by Harvey Wasserman
As the toxic dust settles on George W. Bush's second illegitimate inauguration, his moral legacy has been defined by the GOP's new attack on Ohio's 2004 election challenge legal team.
Republican Attorney General Jim Petro has attacked attorneys Bob Fitrakis, Susan Truitt, Cliff Arnebeck and Peter Peckarsky in front of the Ohio Supreme Court. Petro is demanding they be sanctioned and fined for filing the Moss v. Bush lawsuit that challenged the seating of Ohio's Republican Electoral College delegates.
Moss v. Bush has already entered the history books as the suit that set the legal framework for an unprecedented grassroots/internet campaign that brought the first Congressional challenge in US history to a state's Electoral delegation, a challenge that infuriated the Bush/Rove GOP.
Petro claims that Moss v. Bush suit was "frivolous." He says his punitive attack is about the "serious" nature of the court system.
In fact what Petro's doing is about revenge, intimidation and contempt for democracy and the law.
As has become known throughout the world, international monitors were barred from observing Ohio's 2004 election, which was defined by irregularity, illegality, hypocrisy and fraud.
This marks the second time Bush has been "elected" in a swing state where the balloting was controlled by a Republican Secretary of State serving simultaneously as the state's Bush-Cheney co-chair. In Florida in 2000, it was Katherine Harris; in Ohio 2004 it was J. Kenneth Blackwell. Harris now has a safe congressional seat; Blackwell wants to be governor.
The Moss v. Bush election challenge demanded first and foremost that the laws guaranteeing the public's right to see electoral documents be honored. And it asserted the public's right to hear sworn testimony from public officials about what must, in a democracy, be a free and fair vote count.
But today's Republican Party seems to hold itself above both democracy and the law. With support from Petro and the GOP-dominated Ohio court system, Blackwell refused to testify openly about the details of how he administered the 2004 election. He locked up files and records from the Ohio vote count and recount that are, by Ohio law, meant to be freely available to all citizens.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer refused to recuse himself from these challenges, even though his own re-election campaign is at the core of many of the assertions in the Moss v. Bush filings.
In short, those who doubted the outcome of the Ohio vote have been called "frivolous" and worse. But those who control the evidence have refused to allow it be seen, or to testify to the realities of the charges.
With the Electoral College now vote gone by, and with the refusal of Blackwell and others to testify, and with the inability to get at public records, the Moss v. Bush lawsuit was withdrawn.
But that wasn't enough for the stonewalling Bush-Rove Republicans. In true totalitarian style, the GOP has attacked as "frivolous" the attorneys who would dare assert that Ohio voters' rights be respected as citizens in a democracy.
What's anything but frivolous here is the Bush-Rove contempt for the Constitution of the United States. Since 1789 the essence of American democracy has been free and fair elections and due process of law. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts all believed those sacred principles to be at the heart of our nation.
George W. Bush has been inaugurated again amidst a vicious attack on that heart. If this election was free and fair, why won't the elected official who ran it testify under oath? If there was no conspiracy to steal it, why have those in charge conspired to keep the public from seeing what really happened in this election?
The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the actions of the Republican Party in Ohio is that it has something fearsome to hide. The only obvious reason for this attack on those who would look under the rocks is that the GOP never expected an internet-based, grassroots effort to force a Constitutional crisis over their divinely sanctioned control of the American electoral process.
So now the GOP has launched an anti-attorney counter-attack against the unexpected power of an historic grassroots movement that has worked to protect what's left of American democracy.
Revenge against that campaign's success is the obvious motive. So is the desire to prevent such challenges from happening again.
Above all, this attack on the core of American justice is the true measure of an administration that simply does not believe in an open electoral process. The Ohio GOP's censure is an official defense of secrecy and intimidation. Its true, profoundly un-American message is an utter contempt for democracy and the law.
And it is with this cancerous self-definition that George W. Bush has most clearly inaugurated his second illegitimate term.
Harvey Wasserman is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis and Steve Rosenfeld, of OHIO'S STOLEN ELECTION: VOICES OF THE DISENFRANCHISED, 2004, upcoming from http://freepress.org. Support is welcome via http://freepress.org/store.php or at the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism, 1240 Bryden, Columbus, OH 43205. HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE US is available at http://harveywasserman.com.