Sunday, June 1, 2008

John Boehner: Lawuits for Me, But Not for Thee

In what has to be the clearest case of hypocrisy seen in quite some time, John Boehner has been granted $1 million dollars in an illegal wiretapping case, even as he continues to fight for telecom immunity surrounding the illegal NSA program. Boehner, apparently without irony, justified his case by saying, "no one — including members of Congress — is above the law.” The mind reels.

Surely his statement is correct, but that hasn't prevented him from being on the front lines of preventing other Americans from having their day in court. Illegality clearly is only of importance should it affect him, but for him to extend the same standards to everyone else is too much for him to bear. He made this point clear in an interview with Brit Hume:

HUME: The other issue that has risen in connection with this bill has to do with granting an immunity from legal action, from lawsuits, to companies which, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, cooperated with very aggressive government surveillance activities undertaken in the fear that another attack might have been right then on the way.

BOEHNER: But after 9/11, our country and our intelligence officials went to telecommunication firms and other third parties and asked them to participate in a program to help secure and bring safety to the American people, and they did.

And because they did voluntarily, I believe that they deserve immunity from lawsuits out there from typical trial lawyers trying to find a way to get into the pockets of the American companies.

This answer, of course, does nothing to address the legality of the actions, but merely says that the phone companies 'participated voluntarily.' Given that, one presumes that the company which voluntarily participated in his own case would be granted a similar assessment. One would be wrong. That voluntarily conducting illegal activity somehow alleviates guilt is preposterous.

And, as Boehner said himself, "no one is above the law."

A constant drumbeat of supporters of immunity against organizations like the ACLU and EFF, who are working for very little, is to paint them as money-hungry, unscrupulous lawyers out only to make a quick buck. But, really, the organizations are after punitive damages meant to deter future transgressions.

Boehner's own lawyer during his case:

“Punitive damages are not imposed to give awards to plaintiffs; they are imposed to punish and deter illegal conduct and to exact retribution on behalf of society for the violation of its laws,” Boehner’s attorneys, seeking damages and legal fees, argued in a court brief.

At every turn, Boehner's own case throws a wrench into his argument in favor of telecom immunity. And his sense of logic deflects all attacks with equal regularity.

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