Jamie Gorelick and the Persistence of Memory

 

I awoke on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at about 7 Mountain Time in Arvada, CO. I needed to get to the campus of the Colorado School of Mines for class that morning — a multidisciplinary engineering lab having to do with measuring water flow — and I was running slightly late. Getting into my Blazer and turning on the radio, the local morning hosts on 103.5 The Fox weren’t telling the funny jokes I was so accustomed to hearing. I specifically recall them using the term “Day of American Tragedy” which seemed pretty serious for a Tuesday.

As we all know now, the nation was under attack by the icy, nettled hand of Islamofascism. I recall thinking to myself (as memories from that day tend to be painted in sharp relief) “How could our intelligence agencies and counterterrorism people miss something this big?”

Another September — this time in 2008 — and I’m in Castle Dale, UT for work. There are a couple of coal-fired power plants in the area with exhaust systems we’re upgrading. Days begin early in the field, with us getting to the plant at 6 AM to inspect the facilities we’re modifying, and we’re off the site by noon to document what we’ve seen.

In my hotel room, I turn on the TV to the news channel and see that the stock market has dropped by more than 700 points. Two weeks earlier, Lehman Brothers collapsed. Panic is in the air. It’s Monday, Sept. 29, and it seems that the practice of lending money to too many people who couldn’t afford to repay those funds is finally coming home to roost. The DJIA chart crashes in real time; the graph resembling the descent off a giant red cliff before the bell signals the stoppage of bloodshed and tolls the true beginning of the Obama presidency.

Two separate memories of catastrophe. They were viewed by others no doubt through other circumstances, but nonetheless are etched indelibly into the minds of millions of Americans. How are they connected, you ask?

Generally speaking, one could cite “government incompetence” as the root cause of each. Multiple warnings regarding these realized disasters were issued and ignored by elected officials, political appointees, and career government workers alike up and down the chain of command for years before the events themselves took place. It isn’t merely a general attitude or posture that allowed these things to happen — at the center of that particular web there is a peculiar resonance that centers not merely around ideas but around sets of individuals — and one of those individuals’ names keeps turning up like a bad penny. The name I want to pick out here is Jamie Gorelick.

Gorelick has, at first blush, an impressive résumé. With a magna cum laude from Harvard’s Radcliffe College in ’73 and a J.D. cum laude at Harvard Law two years later, Gorelick was primed for a career in public service from the earliest days of her adult life.

Climbing through the ranks of litigators in the late ’70s, she became an assistant to the Secretary of Energy under Jimmy Carter’s administration before becoming President of the DC Bar Association in ’92, ultimately landing a position in the Clinton Administration as Deputy Attorney General (the #2 position in the Justice Department.) This is where things get interesting.

In her position as DAG, Gorelick authored the now infamous memo recommending the creation of a legal “wall” between investigations conducted by the CIA and FBI which many observers point to as the proximal cause of the government’s failure to detect and prevent the 9/11 hijackings. Of course, the seeds of that destructive act were laid years before, and no doubt Ms. Gorelick’s intentions weren’t to allow nefarious foreigners to sucker-punch the nation. However, a mere seven years after that memorandum planted a hedgerow nearly impervious to critical information, it bore bitter fruit, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Americans — not to mention the additional deaths and cost involved in the subsequent wars of retribution it also begat.

At the same time she was erecting walls in the Justice Department, Gorelick was busy tearing down others. One of the Clinton administration’s goals during that period was the reinvigoration of the Community Reinvestment Act, a Carter-era law designed to “encourage” lenders to make loans to borrowers who were previously considered too risky. The device by which the government could encourage or justify this behavior was to underwrite the loans thus made through the quasi-government owned lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In 1997, Gorelick left her position at Justice and joined… Fannie Mae, where she served alongside fellow Clinton administration member Franklin Raines. In the time between ’97 and ’03, Gorelick earned $26.5 million working at the lending giant, including a three-quarter-million-dollar bonus at one point achieved through fraudulent accounting practices. Fannie Mae itself became embroiled in a $10 billion accounting scandal during that period as well, resulting in many top executives receiving millions of dollars in unearned bonuses.

The number of bad loans which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made during this period skyrocketed under the guidance of Clinton-era policy, which Gorelick, Raines, and company profited from handsomely. This in turn laid the time bomb that ultimately ticked its last in the days before the 2008 election and went off in the form of the financial crisis, scuttling Republican control of the White House, and setting in motion the train which delivered Obamacare and Justices Sotomayor and Kagan to the nation.

Despite what many people think, it seems to me that it’s incredibly rare in history to be able to point to a single person and say that they were an axle around which the rest of humanity briefly turned. Human history is much bigger than that, and people that rise to its forefront tend to be standing on the crest of a wave made up of millions of like-minded individuals. Even the obvious historical examples (like Hitler or Napoleon) were, in my opinion, a result of forces that shaped them long before they became the cause of events that shaped other people.

It’s also no mistake that we regard as villainous the people who’ve gone out of their way to have large individual effects on the world. Acting alone, Lee Harvey Oswald almost brought the world to its knees. Gavrilo Princip set off a conflagration that engulfed the planet and set the stage for two massive wars when he shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

Some people are also incredibly unlucky to have been near or associated with high-profile tragedies. Robert Todd Lincoln (son of the President) was present or near not one, but three presidential assassinations (his father, James Garfield, and William McKinley.)

Gorelick in my opinion falls squarely into the first category. It’s arguable that in certain situations she may have been acting with the best of intentions — her personal enrichment at Fannie Mae belies this idea, methinks — but it’s hard to argue that her influence and that of her associates upon the path of American history has been a good one. While not the eye of the needle through which history passed, she has at least had a hand in sewing the quilt that covers its passage. The general attitude that she possesses and the people that surround her created the circumstances that led to these historical inflection points.

Ivy-League educated, highly intelligent, and career-minded though she may be, Jamie Gorelick is nonetheless a sort of Typhoid Mary of recent American political history. She’s also the consummate insider — a slimy, loathsome denizen of the much denigrated DC Swamp, if you will — and a prime example of the sort of person who got ahead not merely by knowing a great deal, but by knowing the right people. Given the fact that she is at least partially culpable for two of the nation’s most recent and serious crises, you would think that nobody would want to associate with a character who, at the minimum, has been present at or presided over the birth of children that grew into genuine calamities.

Nonetheless, Gorelick continues to get work. At the law firm of WilmerHale, she provides legal counsel to clients and sits on the boards of Amazon and defense contractor UTC, in spite of the seemingly obvious ethical issues that follow in her wake.

Did I fail to mention that until three days ago she had been the legal counsel for some guy named … Jared Kushner? She’s since stepped back and allowed another Washington creature, Abbe Lowell (who has defended a “who’s who” of high-profile malefactors) to take over. One begins to wonder how the project of swamp drainage can be accomplished when the engineers who flooded it in the first place still have their incompetent hands in a death grip on the controls.

Memory will fade as we grow older, but the shadow cast by certain days and certain events grow longer when viewed in the light of the cooling embers of recollection. I will not forget those days in long-ago and disconnected Septembers. I hope that other people won’t forget the promises that were made last September when the time comes to settle accounts.

There are 31 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Majestyk: I recall thinking to myself (as memories from that day tend to be painted in sharp relief) “How could our intelligence agencies and counterterrorism people miss something this big?”

    I remember thinking, “Why is anyone surprised? They tried it before with a truck bomb, and using a jet was right out of one of Tom Clancy’s books. Do we think they don’t read?”

    Majestyk: n my hotel room, I turn on the TV to the news channel and see that the Stock Market has dropped by over 700 points. Two weeks earlier, Lehman Brothers collapsed. Panic is in the air. It’s Monday, the 29th of September, and it seems that the practice of lending money to too many people who couldn’t afford to repay those funds is finally coming home to roost. The DJIA chart crashes in real time; the graph resembling the descent off a giant red cliff before the bell signals the stoppage of bloodshed…

    And there was another one. The Bush Administration had gone to Congress several times to clean up the mess, but were blocked by the likes of Barney Frank. And I thought, “Why is anyone surprised? This has been predicted for years.”

    Great post.

    • #1
  2. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    One begins to wonder how the project of swamp drainage can be accomplished when the engineers who flooded it in the first place still have their incompetent hands in a death-grip on the controls.

    That is a great question-begging statement. Considering at some point in the last flagship podcast, Rob Long mentioned that Trump needs to rely on people who know how to run an administration, one indeed begins to wonder how swamp drainage can be accomplished.

    MJ, this was a really good piece and your reflections of both 9/11 and the financial crisis almost mirror mine to the letter. I was going to school at a community college in Dallas, TX when I got in my little Chevy S-10 and turned on the local rock station and heard them talking about planes flying into buildings. Knowing that such radio is full of gags, I immediately tuned into the AM side of the dial and sure enough, it was real. By the time I got to school, the buildings were collapsing.

    The Financial Crisis was similar to your story. I was at the waiting room of a Naval hospital in Norfolk, VA when on the telly the numbers were coming in. My immediate reaction to that number, 700 points, was “well Obama just won and we are going to become a socialist state.”

    • #2
  3. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    In my book, Gorelick is infamous. And you @majestyk did a heck of a job in laying out the reasons why. As, such, I was not enthralled, to put it mildly, that the Kushner’s had hired her for legal problems they may incur. So I am glad she is not employed by them anymore. Their new lawyer is most definitely of the swamp, one might say. But maybe they figure it takes a snake to know a snake. In any event, I hope they won’t need much assistance from him.

    • #3
  4. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    When I envision members of the ‘Deep State’, people like her, Lois Lerner, that IRS Commissioner Kostkinin, Comey come to mind.

    Fine post, really excellent. Dovetailing Susan Quin’s post there other day, it would be interesting if that publisher that produces those ‘Broadside’ publications: 30-50 page booklets on topics, may want to publish extended version of your post and on other such ‘Public Servants’. She really has been a Typhoid Mary and should be more broadly known as such.

    • #4
  5. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

     

    Majestyk: One begins to wonder how the project of swamp drainage can be accomplished when the engineers who flooded it in the first place still have their incompetent hands in a death-grip on the controls.

    Engineers? It’s lawyers. If it were engineers, they’d be in jail. With lawyers, they thrive.

    I was in Denmark for 9/11 and it took over a week to get back to the US. I was in Brazil for the financial melt down.

    I’m not sure if I should quit going overseas or quit coming back.

     

    • #5
  6. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

     Two separate memories of catastrophe. They were viewed by others no doubt through other circumstances, but nonetheless they are etched indelibly into the minds of millions of Americans. How are they connected, you ask?

    Another way they are connected:  Nobody went to jail.

    • #6
  7. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Majestyk: One begins to wonder how the project of swamp drainage can be accomplished when the engineers who flooded it in the first place still have their incompetent hands in a death-grip on the controls.

    Engineers? It’s lawyers. If it were engineers, they’d be in jail. With lawyers, they thrive.

    I was in Denmark for 9/11 and it took over a week to get back to the US. I was in Brazil for the financial melt down.

    I’m not sure if I should quit going overseas or quit coming back.

    Fair enough.  Perhaps I should have said: “Those who engineered its inundation”? :)

    • #7
  8. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Great post Majestyck! The Typhoid Mary of recent political history indeed. If memory serves, she even served on the 9/11 Commission despite her (unintended) role in facilitating the attack via the Chinese Wall between the FBI and the CIA she set up as the Clinton Administration treated Islamic terrorism as a law enforcement problem.

    • #8
  9. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    @majestyk – Very good article – I was thinking about this history when I heard that she had been hired as Jared’s lawyer.

    @tigerlily – I am glad you brought up her serving on the 9/11 Commission despite the obvious conflict of interest.  That made it clear to me that the Commission report would show only what was convenient.

    • #9
  10. Gumby Mark Thatcher
    Gumby Mark
    @GumbyMark

    tigerlily (View Comment):
    Great post Majestyck! The Typhoid Mary of recent political history indeed. If memory serves, she even served on the 9/11 Commission despite her (unintended) role in facilitating the attack via the Chinese Wall between the FBI and the CIA she set up as the Clinton Administration treated Islamic terrorism as a law enforcement problem.

    She did indeed and it reminds me of the way feckless GOP moderates let her get away with it.  The Democrats successfully objected to the naming of Henry Kissinger on conflict of interest grounds yet the Bush administration failed to object to Gorelick on an even more egregious, because it was real, conflict.

    Even worse was the Bush administration’s mishandling of its own 911 commission nominees and how it enabled the Democratic narrative.  Tom Kean, the quintessential northeast GOP moderate, was named chairman and along with the other GOP nominees was determined to be “nonpartisan”.   Demonstrating more political savvy, the Dems placed Richard Ben-Veniste on the commission, a true political hack, to serve as their attack dog on the Bush administration, and by naming Gorelick they induced those nice, gentlemanly GOP moderates to defend her against conservative GOP attacks and deliberately downplay the role of her memo, all in the name of being nonpartisan.   It was a nonpartisan disgrace.

    • #10
  11. Gumby Mark Thatcher
    Gumby Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Thanks for the reminder and this post.  Gorelick is not alone, it is really astonishing to see how many in DC have failed upwards to such great success, both political and financial.  Their true expertise is in knowing the process and their ability to network but when one steps back to look at the substance there simply is none.

    • #11
  12. mildlyo Member
    mildlyo
    @mildlyo

    Weren’t we calling her the Mistress of Disaster a few years ago?  Yes, 8 years ago. She’s had plenty of time to do more damage since.

    Patron saint of the deep state, one might say.

    • #12
  13. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I’m not sure about “slimy, loathsome,” but this is nonetheless a terrific post.  You should get a free membership for it.

    Gorelick, BTW, paid a price among Washington’s liberal elite for her representation of Kushner.

    • #13
  14. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Gumby Mark (View Comment):
    Thanks for the reminder and this post. Gorelick is not alone, it is really astonishing to see how many in DC have failed upwards to such great success, both political and financial. Their true expertise is in knowing the process and their ability to network but when one steps back to look at the substance there simply is none.

    The boards of Freddie and Fannie are particularly egregious examples of swamp corruption.  It was a payoff to Democrats.  Show up for board meetings, vote the way they tell you, and you’re guaranteed millions per year for as long as you’re there.  And if you look at the list of people they put on those boards, it’s a list of people who’ve been involved in one shady scheme, or monumentally bad decision, after another.

    • #14
  15. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    ……..And people think I’m nuts for wanting high profile public feet first wood chipper executions.

    Nice article Maj and the second to last paragraph is indeed chilling.

    • #15
  16. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I’m not sure about “slimy, loathsome,” but this is nonetheless a terrific post. You should get a free membership for it.

    Gorelick, BTW, paid a price among Washington’s liberal elite for her representation of Kushner.

    You’re very kind.

    • #16
  17. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    I have policies in my office.

    No trial attorneys allowed.

    No politicians allowed.

    No insurance company executives.

    No pharma company executives.

    All of those types have tried to be part of my life and all have been refused.

    • #17
  18. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Majestyk (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I’m not sure about “slimy, loathsome,” but this is nonetheless a terrific post. You should get a free membership for it.

    Gorelick, BTW, paid a price among Washington’s liberal elite for her representation of Kushner.

    You’re very kind.

    Probably not, but the idea of marrying Gorelick’s Zelig-like presence to these events was an excellent one.

    Off track a bit, but the story of James A. Johnson of Fannie Mae is another tale of a consummate, but relatively unknown, Washington insider, if you haven’t read it

     

    • #18
  19. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I have policies in my office.

    No trial attorneys allowed.

    No politicians allowed.

    No insurance company executives.

    No pharma company executives.

    All of those types have tried to be part of my life and all have been refused.

    Based on my own personal observations of the breed, I’m going to guess that drug company sales reps are not barred.

     

    • #19
  20. Rightfromthestart Coolidge
    Rightfromthestart
    @Rightfromthestart

    It’s like there’s only a few hundred people washing each other’s hands and scratching each other’s backs , they’re always hanging around government or semi-government organizations and they never go away, $26 million would have meant instant retirement for most sane people, how much do they want ? ‘Death grip’ indeed.

    Also remember all Republicans must be hounded to condemn the likes of Todd Akin. Gorelick? Not so much.

    • #20
  21. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    I’m not sure about “slimy, loathsome,” but this is nonetheless a terrific post. You should get a free membership for it.

    Gorelick, BTW, paid a price among Washington’s liberal elite for her representation of Kushner.

    I’m devastated.

    • #21
  22. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I have policies in my office.

    No trial attorneys allowed.

    No politicians allowed.

    No insurance company executives.

    No pharma company executives.

    All of those types have tried to be part of my life and all have been refused.

    Do you mean like a tort lawyer or any lawyer who has argued a case before a judge? I gotta know where I stand Doc. ?

    • #22
  23. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Great post. And Gorelick is appropriately cast as the “face” of this democrat corruption on these two crises. But she had a great deal of help … cue the walk through history, from Congressional hearings in 2004(!)

    Waters, Meeks, Davis, Barney Frank … all prominently responsible for stopping effective reform of Fannie/Freddie in its tracks. And the feckless GOP ran for the hills. Again.

    • #23
  24. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    WI Con (View Comment):
    When I envision members of the ‘Deep State’, people like her, Lois Lerner, that IRS Commissioner Kostkinin, Comey come to mind.

    Fine post, really excellent. Dovetailing Susan Quin’s post there other day, it would be interesting if that publisher that produces those ‘Broadside’ publications: 30-50 page booklets on topics, may want to publish extended version of your post and on other such ‘Public Servants’. She really has been a Typhoid Mary and should be more broadly known as such.

    Public shame (and the capacity to be ashamed) is an institution which has unfortunately withered up.

    It used to be when people were involved in a project which ended in the sort of tears that the projects which have Gorelick’s fingerprints did, they would leave public life.  Clinton’s Administration was both a symptom of the death of shame and a partial cause.

    • #24
  25. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Robert McReynolds (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    I have policies in my office.

    No trial attorneys allowed.

    No politicians allowed.

    No insurance company executives.

    No pharma company executives.

    All of those types have tried to be part of my life and all have been refused.

    Do you mean like a tort lawyer or any lawyer who has argued a case before a judge? I gotta know where I stand Doc. ?

    Tort baby.  You stand proud son, I’ve read 1000 things you’ve written and I’d consider it an honor to check your prostate.

    • #25
  26. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Majestyk (View Comment):

    WI Con (View Comment):
    When I envision members of the ‘Deep State’, people like her, Lois Lerner, that IRS Commissioner Kostkinin, Comey come to mind.

    Fine post, really excellent. Dovetailing Susan Quin’s post there other day, it would be interesting if that publisher that produces those ‘Broadside’ publications: 30-50 page booklets on topics, may want to publish extended version of your post and on other such ‘Public Servants’. She really has been a Typhoid Mary and should be more broadly known as such.

    Public shame (and the capacity to be ashamed) is an institution which has unfortunately withered up.

    It used to be when people were involved in a project which ended in the sort of tears that the projects which have Gorelick’s fingerprints did, they would leave public life. Clinton’s Administration was both a symptom of the death of shame and a partial cause.

    I wonder if people like her have friends.

    • #26
  27. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Well done @majestyk

    • #27
  28. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    Great post, Majestyk!

    Now, if only we could get memes going for various swamp people, such as “Typhoid-Mary Jamie Gorelick,” like Trump did with “Crooked Hillary” and “Little Marco.”

    • #28
  29. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot
    @Pugshot

    @robertmcreynolds:

    Do you mean like a tort lawyer or any lawyer who has argued a case before a judge? I gotta know where I stand Doc. ?

    @docjay

    Tort baby. You stand proud son, I’ve read 1000 things you’ve written and I’d consider it an honor to check your prostate.

    So, @robertmcreynolds, in @docjay‘s office, you’d apparently stand bent-over, grabbing your ankles. Not a pretty picture!  Speaking for other lawyers on this site, we’ll just admire @docjay from a safe distance.

    • #29
  30. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Pugshot (View Comment):

    @robertmcreynolds:

    Do you mean like a tort lawyer or any lawyer who has argued a case before a judge? I gotta know where I stand Doc. ?

    @docjay

    Tort baby. You stand proud son, I’ve read 1000 things you’ve written and I’d consider it an honor to check your prostate.

    So, @robertmcreynolds, in @docjay‘s office, you’d apparently stand bent-over, grabbing your ankles. Not a pretty picture! Speaking for other lawyers on this site, we’ll just admire @docjay from a safe distance.

    Well to Doc’s credit I am approaching 40.

    • #30

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