Bush Lawyer Resigns

Ben Ginsberg, the lawyer for the RNC and Bush campaign, has tendered his resignation as outside counsel to President Bush as a result of yesterday's disclosures that he provided legal advice to the Swift Boat vets regarding their anti-Kerry ad. [link via Mrs. Atrios, who's doing a great job subbing for her husband today.]

I cannot begin to express my sadness that my legal representations have become a distraction from the critical issues at hand in this election," Mr. Ginsberg told the president in a letter distributed today by the Bush-Cheney campaign. "I feel I cannot let that continue, so I have decided to resign as national counsel to your campaign to ensure that the giving of legal advice to decorated military veterans, which was entirely within the boundaries of the law, doesn't distract from the real issues upon which you and the country should be focusing."

Ben Ginsberg and I used to spar sometimes on the old CNBC Rivera Live show about the Clinton impeachment and Ken Starr investigation. I considered him very smart, although predictably partisan on the issues. To his credit, unlike some (most) of the other right-wing pundits, his arguments were grounded in law rather than emotion. I doubt this will be a setback to his career. But, have his actions hurt Bush?

Ginsberg says there is no connection between the Bush campaign and the Swift Boat vets--both were just clients seeking his expertise on campaign finance laws, and it's not unusual for a lawyer to advise more than one group.

The group "came to me and said, 'We have a point of view we want to get into the First Amendment debate right now. There's a new law. It's very complicated. We want to comply with the law, will you keep us in the bounds of the law?'" Ginsberg said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I said yes, absolutely, as I would do for anyone."

That's a hard sell for me. Imagine for a moment that the outside group seeking Ginsberg's legal advice on campaign finance laws was one that intended to publish an anti-Bush or pro-Kerry ad. Do you think he would have agreed to advise that group? I don't. Also, Ginsberg hasn't decided whether to charge the Swifties for his advice--in other words, he may have been working for free, or "pro bono" as it's called in the trade.

The manager of the Kerry-Edwards campaign had this to say about Ginsberg's role:

Now we know why George Bush refuses to specifically condemn these false ads," she said. "People deeply involved in his own campaign are behind them, from paying for them, to appearing in them, to providing legal advice, to coordinating a negative strategy to divert the public away from issues like jobs, health care and the mess in Iraq, the real concerns of the American people."

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