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Death by a Thousand Cuts

red states rule

Senior Member
May 30, 2006
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Democrats Resort to Trying Death by a Thousand Cuts
By Mark Davis

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has advice for the White House, surely motivated by sincere concern. Just fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, he says, and everything will be all right.

As controversy brews surrounding the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, it seems to him that sacrificing one of the last Texans who first accompanied President Bush to Washington would "restore faith that rule of law will come first and politics second in the Justice Department."

The New York Democrat is in such a helpful mood that he is dropping the names of possible successors, just so Mr. Bush won't have to burn the midnight oil once he throws his friend under the bus.

They call Mr. Gonzales "The Judge" in administration circles, referring to his brief service on the Texas Supreme Court from 1999 to 2001, when he was tapped as Mr. Bush's first White House counsel.

Now Mr. Schumer seeks to add another title to Mr. Gonzales' résumé: "Disgraced Ejectee from the Bush Cabinet."

That's because the senator and his Democratic colleagues have a goal beyond the one they cite. They may wish to bolster the credibility of the Justice Department, but while they wish to heal with one hand, they wish to destroy with the other.

What they seek to destroy is this presidency they loathe with their every breath. Mr. Gonzales has plenty to answer for, but the elevation of these attorney dismissals to a Watergate-caliber controversy is wholly without basis.

Add the irony that the voices stoking the scandal imagery are from the same congressional and journalistic outposts that have sugar-coated the Clinton years for more than a decade, and the spectacle borders on the obscene.

Again, this is not to say that there is not some smell to the story. How on earth does a competent attorney general not know that nearly 10 percent of his U.S. attorney stable is about to get pink-slipped?

"Mistakes were made," says Mr. Gonzales, trotting out the phrase that is always preferable to the usually more accurate "I screwed up."

Well, no kidding. These U.S. attorneys were given the boot for a reason. There are two valid criteria to choose from: performance and politics. The attorneys themselves and members of Congress have apparently received varying answers on which was the cause for the firings.

The tricky thing is that the two can be related. Sometimes a U.S. attorney's prosecutorial priorities might not follow the ideological track favored by the administration.

And there's not a blessed thing wrong with that. Bill Clinton fired all 93 of them on his way in in 1993; he gets to do that. Mr. Bush's Department of Justice can unload eight of them this week, five more next week, 20 more at Christmas, and he gets to do that.

Throw in Scooter Libby's conviction for bad answers in the pursuit of a noncrime in the Valerie Plame case, and the atmosphere truly does thicken with the stench of a phenomenon you will hear more about: "the criminalization of politics."

The term refers to redefining practices usually accepted as part of the gritty political universe and elevating them to the level of offenses crying out for probes and even prosecution.

With no agenda for success in Iraq, coupled with an economy still doing well (anyone notice the stock market has completely rebounded in three weeks from the 400-point plunge Feb. 27?), the only page in the national Democratic domestic playbook is to attempt to impose the death of a thousand cuts upon this White House.

Along the way, someone may issue a criticism of Mr. Bush on an issue that will have potential merit and deserve rational consideration. Good luck. The ascendancy of the Democratic majority has sent its warriors into the streets with torches and pitchforks. Measured discourse is rare when there is a castle to storm.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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