Principled Leaders vs. Abuse of Power

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on April 3, 2023

You may have heard the name Mark Houck. He was arrested last September — FBI agents stormed his home early one Saturday morning, shocking him awake, along with his wife and their young children. To this day, one of the youngest is still having nightmares.

His supposed crime? A year before, he shoved a pro-choice Planned Parenthood clinic volunteer whom he says was harassing his 11-year-old son. If you talk with Houck, he will tell you that he tried to deescalate the situation. But it didn’t work.

Calling Out the DOJ and the FBI

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to make a federal case of that almost a year later. Houck has been acquitted, but his case should alarm us. And former Attorney General Michael Mukasey has said as much. During a speech at a National Review summit on March 30, Mukasey called out the DOJ and the FBI for their unnecessarily forceful tactics.

Mukasey said:

Whatever your views on the issue of abortion, this was a clear attempt to intimidate someone who was advocating the pro-life position. As you may know, Mr. Houck was acquitted of the charge at trial, but that in no way diminishes the damage done by his prosecution and the manner of his arrest.

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The former attorney general also brought up the current DOJ’s “lackadaisical approach to the prosecution of pro-choice advocates who commit violence — including arson — at facilities that offer pro-life counseling to pregnant women considering abortion. Only after a torrent of unfavorable publicity has the Justice Department acted.”

Mukasey noted that:

…it is a federal misdemeanor to picket or parade or use any sound truck or similar device near the residence of a federal judge for the purpose of influencing that judge in the discharge of a judicial duty. For months, particularly since the leak of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, demonstrators have been picketing and using bullhorns and noisemakers near the homes of Supreme Court justices to protest that decision and otherwise to influence the outcome of any subsequent litigation on the subject of abortion.

Yet none of these demonstrators were awoken by FBI agents bursting to their house on a weekend morning.

Recognize, Treasure, and Encourage Principled Leadership

Mukasey made these remarks at the inaugural James L. Buckley Lecture on principled leadership, recently launched by the National Review Institute. Buckley has served in all three branches of the federal government and recently turned 100. He is a living example of the principled leadership our country so sorely needs.

We need to meet and listen and interact with one another more. We need to be willing to come together in agreement that the power of government shouldn’t be punishing political opponents.

Which is precisely why we all should step up to the plate in more bold and loving ways to help the women, girls and potential families in our lives, not letting the bitter rancor of politics make things worse for them.

It was refreshing to hear a former attorney general talk about the ideas that Americans should be supporting and the people we should be helping. The Houcks, Mukasey and Buckley give us ideas about what principled leadership looks like. I think we can still know it when we see it. I pray we can still recognize it, treasure it and encourage it.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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