Friday, July 27, 2007

My fingers won't shut up

I'm badly stuck in a History post rut, but I'm at the mercy of my fingers, which do all the typing on this blog. They're obsessed, and I can't seem to rein them in.

This time they're typing about American Attorneys General. They browsed over to Wikipedia and looked up all of them, as far back as I could give them the names. I guess they think there's some lesson to be gleaned from looking at super-brief synopses of these people's tenures in that office.

Robert F. Kennedy
AG under Kennedy, Johnson
Next job - Senator, Presidential candidate, martyr
  • was one of two younger brothers of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and served as United States Attorney General from 1961 to 1964. He was one of President Kennedy's most trusted advisors and worked closely with the president during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His contribution to the African-American Civil Rights Movement is sometimes considered his greatest legacy.

Nicholas Katzenbach
AG under Johnson
Next job - Under Secretary of State under Johnson
  • On June 11 1963, Katzenbach was a primary participant in one of the most famous incidents of the Civil Rights struggle. Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in front of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama in an attempt to stop desegregation of that institution by the enrolment of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. This became known as the "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door." Wallace stood aside only after being confronted by Katzenbach, accompanied by federal marshals and the Alabama National Guard.

Ramsey Clark
AG under Johnson
Next Job - Civil Rights Attorney, recipient of Gandhi Peace Award.
  • Supervised the drafting and executive role in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968.

  • During the Vietnam War, Clark oversaw the prosecution of the Boston Five for “conspiracy to aid and abet draft resistance.” Four of the five were convicted, including pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock and Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr.

John Mitchell
AG under Nixon
Next job - jailbird
  • The first United States Attorney General ever to be convicted of illegal activities (conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury) and imprisoned.

Richard Kleindienst
AG under Nixon
Next job - Spender of Family Time
  • The day after the 1972 Watergate break-in, Attorney General Kleindienst was told by Gordon Liddy that the operation had originated in the White House and that he, Kleindienst, should effect the release of the burglars. Kleindienst refused to free the men, but failed to report Liddy's confession, which would have broken the whole case open immediately. He resigned on April 30, 1973 in the midst of the Watergate scandal and returned to private practice. Kleindienst resigned the same day John Dean was fired and H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman quit. He was convicted of a misdemeanor for perjury during his testimony in the Senate during his confirmation hearings. He was fined and given a suspended jail sentence.

Elliot Richardson
AG under Nixon
Next job - Private Citizen, then Sec'y of Commerce, US Ambassador
  • In October 1973, after just five months as Attorney General, President Nixon ordered Richardson to fire the top lawyer investigating the Watergate scandal, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused the order and resigned from the Nixon administration. This was the start of what became the "Saturday Night Massacre".

William B. Saxbe
AG under Nixon, Ford
Next job - ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to India
  • Nothing.

Edward H. Levi
AG under Ford
Next job - Law professor
  • During his term as Attorney General, he issued a set of guidelines (in 1976) to limit the activities of the FBI. These guidelines required the FBI to show evidence of a crime before using secret police techniques like wiretaps or entering someone's home without warning. These guidelines were replaced by new ones issued in 1983 by Ronald Reagan's Attorney General, William French Smith. He also successfully urged President Ford to appoint fellow Chicagoan John Paul Stevens to the United States Supreme Court.

Griffin Bell
AG under Carter
Next job - Special Ambassador to the Helsinki Convention
  • Bell led the effort to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978.

  • First cabinet official named to Mr. Blackwell's list of best dressed Americans.

  • In the scrutinized Watergate era, his nomination as a Southerner and a friend of the President had been initially controversial. As a result of the independence and professionalism many said he brought to the Department of Justice, Bell received great praise from many of his prior critics in the United States Senate and the media when he resigned the Attorney Generalship in August 1979.

Benjamin Civiletti
AG under Carter
Next job - High Priced Lawyer
  • As Attorney General Civiletti argued several important cases on behalf of the US Government. Notably, he argued before the International Court of Justice on behalf of Americans being held captive in Iran during the Iran Hostage Crisis. He also argued before the US Supreme Court in support of the government's right to denaturalize Nazi war criminals.

William French Smith
AG under Reagan
Next job - Board member
  • Largely responsible for the appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor. Big friend of big business, not particularly interested in prosecuting antitrust or civil rights cases.

  • In 1992, Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot suggested appointing Smith to his Cabinet if Perot were to win the presidency. An aide then told Perot that this would not be possible because Smith was dead.

Edwin Meese III
AG under Reagan
Next job - Conservative Think Tank guy
  • Meese's tenure was highly controversial. His involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair as a "counselor" and "friend" to the President, not as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, attracted the most criticism.

  • Meese also courted controversy when he appointed the "Meese Commission" to investigate pornography in the United States; their report, released in July 1986, was highly critical of pornography and itself became a target of widespread criticism. That year, Meese Commission officials contacted convenience store chains and succeeded in demanding that widespread men's magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse be removed from shelves, a ban which spread nationally until being quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the D.C. Federal Court in Meese v. Playboy.

  • Accusations of ethical violations dogged Meese's tenure at Justice. He was the subject of investigations by the United States Office of the Independent Counsel on two occasions; neither of these investigations resulted in charges being presented to a grand jury. He has been investigated by three separate Special Prosecutors. Nevertheless, Meese's critics continue to charge corruption.

Dick Thornburgh
AG under Bush I
Next job - Losing Senate candidate, undersecretary general to the United Nations
  • His main priorities were to crack down on drug trafficking and white-collar crime. Thornburgh also oversaw prosecution against Exxon in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. Thornburg also authored the controversial Thornburgh Memo, that attempted to define the ethical rules applicable to Department of Justice lawyers (The memo declared that state ethics rules were not binding upon federal prosecutors).

William Barr
AG under Bush I
Next job - Board Member
  • Nothing

Janet Reno
AG under Clinton
Next job - Losing candidate for Florida Governor, Private Citizen
  • First female Attorney General.

  • Lightning rod.

  • Nobody ever said she didn't do the heck out of her job.

  • Love her or hate her, you have to admit she has mighty balls.

John Ashcroft
AG under Bush II
Next job - Lobbyist
  • Key supporter of passage of the USA Patriot Act.

  • Ashcroft proposed the creation of Operation TIPS, a domestic program in which workers and government employees would inform law enforcement agencies about suspicious behavior they encounter while performing their duties.

  • Enthusiastic advocate of the War on Drugs.

  • His hand-written resignation letter, dated November 2, 2004, stated: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Alberto Gonzales
AG under Bush II
  • The book hasn't yet been written on this cretin.

You be the judge. No, really. It's your job, dammit!

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