Profile in Courage: David Iglesias

Uncommon valor was a common virtue. 

That was Admiral Chester Nimitz’ description of the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima in World War II. 

Other than the women and men fighting in Bush’s wars, neither valor nor virtue seem very common today, at least not in the news.  Our president is inept and has already checked out of the job.  CEO’s, board members and hedge fund managers are destroying the corporations they are entrusted to lead, governmental regulators are corrupt, consumers are in debt and our popular culture is obsessed with the antics of a few derelict superstars.  Everyone wants to be famous and hey, I’d be a hypocrite if I denied that I wouldn’t like a little more recognition for my work. 

Where are our heroes?

To find heroes, we have to look to the people around us.  I know lawyers who’ve given up lucrative careers to fight for the rights of the less fortunate and others who donate significant amounts of their resources to good causes.  Friends work for charities, people in my neighborhood help disadvantaged children and friends have gone overseas to build houses and set up hospitals.  How gratifying would it be, though, if self-sacrificing individuals received some national attention?  Young people especially should have role models, examples for their aspirations.  Well, recently one man has received a bit of attention for sticking to principle even though he knew it would cost him his career, his livelihood and his reputation. 

David Iglesias 

David Iglesias was one of nine US attorneys fired on December 7, 2006 by the Bush Justice Department.  Three weeks ago the Department of Justice Inspector General released a 392-page report.  The report’s conclusions, pages 356-358, are damning: 

The process used to remove the nine U. S. Attorneys in 2006 was fundamentally flawed.  While Presidential appointees can be removed for any reason or for no reason, as long as it is not an illegal or improper reason, Department officials publicly justified the removals as the result of an evaluation that sought to replace underperforming U. S. Attorneys.  In fact, we determined that the process implemented largely by Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, was unsystematic and arbitrary, with little oversight.

Although Iglesias and I have a common past – born to Baptist parents, attended Bible colleges, service as military officers and attorneys – my life experience caused me to change my political beliefs whereas he remained a republican and today still calls himself a true republican.  Until his courageous actions in 2006, I would not have identified him as a hero.  But his actions have clearly marked him as a man who put principle, service to country and integrity above his own interests.  If America had more public servants like David Iglesias, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in right now.

Iglesias’ heroic actions 

Iglesias has been on the talk show and interview circuit since his firing and the subsequent release of his book, In Justice: Inside the Scandal That Rocked the Bush Administration, but his case still has not received the level of attention it deserves.  That’s probably because it’s a little complicated for most people to grasp.  It requires an understanding of Constitutional separation of powers, role of political appointees, the nature of a federal prosecutorial role and the issue of voter fraud vs. voter suppression. 

Simply stated, the Bush administration improperly pressured Iglesias to prosecute cases of voter fraud in New Mexico that he’d already found to be non-existent.  When he refused to cave in to the Department of Justice’s harassment, they fired him. 

Now, voter fraud, where it exists, is a serious crime.  The problem is that besides voter fraud, federal prosecutors have over 4000 serious crimes on the books to enforce, including voter suppression.   Their dilemma is determining priorities of those 4000 + crimes.  Attorneys are bound by rules of professionalism and ethics to use their best judgment to pursue the cases that are in the public’s best interest.  That’s what Iglesias did; after a bipartisan investigation, he concluded that insufficient evidence existed to proceed. 

Why was the Bush White house so concerned with voter fraud in New Mexico? 

New Mexico is always a swing state in presidential elections.  Even though it has only five electoral votes, considering the close outcomes of recent elections, every electoral vote is crucial.  Conventional wisdom is that clamping down on so-called voter fraud is a euphemism for keeping democrats from voting. 

An example:  In California a republican state representative had armed guards posted at polling stations.  The unstated purpose was to scare away Mexican-American voters who, while legal citizens, might be too intimidated to demand their right to vote if pressed.  White middle-class Americans glibly claim that anyone here legally has nothing to worry about, but people with names like Lopez, Rodriguez and Gonzales know better.  Any dispute with someone holding a loaded gun is a loss. 

Iglesias understood this and, although it suited his political party, he refused to subvert his professionalism to bow to their partisan demands.   Here is his description of what happened in a recent interview:

How would you characterize the act of enlisting a U.S. attorney in activities that will benefit a political party at the polls?

It’s reprehensible. It’s unethical. It’s unlawful. It very well may be criminal … I know it’s a marked departure from prior administrations, both Republican and Democrat, who understood that U.S. attorneys, as chief federal law enforcement officials, have to stay out of politics. And that’s consistent with what Former Attorney General John Ashcroft told me in the summer of 2001. When he said, “Politics cannot enter into your decision making as a US attorney.”

A republican who puts country first!  He definitely is a hero.  I haven’t read his book yet, but I hope to soon.  Buy it and support this courageous man. 



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