Dave Zirin places the prosecution of Barry Bonds squarely within the policies of the Bush Administration justice department:
The Justice Department wins 95 percent of the cases it brings to trial, and make no mistake: this case was about to become part of the other 5 percent. The only thing the Justice Department had in its favor is what it always has, unlimited time and funds, so it’s rolling the dice in hopes that a three-judge panel rules against Illston. It wants the wiretaps, the illegal search and seizures and the acts of intimidation against Anderson’s family all to stand legally. This is frightening, but prosecutors will likely find themselves very disappointed. The page appears to be turning on the entire Bush era of outlaw justice, and Barry Bonds will likely benefit. The case started when Attorney General John Ashcroft, the great champion of the Patriot Act, held a press conference in 2004 to announce that the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative was officially underway. Having the Attorney General convene a grand jury to look into steroid use was extreme overkill, but as commentators remarked at the time, it was a shot across the bow at Bonds.
Most sports fans were very comfortable with seeing the despoiler of the national pastime get crushed. Bonds has had notoriously difficult relationships with the press, fans, teammates and management throughout his career. He is also black, which makes him an easier target. But the desire to see Bonds punished came at a terrible collective cost. The Bonds case has always been about more than the sports media have chosen to dwell on. It’s not about the scourge of anabolic steroids, or a surly, arrogant athlete getting his comeuppance. It isn’t even about perjury. It’s about how the Justice Department under Bush became untethered from the Bill of Rights. This week, Obama Attorney General Eric Holder has released a series of post-9/11 memos that chill the spine.
I don’t buy Zirin’s frequently-repeated charge that the Bonds prosecution is a racial thing. That’s mostly because I haven’t seen a shred of evidence — or a shred of convincing argument from Zirin or anyone else — that race is, in fact, a factor as opposed to Bonds’ sheer stature and his general unlikeability, neither of which are traits on which any one race has a monopoly.
The larger point, however — that the Justice Department has been up to some scary things over the past eight years — is a good one. No, I don’t consider Barry Bonds’ prosecution to represent anything approaching its worst excesses, but I likewise don’t believe such a prosecution would have spun out of a Justice Department whose priorities were straight to begin with.
(thanks to Pete Toms)