Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ritual Murder

In keeping with our view that Hiram Monseratte was a sacrificial lamb when the state senate expelled him the other day, Jim Dwyer observes: "On Tuesday night, the Senate decided he deserved a distinction rare in the history of a body that has had its share of scoundrels: expulsion from the Senate without benefit of a felony conviction...“There was one, sole conviction on reckless assault misdemeanor, which is under appeal,” Mr. Monserrate said. “This is not about the underlying incident.” What, then, was shaping the debate about throwing him out? He spoke in a low voice: “There’s a lot of politics driving this.”

To which Dwyer-referencing last year's coup-avers: "The point was inarguable. Mr. Monserrate had committed multiple political felonies, and Tuesday was as much the day of reckoning for them as it was for the crime he was convicted of."

As we have pointed out, the issue wasn't really about the underlying charge of domestic violence: "The senators could talk all day about their deep concern for domestic violence, but it’s hard to know if their high-minded gas would have solidified into a vote for expulsion for a senator who had not been so nakedly treacherous as Mr. Monserrate. It is one thing to cut a woman’s face with a broken glass, drag her through a hallway and then drive her, bleeding profusely, past several hospitals to an emergency room far enough away from home where no one would be likely to recognize him. It is quite another thing for a politician to be bought and paid for, and then not to stay bought."

In his effort to convince his colleagues that his actions weren't grounds for expulsion, Monseratte took to the floor and talked about due process-at one point indicating that some of his colleagues were more passionate in defense of the due process rights of accused Al Qaeda, than they were for one Hiram Monseratte. All to no avail.

The bloodletting could simply not be stopped-because it had a profound ritual purpose that trumped the self interest of senators who, because of the compulsion to exorcise the Monseratte demon, may soon find themselves out of power. The irony, though, is that the effort may in fact be overturned, and if it is-with an accompanying judicial rebuke-the legislators who left their civil liberties credentials at the senate door may end up being embarrassed, and in the uncomfortable position of having empowered their colleague in ways that they couldn't have previously imagined.