voter fraud and election fraud. That the Republican party is engaged in *widespread* election fraud over the years, in fact for over 25 years they've been operating under a restraining order to stop them from doing some of the things that they did in the 2000 election. Caging, for example. Whereas voter fraud is where an individual who doesn't have the right to vote tries to vote. And those cases are so rare--I think there's been one successful prosecution for voter fraud in the last couple years?

Christy: There haven't been many. And a lot of them have been brought and then have been found to have implemented basically by political opponents who were trying to pull an election result out long enough to be able to get the vote reversed votes thrown out so that their side would win. There are political tactics involved a lot of the time. And when you have a true voter case, a lot of times you don't have to take it to court, because you have enough ability to show that there's a problem. Say, if you have a political pundit who votes in the wrong district in Florida--something like that.

Thom: You mean like Ann Coulter.

Christy: Yeah.

Thom: That's voter fraud.

Christy: Yes, that would be voter fraud, and that *should* be prosecuted. If you are truly commiting voter fraud, then it should be prosecuted. But if you're using it to politicize something, then the question comes, are you doing this because it's the right thing to do for justice, or are you doing this in order to pervert the way that Americans elect their representatives. And if it's the second aspect of it, then you're politicizing the rule of law, and that's wrong.

Thom: And the way this works is that one person, say, a felon who shouldn't be voting in Florida, gets prosecuted for that, and it makes all the headlines. And then one of these groups sends out a flyer, a pamphlet, to everyone in the African American community, as happened in Ohio in the 2004 election, and it happened in Florida as well, that says if you or any member of your family has parking tickets or has ever committed a crime, and you show up to vote, you will be arrested. Now, this is not true, but unknown groups were distributing tens of thousands of flyers that said this, or letters to registered Democratic voters in African American communities. And it was apparently effective in suppressing a certain percentage of the Black vote.

Christy: There were actually allegations of that occuring in Connecticut too, during the primary, when Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman were running against each other for the Senate primary, in a lot of the areas in Hartford and a lot of the other urban areas in Connecticut that was also happening. Which, it's unusual for it to happen in primary races, but that one was a very tight one, and clearly there was a lot of Republican interest in keeping Joe Lieberman in the Senate.

Thom: We just have about two minutes left here. We're talking to Christy Hardin Smith, who blogs over at who sat through the Kyle Sampson hearings and blogged through the whole thing, and an attorney. Christy, 122 times, Sampson says "I don't know". This is starting to sound like a mafia prosecution.

Christy: One of my long time readers termed it "Rove-nesia"-- (Thom laughs.) That folks who are connected with Karl Rove seem to be having this problem of Rove-nesia every time they're held to account for some problem that they've caused. You know, one of the issues that I think keeps coming up again and again and again, especially if you look at the prosecutors who were fired, almost all of them were from states where the voting was close in the 2004 presidential election, or where voting was also close in terms of congressional or senate races in the 2006 elections, where there are likely to be battlegrounds in 2008, except for the attorneys in California. But all of the attorneys, the U. S. Attorneys in California, have been replaced at this point--every single one of them. And if you can get someone in that state who's willing to politicize election issues and election fraud issues, then you have the potential in looking at the 56 electoral votes that California brings with it, to ensure presidential victory--if you can control those 56 votes.