Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by Mr.Conley, Mar 15, 2007.
Phony Scandal Puts Conservatives in a Quandary
By Jack Kelly
To its enemies, the most endearing quality of the Bush administration must be the frequency with which the Bushies act as if they've done something wrong, even when they haven't.
President Bush caused himself no end of grief when he apologized for saying in his 2003 state of the union address "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," even though every word of it was true.
That blunder may have been topped by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at his news conference last Wednesday. The "senior Justice Department official" who told reporters Mr. Gonzales' performance was "disastrous" was being kind.
Mr. Gonzales called the news conference to respond to the manufactured "scandal" of the administration's decision to fire eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys
Mistakes were made," Mr. Gonzales said, without explaining what those mistakes were, or who made them. The Justice department has issued shifting explanations for why these U.S. attorneys were dismissed. The Attorney General said he supported the firings, but was unaware of the specific details of how they came about. Which is curious, because his chief of staff was heavily involved in them.
That he didn't know what was going on under his nose is, however, the most credible thing Mr. Gonzales said. Only President Bush, with his apparently boundless enthusiasm for mediocrities (Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job), imagined that Mr. Gonzales was a good choice to be attorney general, and he has lived down to the expectations most held for him. The FBI's bungling of the issuance of national security letters is just the most recent bit of a mountain of evidence the Justice department under Mr. Gonzales is as well managed as was the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the hapless Michael Brown.
U.S. Attorneys are political appointees who usually are recommended for their jobs by the U.S. senators from their states who are members of the president's party. They serve at the pleasure of the president, and can be dismissed at any time for any reason. When President Clinton took office, he dismissed all 93 U.S. attorneys in one fell swoop, a fact which somehow hasn't made it into most news accounts of the current controversy.
If any of the U.S. attorneys had been dismissed because of how they were conducting an ongoing investigation, that would be improper. But there is no evidence of this. The emails released by the Department of Justice indicate seven of the eight were dismissed because they weren't pursuing the administration's enforcement priorities, or because they'd bungled earlier cases, or both. (The eighth was fired because the Bushies wanted to give his job to another guy.) This is perfectly ok.
If the boss wants you to do something, and it isn't illegal, immoral or fattening, you should do it. If you choose not to do it, you shouldn't be surprised to find yourself pounding the pavement.
Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, said the brouhaha pits incompetence against hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is winning. Democrats and journalists who saw nothing amiss when President Clinton dismissed a U.S. attorney who was actively investigating him and his wife in the Whitewater land deal, and another who was actively investigating criminal activities by Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, then the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, express mock outrage over these firings.
None have done it as dishonestly as the Los Angeles Times. The Times implied that Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego, was dismissed because of her investigation of the corruption of GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
But as the Times well knows, the Justice department emails reveal Ms. Lam had been targeted for dismissal months before a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune triggered Ms. Lam's investigation of Rep. Cunningham. The Bushies were unhappy with her because of her unwillingness to pursue immigration law violations, not her eagerness to pursue political corruption.
The phony scandal puts conservatives in a quandary. Alberto Gonzales is a bumbling fool who ought not to be attorney general. His efforts to shift blame for the curt and clumsy manner in which the firings were conducted are both pathetic and deplorable.
But there is a big difference between being a bumbling fool and being a crook. If Mr. Gonzales is forced from office for these spurious reasons, we can expect more bogus assaults on administration officials. Sigh. I suspect conservatives, even more than liberals, long for an end to the Bush administration.
Nature of the job
By Dan K. Thomasson
March 18, 2007
Those who subscribe to the notion U.S. attorneys are above the political fray are potential customers for a sweet real estate deal in the Okefenokee Swamp.
Just to clear things up a bit, U.S. attorneys get their jobs by being either loyal workers or contributors to the success of their political party or knowing someone with strong political connections to the White House. They may or may not be great attorneys. That really has very little to do with it. They are pure and simple political appointees who serve at the pleasure of the president and are subject to dismissal at any time despite the false security of a four-year term.
Furthermore, while they like to maintain that once in office they are independent from the wishes of their bosses in Washington, that is only partially true. They are expected to follow the policies endorsed by the administration. In the case of at least some of the eight fired by the Justice Department, the White House and Republican lawmakers apparently were unhappy about their failure to expeditiously pursue allegations of Democratic voter fraud.
Certainly there have been well-documented instances when prosecution was sidetracked because of pure political consideration.
In the 1950s a federal grand jury voted unanimously to indict a controversial but popular African-American congressman, Adam Clayton Powell, on a number of fraud and corruption counts. Before the action was announced, the congressman, a Democrat, held a press conference endorsing Republican Dwight Eisenhower's re-election as president. The then-attorney general, with the acquiescence of the U.S. attorney, refused to approve the indictment.
Since Watergate, there has been far less interference. When questions involving administration propriety have arisen, the Justice Department often has acquiesced to an outside prosecutor to avoid an appearance of favoritism or cover-up.
Having said all that, the heavy-handedness of the dismissal was deplorable. Even President Bush found it so. It is not good form to call someone Friday and tell them not to come to work Monday, particularly those with such high-profile jobs. The result has been predictable -- a veritable Democratic orgy of protest and chest thumping that threatens the job of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, already a controversial figure, and causes the beleaguered Mr. Bush further heartburn.
But what did the White House and the department expect? Hello. There is a new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill that has its eyes set on recapturing the Oval Office in less than two years and intends to take full advantage of every opportunity to whack an increasingly unpopular lame-duck Republican president.
Some of the more virulent critics have waited a long time to get even not only with a president, whom they feel is a puppet for evil forces, but the chief puppeteer, Karl Rove, whom they blame for their loss of the last two presidential elections.
Mr. Gonzales admits mistakes were made. He is correct and one of the worst was his silly statement he would never relieve one of the attorneys for political reasons. Of course he would. Every administration since the position was created has done just that when its political interests were at stake. A major difference between now and then is that these actions weren't documented by e-mails.
Clearly Mr. Gonzales' chief assistant, Eric Sampson, author of the e-mails outlining the firing strategy and who has now resigned, was a major player. But Mr. Gonzales' protest that he personally wasn't in the loop is ridiculous. Please. The ultimate responsibility is his and he must at least take blame for employing Mr. Sampson.
Because of his weak performance here and in other controversies, it is quite possible the president's opponents will end up with Mr. Gonzales' scalp. The prolonged problems of Iraq and Afghanistan may have weakened Mr. Bush to the point he is unable to prevent that without damaging his other objectives.
But Mr. Bush is nothing if not stubborn and prone to slug it out when necessary. A word of caution to Democrats: Be careful with Mr. Gonzales, the son of Mexican immigrants who is the first Hispanic -- now the largest minority in the nation -- to hold that prestigious job. A Latino political backlash could be a concern.
Meanwhile, don't be fooled by the holier-than-thou attitude of those inside the Beltway who claim there is no politics in Justice and that your favorite U.S. attorney got and keeps his job strictly on merit.
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.
The non-scandalous scandal
By Mike Gallagher
Friday, March 16, 2007
Move over, Watergate. Theres a big new scandal in America. The impeachment of a president? Thats childs play compared to this biggie.
In fact, to read todays papers, all the political controversies in our nations history combined dont add up to the earthquake of a scandal that is rocking our world: the Bush Administration was involved in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Id love to be a fly on the wall of a high school social studies class when a student timidly raises his hand and says to the teacher, Um, Miss Smith if President Clinton can fire all 93 U.S. attorneys for obvious political reasons, why cant President Bush?
Itd be fascinating to hear what Miss Smith would say. If shes a liberal Democrat hell-bent on destroying the Bush Administration, I suppose shed say something to the effect that it somehow looks worse to fire eight people than all ninety-three.
But if she has a shred of fairness and objectivity, shed answer the students question by laughing out loud at the absurdity of Democrats and a couple of spineless Republicans thumping their chest in outrage over a complete, total, meaningless, entirely non-issue.
I get tired of repeatedly asking fundamental questions that make me sound like Im leading a group of mentally challenged people. Just like we often ask, What is it about illegal immigrants you dont understand? we now have to ask, What is it about the fact that the U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president that you dont understand?
Yes, all one has to do to respond to this idiotic firestorm of controversy is point out the obvious: U.S. attorneys can be appointed and dismissed by the administration for whatever reason it chooses.
Im not exaggerating here; this is a laugh-out-loud contrived and concocted political scandal. Aided by a willing and enthusiastic Bush-hating news media, hypocritical Democrats are trying to convince the American people that a White House connection to the dismissal of these U.S. attorneys is somehow sinister.
I keep waiting and watching for a Democrat, any Democrat, to explain why Bill Clintons house-cleaning purge of 1993 is a different situation. In fact, I foolishly waited for former Clinton aide-turned ABC News journalist (ha!) George Stephanopolous to ask that of Hillary Clinton while interviewing her the other day about the scandal. Silly me. Why would the man who was at Clintons right hand in the middle of the mass firings and the woman who was at his left hand even touch on the subject in front of millions of viewers? Even a couple of rabid liberals like them know how to keep their mouths shut when it comes to reeking hypocrisy.
So the only thing left to ponder is why theres been such a tepid, lukewarm, practically non-existent response from the Bush Administration and Republicans everywhere.
My theory is that there can only be one explanation: despite knowing that this is a non-scandal, conservatives have never really liked Alberto Gonzales and so theyre happy to see him twist in the wind.
Ive heard the grumblings in the past about the moderate nature of some of Gonzales positions on social issues. Others say he is too mild-mannered and even bland for the job. In fact, his media appearances this week seem to confirm that. It really wouldnt have been much of a stretch for the U.S. Attorney General to dismiss this entire affair with a laugh and an observation to the TV interviewers that politics is certainly blood sport.
Instead, he came across as the proverbial deer in the headlights, saying something about taking responsibility for certain aspects of all of this and practically acting like he robbed a bank.
Everything about this fabricated controversy stinks. And the worst part of it is this: if and when Gonzales or Karl Rove should happen to resign in order to get the world off President Bushs back, the bullies of the media and the Democratic Party will wallow in victory and be more monstrous than ever.
One of these days, our side will wake up and realize that you gotta fight back.
Will no one post a response to the article?
The liberal media has been responding
CBS Gives Full Air Time to Attorney Firing Critics
Posted by Justin McCarthy on March 18, 2007 - 10:54.
CBS continues to pound away the US attorney firings story. On the March 16th edition of "The Early Show," reporter Bill Plante lead his story stating "the hole just keeps getting deeper." Plante then played a sound bite from Democratic hyper partisan Senators Chuck Schumer at Patrick Leahy. After playing a few clips of White House staffers Karl Rove and Tony Snow, they hyped Republicans calling for their resignation, touting Senator Gordon Smith and playing a sound bite of Representative Dana Rohrabacher implying Gonzales should go.
Anchor Harry Smith sought some expert opinion from Republican strategist Ed Rollins and Democratic strategist Mike Feldman. Fair and balanced debate? Not from what Mr. Rollins said from the start.
HARRY SMITH: Ed, let me start with you. Alberto Gonzales, two questions, should he stay or should he go?
ED ROLLINS: It certainly isn't the president's prerogative, but I would argue that he should go. Think at this point in time they're losing support among Republican Senators by the day. And the president desperately needs their support.
The transcript from the story is below.
HARRY SMITH: There are growing signs that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could lose his job for his handling of the firing of those eight US attorneys. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante is live at the White House with the latest. Good morning, Bill.
BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. The hole just keeps getting deeper. New e-mails released last night by the Justice Department showed that while Gonzales was still the White House counsel in late '04 and early '05, he was involved in a discussion about getting rid of 15 to 20 percent of the US attorneys. And White House counselor Karl Rove was also involved in that discussion.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Well, it shows he certainly had the idea, firing US attorneys. It shows that the White House statements that he wasn't involved are false.
PLANTE: The e-mail quotes Rove as asking a White House lawyer in January 2005 "how we planned to proceed regarding US attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all, or selectively replace them." Rove defended the firings and dismissed the outrage as partisanship.
KARL ROVE: This, to my mind is a lot of politics. And I understand that's what Congress has a right to play around with, and they're going to do it.
PLANTE: The Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for five Justice Department officials, even though Attorney General Gonzales has said they will testify. But action on subpoenas for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and for Rove has been postponed until next week as negotiations continue between the White House and Congress.
SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): We now have strong reason to believe that despite the earlier protestations to the contrary, Karl Rove and political operatives at the White House and for the Republican party played a role.
PLANTE: The attorney general says he will testify and the president is still publicly supportive.
TONY SNOW: The president has confidence in the attorney general. He's made that clear both privately to the attorney general. He made it clear yesterday in the press conference.
PLANTE: But a second Republican Senator, Oregon's Gordon Smith, has now urged Gonzales to step down, as did GOP House member Dana Rohrabacher.
REP DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Maybe the president should have an attorney general who is less a personal friend and more professional in his approach.
PLANTE: The public may be-- I mean the president may be publicly supportive, but influential Republicans around the White House are less so. They say he's finished, he's a problem, he has to go. Harry.
Ho boy. Washington is all agog over the administration's decision to replace a bunch of U.S. Attorneys -- eight of them at last count. Therefore the rest of the country is supposed to be all agog over it, too.
Let's hope the usual partisans about to beat this nonscandal into the ground, and the media that dutifully repeat and amplify their accusations, will excuse some of us for not joining the pile-on.
Because it's not as if federal prosecutors held nonpolitical, Civil Service-protected positions. These are all political appointments, and any administration is entitled to unappoint them. That privilege goes with a political party's winning a presidential election and, with it, getting to distribute the spoils of victory. Or in this case, redistribute them when it takes a mind to.
This has been going on since the political parties hurling accusations at each other were Federalists and Jeffersonians instead of Democrats and Republicans, but the game is the same. And it will remain much the same after this "scandal" is replaced by the next one, and the sound and fury begins anew.
Fair enough. The first duty of the opposition, after all, is to oppose. Partisan criticism is one more check-and-balance in a system just crammed to overflowing with them. And it can be a good thing, as any member of the press should know. Every administration ought to be subject to intense scrutiny, even heckling.
But that scarcely means the public needs to take every catcall seriously, or pretend every nonscandal is Teapot Dome, much as the party in opposition would like it to be.
If this administration's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a mistake, and he did, it was in talking loosely about how he would never replace a U.S. Attorney "for political reasons."
There may indeed have been good, credible nonpartisan reasons to dismiss any or all of these federal prosecutors. For what lawyer cannot find some reason to criticize another lawyer's work? Still, the attorney general would have been better off to just stick with the president's clear constitutional authority to appoint and dismiss federal prosecutors as he will, for they all serve at his pleasure. Instead, Mr. Gonzales talked about how above politics the process is. It isn't, it wasn't, and surely never will be.
For there would have been a down side to saying the obvious, which is that politics plays a role in political appointments. It's not done for politicians to admit they play politics, and that includes handing out patronage.
As a rule, pols don't like to be thought of as pols, especially if they are. So they avoid explicit references to their occupation, preferring euphemisms about being in public service, which of course they are. But like any servants, they have their own interests to look after, as they do assiduously. That doesn't make them bad, just human.
By now former U.S. Attorneys even have their own association, sounding board and lobby, to wit, the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys. Various of its members now have complained loudly about these eight U.S. Attorneys having been dismissed like the political appointees they were.
Can these distinguished formers believe they were appointed for life, or at least the life of an administration? Have they confused their posts with that of almost untouchable federal judges? Their sense of entitlement annoys as much as it entertains. Somebody should have told these folks, in the immortal words of Mister Dooley, Finley Peter Dunne's sage Irish barkeep at the turn of another century, that politics ain't bean bag.
This whole overblown fuss in a long succession is not without amusing aspects. These oh-so-indignant partisans are now shocked -- shocked -- to discover a handful of federal prosecutors are being let go for what seem to be political reasons. Can anyone recall their expressing the slightest outrage when a Democratic administration did much the same thing, only across the board, to make way for its own appointments?
In March 1993, Bill Clinton's newly sworn-in attorney general -- Janet Reno -- fired every single U.S. Attorney in the country, all 93, in the opening salvo of the Clinton Years. That administration never hesitated to reward loyal FOBs -- Friends of Bill -- whether the jobs were in the justice system or the White House travel office.
The clean sweep of U.S. attorneys in '93 may have been the most comprehensive, unmistakable, unprecedented, and politically motivated dismissal of federal prosecutors in American history. Surely they couldn't all have been incompetent.
At the time, Bill Clinton tried to make it seem unexceptional: "All those people are routinely replaced," he claimed, "and I have not done anything differently."
Really? But those other presidents were far more gradual about it. They did have some shame. Still, as president and chief executive, Mr. Clinton had every right to fire the federal prosecutors he had inherited, and appoint his own people.
Let this much be said of Bill Clinton's blanket decision to get rid of every sitting U.S. Attorney in the country: It showed a firm grasp of the unitary theory of the executive. All those people he was firing ultimately worked for him and, if he wanted to appoint different ones, that was entirely his prerogative.
But here's the punch line of the story: More than a decade later, another Clinton -- Hillary, at present the junior senator from New York -- now has complained about this current president's "politicization of our prosecutorial system." What a hoot. New Yorkers have a word for this kind of oh-so-outraged accusation: Chutzpah.
Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.
If these attorneys are supposed to be administration-friendly no matter the adminisration, then launching a probe into Bush having these attorneys fired for not being on the same page as him seems pretty meaningless to me. If his firing them is another attempt to cover up what we already know about the Downing Street Memo, etcetera, we need an independant prosecutor.
RSR - learn to think for yourself.
Dubya firing 8 prosecutors, some for inaction regarding voting fraud > Bubbah firing 93 prosecutors, including ones who would have been investigating his real estate dealings
Bush did the same thing at the beginning of his term. He fired all 93 as well. The difference here seems to be that a. these guys were fired at some time other than the beginning of a President's term and b. that the White House was specifically looking at loyalty
Separate names with a comma.