Patterico's Pontifications


The Biskupic Claim: A Matter of Faith

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:08 am

Tom Maguire — who has been peddling the wonderful cliche-avoidance line “they have bupkis on Buskupic” — responds to my time travel post on Biskupic with this comment:

I love the time travel angle, but – Biskupic may have been feeling heat during 2006 even if he was not officially on a [s]hit list.

Orin Kerr makes a similar comment:

I see Marshall arguing that the baseless prosecution shows that the U.S. Attorney was under political pressure to indict Democrats in 2005, but I’m having trouble finding the claim that the prosecution was brought to get off the list after having been put on it in late 2006.

Kerr adds:

I believe “the TPM crowd”’s claim is that the Thompson prosecution shows how much Bi[s]kupic felt pressured to bring bogus cases back in 2005. In contrast, your post here seems to assume the TPM crowd’s claim is that all of a sudden, in late 2006, Biskupic decided to prosecute Democrats to get off the list. I think eveyone can see that if the TPM crowd is making that latter claim, it makes no sense. But I can’t seem to find anyone making that claim.

My point, however, was not whether Biskupic was “feeling heat,” as Maguire puts it — but whether the Bush Administration was wielding a flame-thrower. Even if, as Maguire and Kerr suggest, Biskupic felt pressure to bring the Thompson case in late 2005 and early 2006, that is relevant only if it can be established that he did so in response to pressure from the Bush Administration. In other words, the Democrat case is premised on the assumption that the Thompson prosecution was significant to the Bush Administration.

But the timing is inconsistent with that contention. The Administration put Biskupic on a firing list after the Thompson prosecution was concluded. Doesn’t that suggest the opposite of what the TPM crowd has been implying?

Now, I’m not saying that lefties are making this claim with the timing in mind. What I’m saying is that they have made this claim without thinking through the issue of the timing.

It’s clear that several lefties in recent days have implied that Biskupic kept himself off the firing list with the Thompson prosecution. They have unquestionably implied the existence of a connection. Let’s look at some examples.

First, we have the editors of the New York Times:

[The Thompson case] just might shed some light on a question that lurks behind the firing of eight top federal prosecutors: what did the surviving attorneys do to escape the axe?

Similarly, Josh Marshall, speaking in the video linked at this post:

Now, the evidence is admittedly circumstantial, but we think there’s a very strong case to be made that Steven Biskupic must be one of those other three names that temporarily ended up on the firing list at the end of 2006. Now, David Iglesias got fired. Steven Biskupic didn’t. What happened? Why did his name get added, if it did, and then pulled off the firings list?

Did it have something to do with his very aggressive prosecution of a Democratic Administration in Wisconsin — a prosecution it turns out, in retrospect, to be baseless? That’s the question we are asking.

Adam Cohen of the New York Times:

The conviction of Georgia Thompson has become part of the furor over the firing of eight United States attorneys in what seems like a political purge. While the main focus of that scandal is on why the attorneys were fired, the Thompson case raises questions about why other prosecutors kept their jobs.

And TPMmuckraker’s Paul Kiel, after reporting on the Seventh Circuit’s quick reversal of the Thompson conviction:

Dozens of readers have written in, asking if this [Biskupic] is what a “loyal Bushie” looks like. It’s hard to see it otherwise.

The question at least implicitly posed in all of these passages is clear: how did Biskupic get off the list, once he was added? What did he do to save himself from being fired? And the clear implication of all of these people is simple: Biskupic kept himself from being fired with the bogus prosecution of Georgia Thompson. AHA!

The underlying assumption here is that this prosecution was significant to the Administration.

Yet, as I showed yesterday, Josh Marshall has argued that Biskupic was put on the firing list after the Thompson prosecution was finished.

Why was he removed? I don’t know, but it sure doesn’t seem like it was because of the Thompson prosecution. Because that was over and done with before Biskupic was even added. If there was an event occurring after the addition of Biskupic to the list, which caused him to be taken off, that event could not have been the prosecution of Thompson. That had long since happened.

At least two commenters (here and here) as well as one e-mail correspondent who will go unnamed, have made a slightly refined version of the argument: that the “event” that resulted in Biskupic’s being taken off the list was the intervention of a high-ranking Justice Department official who remembered that Biskupic had done good work prosecuting innocent Ms. Georgia Thompson. Maybe one faction put Biskupic on the list, perhaps due to his poor performance on voter fraud, while a second faction kept him on, perhaps due to his good work railroading poor Georgia Thompson.

My response to that is simple: sure, it’s possible. But it’s rank speculation. It’s a maybe built upon a perhaps built upon a possibility. Where is the evidence to support it?

The only reason — the only reason — that Biskupic got in the news was because the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Thompson prosecution was crap. Based on that fact alone, the TPM/Josh Marshall crowd leapt up and said: AHA! Biskupic is an example of a loyal Bushie! Look at all of the quotes at the beginning of this post. Each one boils down to this: the prosecution of Thompson is meaningful because it shows what a U.S. Attorney has to do in order to keep his job!

Yet when Biskupic did it, he thereafter got put on the list!

What sense does that make?

First, if the Georgia Thompson prosecution was that important to the Bush Administration, wouldn’t the person who put him on the list have been aware of it??

Second, according to the conspiracy theories, Biskupic was initially on the hook because he didn’t toe the line on voter fraud. So if he decided to bring a bogus prosecution to make the bosses happy, why not do so in the area of . . . [drum roll] voter fraud?

(And how did he manage to get so many local Democrats to go along with the bogus prosecution — and how did he get a jury of 12 people to convict unanimously, based on the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt?)

It doesn’t make sense. Sure, my timing argument doesn’t utterly destroy the Democrat theory. It just seems inconsistent with it. If you’re totally wedded to it, you can still cling to it desperately — as long as you engage in a heavy dose of speculation, with a string of about 6 maybes in a row. Just believe hard enough, and don’t worry about the lack of evidence, and you can still keep the theory from falling apart.

Let’s return to my analogy yesterday about a boss who is suspected of firing people who don’t do favors for him. Now let’s imagine a hypothetical debate between me and Josh Marshall on the issue:

Marshall: The boss fired eight people who didn’t do him any favors. Now, Stevie was once on the firing list. But he later came off. And, hmmmmm, turns out that Stevie gave the boss Lakers tickets. Did his coming off the list have something to do with his giving the boss Lakers tickets? That’s the question I’m asking.

Patterico: You’re implying that Stevie came off the firing list because he gave the boss Lakers tickets. But what about the fact that the boss first targeted Stevie to be fired after Stevie gave the boss the Lakers tickets. Doesn’t that belie your contention?

Marshall: Irrelevant! It still could have influenced the boss!

Patterico: But your entire basis for arguing that Stevie is a relevant example is the fact that he gave the boss Lakers tickets! Yet the boss targeted him afterwards. Doesn’t that suggest the complete opposite of what you’re saying?

Marshall: My theory could still be right.

And I suppose it could — but there’s no evidence to show it. The only evidence cited seems more likely to cut against the argument.

This strikes me as the same approach used by creationists when they debate evolutionists. Just ignore the facts you don’t like, make up some other speculative facts to fill in the gaps — and believe!

Faith will conquer all doubts. You don’t need evidence.

One Response to “The Biskupic Claim: A Matter of Faith”

  1. Reading all this(not too) carefully I conclude a five pound hammer is (once again) being used to drive a one penny nail.

    Kent schmidt (d382e5)

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