"For Hate's Sake I Spit My Last Breath at Thee"
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Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 02:06:37 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingAs his term of office expires, Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's years-long vendetta against Wichita physician George Tiller has culminated in his appointment of a special prosecutor -- Don "the Dingo" McKinney -- whose sole qualification seems to consist in his own antiabortion activism. John Hanna of the Associated Press compares Kline's pursuit of Dr. Tiller to an archetypal tale of vengeance: Captain Ahab's pursuit of Moby Dick.

Has Tiller become Kline's great white whale?

Kline is likely to end his tenure as attorney general with little to show for a 3 1/2-year pursuit of Tiller. His career in politics has been damaged by the perception, which Morrison helped foster in unseating Kline, that Kline focused much of his professional energy trying to bring down a nationally known abortion provider.
"It really is his Ahab-like obsession with Dr. Tiller and his idea that obsession will somehow advance his political career," said Dan Monnat, a Wichita attorney representing Tiller.

After his charges against Dr. Tiller were thrown out of court last week, Kline angrily vowed to continue until "justice is served." In his haste to set a special prosecutor in place for the sole purpose of pursuing action against the doctor, Kline is even disregarding the standard legality of confirming his appointment of McKinney in writing.

Don McKinney, Operation Rescue operative and close associate of at least one veteran of the terroristic Army of God, has been authorized by Phill Kline to act as special prosecutor for the State of Kansas without any legal contract giving him the right to that position, let alone specifying the limits of his powers.

Former Kansas Attorneys General Carla Stovall Steckline and Bob Stephan both say that the limited set of special circumstances that require, or justify, the hiring of a special prosecutor are not present in this case. And that even when hiring a special prosecutor is indicated, the Attorney General has responsibilities that go beyond simply making an announcement of that appointment.

Stephan said that an attorney general can appoint anyone as a special prosecutor, but the selection has little import until responsibilities are detailed.

"In my opinion, it would not be effective until a contract has been entered into, spelling out the responsibilities and the hourly rate."

Steckline said that even if a contract isn't in place with a special prosecutor, an attorney general should try to find out some general information about issues such as finances when making such an appointment.

"It would not be a good business practice, obviously, to not have that nailed down ahead of time," she said.

Don McKinney dismisses such concerns, along with the objections to his irregular appointment by Governor Kathleen Sebelius: "I don't have time for political posturing. I have work to do."

With only days left for Kline to make his career-destroying fixation on Dr. Tiller count for something, McKinney -- whose primary credentials for the job seem to consist only of his own hardline antiabortion activism -- already has filed an eleventh hour motion to reinstate charges that have been thrown out of court.

Even without any legal contract with the state, McKinney is already asking Judge Paul Clark to rule that his own just-issued ruling was wrong. Sedgwick County District Attorney Nina Foulston explained to the Wichita Eagle, "At this time, there is no case in which to file a motion of that nature as it has been dismissed." But for those minds steeped in single-issue fanaticism, reality has nothing more than nuisance value.

One of Don McKinney's personal and political allies is Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, another veteran antiabortion activist who herself has served prison time for conspiring to bomb a clinic. Operation Rescue's view of the now legally nonexistent charges against Dr. Tiller might seem to border on the delusional, but it echoes that of the Attorney General of Kansas.

While Attorney General Phill Kline continues to work to reinstate 30 criminal charges against abortionist George R. Tiller for illegal late-term abortions, the media has ignored and even misrepresented the seriousness and validity of the charges, and has instead turned the focus of the case to partisan political personality conflicts.

"If anyone has politicized this case, it is the Kansas media and Attorney General-elect Paul Morrison," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "They are political enemies of Kline's and cannot seem to put aside politics and look at the justice issues involved here."
"Morrison has already made the decision to fire Mr. McKinney even though he has never spoken to him nor has he even bothered to read the complaint," said Newman. "This is the least professional behavior an Attorney General could engage in ..."
"Why is it that Morrison can be a supporter of radical abortion rights, yet is not questioned about his ability to do his job in prosecuting an abortionist? The question is only raised if one is pro-life. That double standard is completely unfair. People can hold personal convictions and still act professionally. Apparently that is a concept that Morrison is unfamiliar with in thought and action."

This is less than delusional only if Morrison's support of the law, as laid out in the Roe v. Wade ruling, is "radical." If Sedgwick County District Attorney Nina Foulston is "not behaving as a professional" by refusing to relinquish the duties of her office in the service of Kline's crusade. And if in merely upholding their legal responsibilities, Morrison's and Foulston's actions are somehow less professional than the behavior of Phill Kline, the man whose zeal to prosecute the routine provision of abortion care led him to declare adolescent puppy love a sex crime in Kansas. Or if professional behavior is exemplified by that of, according to Kline, the "well respected attorney" Don McKinney, pictured below (left) displaying his "professionalism" while participating in an Operation Rescue action outside Dr. Tiller's clinic.

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Newman continues, "The average man on the street sees this behavior and can sense that there is some serious monkey-business going on here to circumvent the normal judicial process."

There's certainly some serious monkey business going on somewhere.

The normal judicial process has been followed, and has proceeded exactly as the law specifies, but that isn't enough, simply because it hasn't delivered the result that Phill Kline and Operation Rescue wanted, and still demand.  As John Hanna writes, such is the nature of obsession.

Consider some of Ahab's words just before he spears the behemoth he has been hunting obsessively, only to have the line from his harpoon gun wrap around his neck so that he's pulled under by the whale, along with his ship and all but one of its crew.

Ahab says: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."

It has a familiar ring in Kansas these days.

The actions of Phill Kline evoke William Faulkner's description of Ahab as a man "bent on his own destruction and dragging his immediate world down with him with a despotic and utter disregard of [its people] as individuals."

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But in Ahab's madness, his "boat seemed drawn up towards heaven."

[Don McKinney photo: Maggot Punks
Moby Dick images: The art of George Klauba]

from a columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune

Raised Roman Catholic, I have always opposed abortion.

Then I became a reporter. And I had to face across a picket line the very folks I thought I agreed with. Yet in more than 20 years of reporting, two things have never changed: I oppose abortion. And many abortion protesters make my skin crawl.
Consider the antics in Kansas. The attorney general has made abortion one of his pet issues.

Fine by me, in theory, except for the "abortion-is-legal" part. So Phill Kline has resorted to scrounging for details about abortion clinics via the courts.

In his biggest coup, Kline subpoenaed the records of 90 women who had abortions at two clinics. His goal, he claimed, was to investigate late-term abortions and to see if the rapes of underage girls had not been properly reported. If the records could possibly prove such things, fine. So far, they haven't.

Then there is the matter of how the medical records ended up being discussed on "The O'Reilly Factor" in November. Kline has been a guest on Bill O'Reilly's show several times but he says he was not responsible for the leak.

What Kline and his supporters really want is the clinics to be shut down. That, of course, would not stop all abortions. Women have always sought them, legally or otherwise. A better focus would be to ensure safe abortions while encouraging adoption and helping women be smarter about preventing pregnancy.

But where's the glory in that?

by moiv on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 02:24:26 AM EST

That Don McKinney might have an opportunity to glimpse at the medical records of women -- even if redacted -- is utterly galling.

The only good to come out of this is that Kline's agenda is now plain for all to see, as is his abuse of power.  Courts should be reluctant ever again to release medical records, even with names withdrawn.  And voters in every state will now have a concise answer to 'why does it matter who we elect as attorney general?'

by cyncooper on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 11:18:49 AM EST

McKinney has been given access, arguably without legal authority, to not only patient records but confidential investigative records and confidential sources and databases.

McKinney, as a partisan of Operation Rescue and a clear associate of the Army of God, both of which have made Dr. Tiller a target of criminal activities, and many forms of harrassment, may very well have access to everything law enforcement has on these groups and individuals associated with them, as well as Dr. Tiller. Given McKinney's involvements, I would not be surprised if he hasn't turned up a few times in the course of law enforcement investigations himself.

The information available raises far more disturbing questions than we have answers to right now. But on it face, this episode strikes me as one of the single most outrageous abuses of any office of Attorney General I have ever heard of.


by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 01:50:52 PM EST

You wonder if McKinney will strip investigations into anti-abortion groups/individuals and "lose" the files (shreddddd).

I would be inclined to say, no contract, no legal standing to handle any material on behalf of the state.

by NancyP on Tue Jan 02, 2007 at 03:44:54 PM EST

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