... And Al Capone to run the IRS

Dec. 3, 2002

Let's see if you can spot the pattern here.

John Poindexter helped, secretly and illegally, to sell weapons to Iran. Then, secretly and illegally, he used the proceeds to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. No matter. He's back, serving us in government.

The secretive Iran-Contra alum was convicted for his illegal acts but avoided prison because Congress had given him immunity for his testimony. His new Pentagon job: Developing a computer system that finds out all of our secrets, just in case we're all terrorists.

Then there's Henry Kissinger.

As secretary of state under President Nixon, he helped try to quash publication of the Pentagon Papers. He also likely played nefarious and secret roles in at least one coup, in Chile, in addition to the secret (and arguably illegal) bombing of Cambodia.

But he is the consummate Washington insider, which makes him perfect, according to Bush logic, for his new job: Co-chairing the "independent" commission that will investigate why the government failed to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.

Don't see the pattern yet? More hints:

Bush's guy to crack down on corporate and Wall Street miscreants was Harvey Pitt, among other things, a corporate lobbying guy. Until he resigned recently, he headed the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Pitt, after passing over a guy who really would have been tough, scammed SEC commissioners into naming former CIA Director William Webster to head an accounting oversight board formed to crack down on accountants who would shade or hide financial truth to help companies dupe investors.

The problem: Webster headed an audit committee for a company accused of similar shenanigans.

More hints?

OK, oilman/inside-trader Bush gave oilman VP Dick Cheney, who as CEO of Halliburton is accused of the kind of fraudulent accounting practices that sunk Enron and other business giants, the job of devising a national oil - excuse me, national energy - policy.

Army Secretary Thomas White, pushing for the Army to privatize its energy services, once helped run Enron Energy Services, in the business of, you guessed it: selling energy.

OK, got it? The president obviously believes that folks likely to subvert government for personal, corporate or ideological gain are the very best to be in government service.

Let's call it the fox-as-cop-in-the-hen-house theory.

And the president may be on to something here. He just obviously has not gone far enough. In keeping with his theme of rogues-gallery appointments, some suggestions:

FBI Director Robert Mueller, arguably, is not moving his agency fast enough to protect us from terrorist attack. Ollie North, another Iran-Contra alum, would be a perfect replacement.

What a team Attorney General John Ashcroft and North would make. This would give truth to Sen. John McCain's recent Saturday Night Live joke. You know, how Ashcroft won't be happy until every American is afraid of being arrested.

A U.S. Supreme Court justice could retire soon. Bush need not look further than Harry E. Claiborne.

U.S. District Judge Claiborne's first trial in Nevada on bribery charges (he allegedly accepted money from a brothel owner) ended in a hung jury. He was convicted in a second trial of tax evasion and then impeached from the bench by the U.S. Senate.

His friends, of course, say he was framed, set up by snitches and hounded by government officials who resented his lifestyle. He has a lot in common with Poindexter and North on this score, both martyred for their "patriotism."

But we haven't even scratched the surface of the panoply of people who live to serve.

G. Gordon Liddy for CIA. Charles Colson for Ari Fleischer's White House spokesman job. Arizona's own Evan Mecham for secretary of state. Pardoned Fife Symington for, of course, secretary of commerce. The possibilities are endless.

Credible choices all. As credible anyway, as Kissinger for a government fact-finding commission and Poindexter to devise a system that will respect both rights and the law.

It's possible that each will do a fine job. Many other people with far less baggage would be far more likely to do the job better, however, and without eliciting distrust from the outset.

It's just too bad that Al Capone isn't still available to head the IRS.

Reach Pimentel at or (602) 444-8210. His column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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