Politics & Policy

Democratic Vendetta

Xavier Becerra at the Democratic National Convention, July 2016 (Reuters photo: Mike Segar)
California attorney general Xavier Becerra’s prosecution of David Daleiden is a political vendetta.

We are witnesses to an abuse of power by government that represents a test of our democracy. Anyone who fails to rally to the cause of the Americans victimized in this case should be discredited.

Though I have not been shy about criticizing President Trump when I think he deserves it, he is not involved.

I refer to the Kafkaesque malfeasance by Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California. Becerra, for many years a Democratic congressman, is using his office to hound two citizen journalists. They came into his sights because their videos exposed the sickening reality behind the euphemistic surface of Planned Parenthood. Becerra and other abortion rights absolutists found this embarrassing. Why do I call it Kafkaesque? Because David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who went undercover to reveal the law-breaking of Planned Parenthood, now find themselves, not Planned Parenthood, accused of 15 felony counts by the State of California.

Their crimes? Recording people without their consent. The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, to its credit, has called this a “disturbing overreach.” And Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, while condemning Daleiden’s politics, has defended his rights, saying, “This was a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it.”

Xavier Becerra is no stickler about secret recordings. In 2012, he relished the release of Mitt Romney’s surreptitiously recorded comments to donors in which he mentioned the “47 percent.” Romney had joked that if he were Hispanic, he’d win the election. Xavier Becerra didn’t seem concerned about Romney’s privacy rights when he rushed to the microphones to denounce the Republican: “The insult of all insults, Mitt Romney says if he was Latino he would win the presidential election, as if being Latino would have given him any advantage to win the White House.”

Could there have been a political motive? Consider that the prosecution began under Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris (now California’s junior senator), whose website urged Californians to “support Planned Parenthood” (recusal anyone?) and who was not above sending police to raid not just Daleiden’s office, but his home, in search of video footage.

Let’s review. When the Daleiden videos were first released in 2015, they were so damning that Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards felt the need to release a video apologizing for the “tone and statements” of a Planned Parenthood executive. That was Dr. Deborah Nucatola, who said this about the techniques she uses to preserve body parts for donation (and sale): “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Daleiden’s group recorded dozens of hours of video at several abortion clinics. It’s a disgrace that no prosecutor followed up with charges against Planned Parenthood based on the evidence Daleiden obtained. The explicit haggling over the price of body parts should have been enough to at least get started.

And it is a scandal that most of what Daleiden documented is legal. I personally will never forget the images of those tiny baby parts being picked over with a tweezer on a light table. How atrophied does your human sympathy have to become to push human remains (excuse me, “tissue”) about as if they were frog cadavers? And the callous insouciance of the Planned Parenthood doctors and other employees who spoke of getting “intact calvariums” (heads) and other specimens was enough to nauseate a neutral observer.

That’s why Planned Parenthood has circulated the false story that the videos were “deceptively edited.” Alexandra DeSanctis debunked that fiction. Planned Parenthood has resorted to lies about its grisly trade for many years. Recall that in 1995, Ron Fitzsimmons acknowledged that the entire abortion industry, of which he was a part, had “lied through [our] teeth” about partial-birth abortion.

The lying is a civic hygiene problem. But what is happening to David Daleiden goes beyond that. This is a political vendetta and thus a malicious prosecution. Yes, California law forbids recording a person without his consent. But there are exceptions, as the LA Times editorial noted, in cases of public interest. Thus, ABC News, among others, has done covert investigations of various entities without risking retaliation from the attorney general. Animal-rights activists who’ve gone undercover to reveal the mistreatment of chickens have not been prosecuted. But then, baby chicks are defenseless.

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