As a retired journalist I was appalled this evening when I turned on the news to see video of a dozen FBI agents in full military garb, carrying automatic weapons, rushing into a Florida home to arrest a political operative charged in the Russian collusion investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Why appalled? Because this is the United States of America, not a third world country or an autocratic dictatorship where such behavior is common place. Whatever our political persuasion, no American should tolerate such a scene.
The subject of this pre-dawn arrest was a 69-year old man with a long record of being a sleazy political operative but not of any past criminal behavior according to news reports on CNN and Fox News. He is charged with lying to investigators, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. None of the charges involves any act of violence. However egregious, all are white collar crimes. And yet he was apparently considered such a threat to society that he appeared in court with his ankles and wrists shackled. The federal judge did not seem to share the special counsel's fear of the man because she allowed him to be set free on a $250,000 surety bond, a type of bond where the accused does not have to put up any cash, but could be sued if they renege on paying off the bond plus interest.
If he is found guilty of the charges, I fully agree he should face appropriate prison time. No one is above the law.
If being a sleazy politician is criminal then I was a witness to such criminality as a reporter for an Evansville television station. Covering a polling place in that city's inner city in the 1970's, I filmed Democrat poll workers handing out five-dollar bills and pints of liquor to African-Americans in return for their vote. No arrests followed the airing of that bit of political chicanery. It must have worked, because the democrat mayor, the late Frank McDonald, remained in power until he chose to retire from city hall. Next I saw a campaign manager for McDonald's successor, the late Russell Lloyd, ordering workers in the county clerk's office in Evansville to sell tickets to the annual Republican Lincoln Day Dinner on county time, something assuredly against the law in Vanderburgh County.
Both men served successful terms as Evansville mayor through the 1960-70's. No one was arrested or charged with a crime. In fact, the son's of both men followed in their father's footsteps and were elected Evansville mayor for multiple terms.
I was born just twenty years after women procured the vote. I followed with horror the blood letting era that won civil rights and equal rights for both people of color and women in our country. Ours is a democracy that has withstood many challenges and changes in our relatively short life as a nation. But viewing the arrest of a political sleazeball in a manner befitting the most violent criminal is terrifying. The FBI was only following orders. It is the people with unbridled investigative and political power that I hold accountable. They are the ones we should fear most.