You’ve got to hand it to Attorney General Letitia James

By Alan S. Chartock | June 4, 2022

You’ve got to hand it to Attorney General Letitia James. She’s a gutsy lady who isn’t afraid to take on some of the fiercest and most evil characters in our current political universe. For starters, she has entered into seemingly mortal political combat with Donald Trump who has taken her very seriously.

In Trump’s war with Attorney General James, it would appear that James is coming out the big winner. She clearly knows her law and Trump keeps on losing. With his vast amounts of money, Trump keeps arguing that James is unfairly harassing her, and one can only respect her steadfast willingness to go head to head with an ogre who would cripple our fragile American democracy. No less than a federal judge has recently declared that James’s investigation into Trump’s perplexing business practices was not harassment. I give her a lot of credit for doing what seems so hard for other keepers of the law.

I have worried for a long time about how corrupted the American justice system is. Those with money and prestige continue to succeed as they attempt to make wrong into their personal right. For starters, they have all the resources they need to bring often puzzling cases against those who lack such resources. That makes a mockery of the legal system. It becomes just one more example of how money talks while all others walk. Naturally, Trump vs. James is a first-class example of the way in which this kind of privilege works.

With that said, there’s a great deal is at stake. When Trump was president, he made it perfectly clear that he had no qualms about eroding our American democracy. His evident political love affair with Vladimir Putin demonstrates his contempt for democratic principles. Unbelievably, the fact is that Trump actually won the presidency once and a whole lot of Americans voted for him the second time around.

Now we have Joe Biden at the top of the political heap and he is important, of course. But Letitia James demonstrates how courage is needed at all levels of government. A brave New York attorney general puts the dot on top of the I. We need mayors and attorneys general and courageous legislators both in the Congress and the state legislatures who will fight for our political freedom. We have seen just how important these intermediary political people can be, whether it is a Letitia James or a governor who is willing to reach out to bring the law to potential offenders.

Of course, things can change really quickly. One has only to look at the fall of Andrew Cuomo, no matter how long his political disgrace lasts. You’d have to be pretty stupid to not understand the law of political gravity – what goes up must come down. If you don’t believe that Andrew will try for a political comeback, you must be wearing one of those sleep masks and noise-canceling headphones.

However, one has to make a political assessment of who and what comes next. Letitia James has proven by her display of political fortitude that she has the makings of a future governor of New York. In the old days, it was almost impossible to envision a Black governor in our future but that’s all changed.

I have long believed that future successful politicians have to build up “creds” as they get closer to the top political offices. Now mayors and governors and members of congress are often coming from groups that would have been unfairly disenfranchised in the past. It is hard for me to imagine that Letitia James is not in line for the top New York State political prize.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].