Two months after John McKay was fired as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, the reason for his dismissal remains a mystery.
One of the most persistent rumors in Seattle legal circles is that the Justice Department forced McKay, a Republican, to resign to appease Washington state Republicans angry over the 2004 governor’s race. Some believe McKay’s dismissal was retribution for his failure to convene a federal grand jury to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the race.
Ohmygod… “persistent rumors.” Of course, the occasional time I base a post on rumors, I’m slapped down in the comment thread for being unserious, uncredible and irresponsible. But who am I (a wrong-headed, fatuous drunk) to question the journalistic rigor of the Seattle Times?
Truth is, that is the scuttlebutt buzzing through Republican circles, and it certainly is worthy of reporting in a major daily, for while I think it more likely the product of wishful thinking than actual fact, the rumor does provide a window into the mean-spirited, vindictive and Machiavellian mindset that permeates much of the GOP establishment and its right-wing base. Remember, this is a party that took its rhetorical cues from the likes of Evergreen Freedom Foundation president and aspiring-fascist Bob Williams (who throughout the controversy emphatically called for King County Elections Director Dean Logan to be summarily jailed,) and our good friend Stefan over at (un)Sound Politics, who when he wasn’t foisting his paranoid fantasies on an insufficiently critical press corps, chose to fan the flames of inter-party hatred by repeatedly comparing KC Executive Ron Sims to brutal African dictator Robert Mugabe. (A comparison, I suppose, that had nothing to do with their mutual skin color.)
Given the vehemence in which some in the GOP would brand all Democrats as crooks, thieves and enemies of the state, it becomes difficult to discern insincerity from sheer nuttiness. Take, for example Building Industry Association of Washington executive vice president Tom McCabe, whose organization financed and conducted much of the crackerjack detective work that misidentified hundreds of citizens as illegal felon voters, and then offered no apology for their victims’ public humiliation.
In a column titled “Good Riddance,” McCabe said McKay “had a disastrous six years as U.S. Attorney. Two years ago, he steadfastly refused to investigate voter fraud despite overwhelming evidence.” McCabe also said he had “urged the President to fire McKay.”
Overwhelming evidence of voter fraud, huh?
We had two recounts under extraordinary public scrutiny, five months of hearings and depositions, and a two-week trial before a cherry-picked judge in a Republican county… that ended with all allegations of fraud being “dismissed with prejudice.”
Overwhelming evidence? Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed repeatedly vouched for the integrity of the election and election officials, while KC’s own Republican County Prosecutor Norm Maleng not only failed to find enough evidence to launch a local investigation, he had his own representative on the Canvassing Board vote to certify the election results.
We had a gubernatorial election that ended in a statistical tie, but which Chris Gregoire won fair and square under the bipartisanly adopted statutes that govern elections and election disputes. But some Republicans were willing to take the governor’s mansion by hook or by crook, and when McKay, Reed and Maleng refused to abuse the power of their offices to steal this election on behalf of Dino Rossi and his corporatist patrons, McCabe, Williams and others set out to purge their party of the traitors, and destroy both their reputations and careers.
The celebratory rumors surrounding McKay’s departure — unsubstantiated as they are — present an unsavory image of a party seeking solace in retribution. And the propensity for threatening opponents and heretics alike with criminal, civil and vigilante justice provides a revealing glimpse into the psyche of a party whose Manichean world view quickly devolves even the most stolid policy debate into a battle between good vs. evil. I suppose it might have been merely a feeble attempt at a jest when during the heat of the gubernatorial election controversy my good friend Stefan twice accused me via email of “abetting a government cover-up,” but his use of a legalistic term clearly implied wishful thinking, if not an actual threat, that I should be criminally punished for exercising free speech. That is the sort of vengeful spirit that welcomes McKay’s departure.
Was McKay really fired for refusing to misuse his office to pursue trumped up allegations of election fraud? I’ve got no idea. But the very fact that so many local Republicans clearly wish the rumor to be true is both disturbing and revealing.