January 14, 2005


Dirty Little Secrets: Bush’s Homeland Security czar Mike Chertoff and his days in New Jersey (Doug Ireland, 14/05, LA Weekly)

When Chertoff was named by Bush to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division — partly because he was a skilled political hit man who’d also raised a ton of money as financial vice chair of Bush’s Garden State campaign in 2000 — it was an open secret in Jersey that he squelched an indictment of Torricelli as a reward for The Torch’s support of key Bush legislation the Democratic Party leadership opposed. (Many of the fat cats Chertoff shook down for Bush had also been huge givers to The Torch.)

Long active in the Federalist Society — a conspiratorial brotherhood of legal reactionaries — Chertoff, at Justice, helped to write the civil-liberties–shredding Patriot Act. He was John Ashcroft’s honcho in the indiscriminate grilling of over 5,000 Arab-Americans after 9/11, devised the use of "material witness" warrants to lock up people of Middle Eastern descent and hold them indefinitely without trial, and on behalf of the Justice Department wrote a brief (in Chavez v. Martinez) arguing that there was no constitutional right to be free of coercive police questioning.

Moreover, Chertoff wrote legislation, known as the Feeney Amendment, that gutted federal sentencing guidelines, under which federal judges were allowed to use some discretion when sentencing criminal defendants, by preventing judges from shortening sentences — and, moreover, required judges who deviated from the Feeney Amendment to have their names and actions reported to the Justice Department, thus establishing what Senator Teddy Kennedy denounced as a judicial "blacklist."

Why would Chertoff give up a lifetime seat on the federal bench to take a job in the hornets’ nest of problems that is the DHS? According to a top Jersey Democratic pol who knows Chertoff well, Chertoff — described as being "as cold-blooded as they come" — has a personal agenda that includes becoming U.S. attorney general and, eventually, grabbing a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. But there’s a problem for Chertoff with conservative Republicans — he happens to be pro-choice. So, taking the DHS job is Chertoff’s way to "make his bones," as they say in Jersey, and make headlines as a hard-line persecutor of "the towel-heads" to please the right and neutralize his abortion stance.

Wouldn't it be easier to just change his mind about Roe v. Wade?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 14, 2005 4:18 PM

An open conspiracy, he should have said, I think.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 14, 2005 8:05 PM

An open conspiracy, he should have said, I think.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 14, 2005 8:06 PM

Long active in the Federalist Society a conspiratorial brotherhood of legal reactionaries

That overwrought line reminded me of something John Ashcroft once said at a Federalist Society meeting (quoting from memory here): "Our critics like to typify us as a band of archconspiratorial lawyers who draw up sinister plots and greet each other with secret handshakes -- and I just want to know: Who's been talking to the press?"

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 15, 2005 1:10 AM

When Doug Ireland worked for the Village Voice, his essential function was to search high and wide to find 'the evil Jew' behind it all. It appears that his job description is no different at his new locale.

Posted by: Bart at January 15, 2005 9:28 AM

This may be a long-term plot to discredit Judaism by appointing pro-choice Jews to high-profile positions. After abortion becomes obsolete, any religion or ideology associated with it will look illegitimate.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at January 16, 2005 2:10 PM

He will probably have to wait until either Bryer or Ginsburg goes. If Renquist and O'Connor are the first 2 to go. Chertoff might be cooling his heels for a while.

More likely, he wants a shot at one of the open senate seats in NJ since Corzine won't be running in 06 and Lautenberg may be iffy for 08.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 17, 2005 2:50 PM