Rule of Law

The Justice Department's Tracy Schmaler and 3 Characteristics of Political Thugs

In the days following the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, a bizarre press conference took place in Berlin.  Hermann Goering stood before the foreign press corps and explained why Hitler’s regime had the obligation to murder hundreds of Germans in the dead of night without due process.  The farce is described in Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts.

At the time, Germany still had one foot barely in in the democratic past and the other foot dragging the Reich toward indescribable madness.  One wonders what the unrecorded thoughts were of the assembled journalists.  Some might have considered this an aberration, a frightening yet short fit of madness by a man trying to reverse Germany’s malaise.  Such apologists were particularly common in Roosevelt’s State Department.  Others reporters surely had enough human decency to recognize the warning signs of a democratic and enlightened people experiencing a rapid moral collapse.

Goering, however, as was his way, had no shame in standing before representatives of the foreign free press and justifying murder.  It should have been obvious to everyone listening to him that the Nazis were a demonic sort, capable of anything, and afterwards equally capable of justifying their twisted behavior.

Today’s revelation by Matt Boyle that the Justice Department is coordinating attacks on private citizens (including me) and coordinating with Media Matters on a wider scale than I first reported some months ago here at PJ Media provokes the question — why?

I raise this German history not to compare the events of that era to events today in America, but rather to note peculiar characteristics common to political thuggery, regardless of the degree or nationality of the thuggery.

To be perfectly clear, Eric Holder is no Hermann Goering, so the flying monkeys at Media Matters can abandon that meme. Others, at Investor’s Business Daily, for example, are willing to make comparisons I do not:

After the acts, the DOJ then praised them: “Great piece,” gushed Schmaler after Media Matters attacked DOJ whistle-blowers J. Christian Adams and Christopher Coates. . . .

Incredibly, this isn’t happening in some totalitarian dictatorship or banana republic, but here in the U.S.

Now we see something else — Media Matters acting as an ideological goon squad of the Justice Department to enforce the kind of press Obama wants.

This thuggish meddling crosses the line into dictatorship, and calls for a congressional investigation.

Some time has passed since Matt Boyle broke the story today about the close coordination between Tracy Schmaler, head of the Office of Public Affairs (OPA), and Media Matters. Megyn Kelly’s Fox report notes that Schmaler writes “great piece” after attacking former Justice Department Voting Section Chief Christopher Coates.  Coates is one of the most decent and courteous lawyers I have ever met.  An attack on him by the head of OPA while he was still employed at DOJ is a disgrace.

Schmaler’s high-salaried thuggery has three characteristics common to political thugs.

First, like Schmaler, political thugs don’t think they are doing anything wrong.  Thugs are convinced of their cause.  They can’t imagine anyone questioning them.  The moral among us call her behavior “the ends justifying the means.”  Schmaler, and most likely her overlords like Eric Holder and James Cole, apparently don’t see anything wrong with her behavior, else they would no longer pay her enormous salary ($161,289).

Tracy Schmaler

Second, political thugs have an unintentionally comic element.  Schmaler’s clumsy and intimate relationship with Matt Gertz at Media Matters, while she hasn’t returned calls from Matt Boyle at the Daily Caller or Quin Hillyer at the American Spectator for years, is laughable.  Schmaler’s quick temper and screams are notorious among reporters, provoking bewildered chuckles.  She has yelled at Pete Williams of NBC, Sharyl Attkisson of CBS, Boyle, Hillyer, and many many more.

In most jobs, if you screamed at your customers (or, for that matter, anyone), you wouldn’t have a job for long — unless of course your boss approves of such behavior.  The German verb “schmalern” means to reduce, narrow or belittle.  Tracy Schmaler has reduced and belittled the long dignified history of the Department of Justice where she works.

Third, while political thugs often have an unintentional comic streak, their behavior is deadly serious and destructive.  Consider that Schmaler has taken the lead in defending the murderous Fast and Furious program at DOJ.  She literally found herself in the disgraceful role of spinning away culpability for a government policy that killed people.

How convenient for a hip, young resident of the Beltway living in comfort.  While real people were dying real deaths, she enjoyed a fat salary for hiding the government behavior that caused it. She lied to the media about Fast and Furious and screamed at those she didn’t lie to.

Most of us wonder how someone like that sleeps at night.  But history is full of people, both petty and dangerous, who can sleep at night no matter what they do during the day.