Philadelphia Metropolis


The Fredo Defense

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Let us Consider the case of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Pressed by protesters to step down immediately,  Murbarak went on television this week to say that he wanted to stay on until the fall so he could help oversee his country's transition to democracy.

Alberto Gonzales.jpgSince Mubarak is the man who has stifled democracy in Egypt for the last 30 years, the protesters in Tahrir Square were understandably skeptical that is the right guy for the job. They still want to throw the bum out.

But, it's proof -- as if we needed more -- that embattled politicians say the darnedest things.

Mubarak  engaged in what I call the Fredo Defense, in honor of former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. "Fredo" was the nickname President George Bush gave him. (Bush had a penchant for giving people nicknames. Why he chose the name of the weakling, dim-bulb brother from The Godfather is another matter for another day.)

In 2007, Gonzales was under siege. The Senate Judiciary Committee was holding hearings into a number of Bush administration misdeeds, including domestic spying, the political firing of U.S. Attorneys, and the evisceration of the department's civil rights section.

While the committee was polishing up language on a bill to oust him, Fredo went before the senators and made an impassioned plea. He wanted to keep his job, he said, because he was deeply committed to undoing the misdeeds the committee had uncovered  and he personally wanted to oversee the much needed reform of his department.

It would be wrong to say that the senators were dumbfounded by the Gonzales testimony because they are never at a loss for words. But, a few of them did have "Say What?" looks on their faces.

Having failed to convince the senators that he was the guy for the job of cleaning up the Justice Department, Gonzales resigned a few days later.

There's a certain interior logic to the Fredo Defense. If you are looking for where the bodies are buried, why not turn to the man who buried them?

Alas, the idea doesn't stand up to close inspection because it's crazy.

Closer to home, take Sheriff John Greene, please.

With the Sheriff's Department blasted from pillar to post by City Controller Alan Butkowitz, Greene tried to stare down calls for his ouster by employing the Fredo Defense.  He suggested he stay in the job at least until the audit was completed so he could begin to oversee the reforms demanded. 

Having failed to rally support for that idea, Greene retired to take his DROP check. His successor? Barbara Deeley, who was Greene's aide de camp for many years.

Deeley knows a lot about the operations of the department, but I wouldn't count as a plus on her resume given how screwed up the office is. At least she can argue that she didn't bury any of the bodies.

She just held the shovel.


-- Tom Ferrick 



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