Commentary by Daniel T. Zanoza, Executive Director
Whoever you may support for the Republican or Democratic presidential nomination this year, there's one thing that is absolutely certain. Your head would explode, if you tried to keep track of all the subplots and political intrigue which is taking place in both Parties.
For the first time in 80 years, neither the President or the sitting Vice-president is seeking their Party's nomination. That means we are seeing political races in both Parties like never before. History is literally unfolding before our very eyes. However, one of the more seedy subplots involves the candidacy of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and his relationship to Republican power brokers which primarily developed after the campaign of Sen. Fred Thompson never left the ground. Romney is the obvious favorite of the GOP elite in Washington, D.C. now that Thompson and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have bowed out of the race. It is also apparent Romney may be currying favor with remnants of the Illinois Combine, the state power brokers who were in their heyday during the gubernatorial administrations of Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan.
But how could one do such a thing, pray tell. Here's an idea. Attack an individual who supposedly did wrong to both factions of the GOP--the Washington, D.C. movers and shakers, and those who run the show or, at least, want to keep running the show in Illinois.
Someone in the Romney campaign must have thought it was a lightening bolt from the political gods that gave them the idea to go after the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald. You see, Fitzgerald--through no choice of his own--was appointed to investigate the outing of so-called covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. The case was bogus, involving who told which reporter what and when about a secret agent who wasn't so secret. But Fitzgerald had to do his job and Scooter Libby, an aide to Vice-president Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and a big to do about nothing was over. From the beginning, the Valerie Plame Wilson case was solely media-generated, in an attempt to discredit George W. Bush's administration and had nothing to do with outing CIA agents or jeopardizing America's security. Fitzgerald was stuck with a bogus investigation and most of those involved would agree with this assessment.
However, there are those connected with the White House and Vice-president Dick Cheney who thought Fitzgerald should have rolled over and fallen on the sword himself. In Illinois, the story is completely different. Fitzgerald has been a virtual pariah to those connected with the Illinois Combine and they look at him as Darth Vader incarnate.
The only problem is most Illinois residents think Patrick Fitzgerald has done an excellent job as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. I guess, that is, everyone except people like former Illinois Governor George Ryan--who is sitting in a Wisconsin federal prison at this moment. And there are other big fish in Fitzgerald's frying pan of justice who are just about ready to be served up for prosecution. Romney, however, took the bait of Fitzgerald's detractors and has intimated he would fire the well-respected prosecutor--if he were elected president.
On June 15, 2007 Romney told political reporter Andy Shaw of WLS-TV (ABC 7 Chicago), "They proceeded with the investigation knowing that there was no crime to pursue, and I think that abuse of prosecutorial discretion justifies a very careful look at a possible change."
Even earlier in the campaign, Romney made Fitzgerald a target of his wrath. During a Republican debate held on May 3rd of last year, Romney went into a virtual tirade about the prosecutor who went after Libby. While not mentioning Fitzgerald by name, it was clear who Romney was talking about and in post-debate analysis, MSNBC's Chris Matthews did enlighten the viewing audience by saying Fitzgerald was the target of Romney's outrage.
"The famous varmint hunter, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, implied he’d pardon Libby and he personally attacked the special prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, an attack that will win Romney points among the GOP power brokers in the Illinois Combine now under federal investigation." wrote John Kass in a Chicago Tribune column June 7, 2007.
Besides trying to please the powers that be, Romney's position on Fitzgerald is in contrast to those held by one of his challengers for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain. During an interview with the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, McCain said of Fitzgerald, "I’d keep him. I’d keep him. Because I think he has a record of pursuing criminals, and he has done so, with efficiency and skill and with dedication. I think he has done a good job, and I think the American people are crying out for having this corruption cleaned up."
Now those who read my columns regularly know I have some strong differences with John McCain over many issues. But McCain hit the nail right on the head with his assessment of Fitzgerald. The question is: Did Romney start his attacks on the federal prosecutor because he thinks Fitzgerald wasted tax-payer dollars or is he simply ignorant of the work Fitzgerald has done here in Illinois? Of course, there's one more scenario, which goes something like this. Romney is full aware of Fitzgerald's dogged prosecution of corruption in Illinois and that's just the problem. Perhaps the reason why the Republican elite is so enamored with Romney of late is because there will be a pay-off at the end of the presidential rainbow. If Romney were elected president, Patrick Fitzgerald would be gone and some big problems facing former and current members of the Illinois Combine might go away with him.
As someone used to say, "what a revoltin' development." If you were an individual waiting to receive relief from the GOP's nomination of Mitt Romney for president, because he might take care of some of those pesky lawyer bills, McCain's victory in Florida certainly puts Mr. Romney in a bind and even his pockets may not be deep enough to buy himself out of it. It seems no matter how hard they try, the movers and the shakers in the GOP just can't get it right. And after all their maneuvering, the Republican elite may just end up with its worst nightmare...John McCain in the White House. And keep this very quiet because some might get upset by hearing it...Patrick Fitzgerald would remain the prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois.
Alka Seltzer, anyone?
Some information found on Cal Skinner's McHenry County Blog: http://www.mchenrycountyblog.com/
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