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President Bush's Warning:
I watched President Bush's statement last night warning Congress about its investigation into the U.S. Attorney purge story, and I thought it was a remarkably bad performance. President Bush seemed weak, petty, and defensive. His rhetoric struck me as absurd: Given reason to think that at least some of the U.S. Attorneys were fired for not being excessively partisan, it falls flat to object to an investigation on the ground that the investigation is excessively partisan. No wonder that the House Judiciary Committee has already responded by authorizing the Committee Chair to subpoena White House officials if they will not testify voluntarily.
Steve:
The argument that "I'll let my aides testify, but only if they're not under oath and there's no transcript" (not that "testify" is the right word in that case) is just as tone-deaf as when Congress objected to the FBI raid on William Jefferson's office. And at least Congress' position, stupid as it was, had some actual grounding in history and precedent; Bush keeps trying to invent a precedent that simply doesn't exist.
3.21.2007 2:15pm
Jim C B (mail) (www):
This just seems to be more of the usual political ineptness, rather than something sinister. Since Harriett Miers and Hurricane Katrina, President Bush has seemed to be walking around with a "kick me" sign on his backside. We seem to be doomed to endure more of the same until January 2009, if he makes it that far.
3.21.2007 2:17pm
Paddy O. (mail):
It doesn't necessarily fall flat because Bush can argue Congress is doing the exact same thing, thus implying "if it's good for you why is it bad for me?"

All people will see is the partisanship, and Bush is banking on the fact the details are obscure enough that when people see Congress playing politics they will remember this in 2008 when Republicans charge all the present players with doing nothing else than playing politics. The longer this is in the news the less positive goals Congress will reach.

If he hadn't put up a fight the news would be purely about some perceived Bush misconduct about firing people he had the right to fire. Now it's about partisanship, and no one is going to win that fight. Bush is not up for re-election and none of his close advisers are either. So he can afford not to win. Congressional Democrats, however, can't afford the stalemate.

Democrats were elected to be different. If they go witch hunting over no real, clearly explained, illegality, they are not different at all.

Bush is playing distraction and delay. The Democrats are at the pass and about to fight. Much better for them to find a battlefield they can clearly define and win, but they won't because of the pride involved.

Because unless you can say the firing of the US attorneys was clearly illegal, and explain why in a couple of sentences or less, the whole core issue has no traction.
3.21.2007 2:20pm
Phillip Edens (mail):
I would agree that Bush's statements were very weak, but I think the issue is he will not come out strong period against the Democrats. Has any crime been committed here? Asking for the resignation of a U.S. Attorney is allowed regardless of who was involved in this decision, they serve at the pleasure of the President, until Congress changes the law. So whatever the issue maybe its all a giant dog and pony show used by the Democrats because they aren't going to do anything important like Legislate...

It seems now more than ever that a Democratic Congress isn't going to let the President ever dismiss an appointee that he has the power to because they will think its some big political scandal and Karl Rove is behind it all.
3.21.2007 2:21pm
Justice Fuller:
Paddy O,

I don't think your idea of political traction is accurate.
3.21.2007 2:26pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
Worse than inept and tone-deaf; I found Bush's remarks just plain offensive, even measured against the the rest of his Administration's increasingly imperial rhetoric.

Asking that Rove and Meier testify under oath, and on record, is holding a "show trial"? I guess the analogy that the Prez wants us to draw is that the House Judiciary Committee is like, oh, let's say, Stalin, and some other evil Communnists, and that there's a risk that, if Meier testifies, someone's going to sentence Alberto Gonzalez to death, take him out behind the House office buildings, and summarily shoot him?

IMPEACH, already!
3.21.2007 2:34pm
cameron King (mail):
You point out a chronic problem with this president. He does not fight well. He often seems weak and afraid to confront the democrats. I wanted him to say something like "I hire them, they serve at my pleasure, I can fire them. They don't serve at the pleasure of the senior senator from vermont or the senior senator from New York. Senator Leahy and Senator Schumer have made it clear that they don't like the firings. However, Senator Leahy and Senator Schumer don't like anything I do, so why should I expect them to like this?"
3.21.2007 2:35pm
uh clem (mail):
unless you can say the firing of the US attorneys was clearly illegal, and explain why in a couple of sentences or less, the whole core issue has no traction.

Firing an attorney for investigating your political cronies, or for refusing to bring unsupported charges against your political foes is obstruction of justice.

There. That's one sentence. Good enough for you?

Granted, I haven't proven anything with the above assertion, but given the ever-shifting rationales from the administration it bears investigation into whether this is what actually happened. We're looking for straight answers, and all we get is half truths, obfuscation, stonewalling, and an ever shifting narrative where the blame bounces from Meiers to Solomon to Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Having Rove et.al. testify in public and under oath just might elicit some straight answers.
3.21.2007 2:37pm
Paddy O. (mail):
cameron King for President!

That's the simple and direct answer, the Fred Thompsonesque answer.
3.21.2007 2:37pm
Steve:
Because unless you can say the firing of the US attorneys was clearly illegal, and explain why in a couple of sentences or less, the whole core issue has no traction.

Let's see.

The US Attorney from New Mexico gets a call just before last November's election, at home, from a Republican Senator, asking if anyone is going to be indicted before November in a local corruption investigation involving Democrats. When the answer is no, the Senator hangs up the phone.

The Washington case, while it lacks the sexiness of a menacing phone call from a Senator, is nearly as bad.

I think it's just poor judgment to write this off as a situation the general public will see as partisan politics with no "there" there. I've told the New Mexico story to any number of colleagues who asked me what the scandal is all about, and to a man they've replied "wow, that's really bad." Not a single one has demanded a two-sentence explanation of the "clear illegality."
3.21.2007 2:38pm
timmay!:
I think the democrat's focus should be more on the fact that this may have been an attempt by the Justice Department, or those that are persuading the Justice Department, to have new appointees placed in position without the Senate's "advice and consent", as the Patriot Act apparently permits. That I think is the real problem. However, perhaps that would point out the fact that the democrats never raised such a stink to that part of the Patriot Act when it was passed. That won't make them look good, and perhaps a little asleep at the switch. The fact remains that the president can fire the U.S. Attorneys. Congress should not try to challenge the President's authority to do this but try to show more that there have been other politicians that have tried to influence the Justice department for personal reasons. That would be the real travesty. Dismissing so many U.S. attorneys in the middle of a term is unusual, but so is dismissing ninety something U.S. attorneys at once (i.e. Billary Clinton). I agree that this is a losing topic for the democrats. Their platform of change for '06 is stalled, and they are wasting time with this. But I like to see both parties founder and hopefully lead to the inevitable rise of the "Libertarian Army of Champions" party.
3.21.2007 2:39pm
OK Lawyer:
"I thought it was a remarkably bad performance. President Bush seemed weak, petty, and defensive."

Frankly, how is this different from any Bush performance? This is the root of all of his problems: his inability to articulately convey his message to America. So much of our current political wailing would/could have been avoided if he had been able to make his case. He can't, and never has been. It just goes to show how horrid the Democrat candidates were that could not defeat him.
3.21.2007 2:40pm
Mark Field (mail):

Dismissing so many U.S. attorneys in the middle of a term is unusual, but so is dismissing ninety something U.S. attorneys at once


No, dismissing them all at once, at the start of a new Administration, is common. In fact, that was the very word John Ashcroft used when he announced that Bush would replace all of Clinton's US Attorneys.
3.21.2007 2:46pm
Kazinski:
"weak, petty, and defensive" not withstanding, there is simply no precedent of Congress every having succeeded in compelling the testimony of a Presidents personal advisors about advice they gave to the President in the performance of his lawful duties.

If Congress is going to go so far to assert their own immunities to make the bald claim that a lawfully issued search warrant requested by the Justice Department and issued by a Federal Judge violates the separation of powers act, as they did in the Jefferson Case, how are the going to insist that Karl Rove testify about lawful advice he gave to the president about exercising his lawful authority?
3.21.2007 2:46pm
rarango (mail):
Warning! anecdotal evidence follows: at lunch today, the executive director who has an MS in geology, saw the newspaper article of the Bush press conference and asked "what's this about?" Several other folks in the room replied, "its just politics about some US attorneys."

Of course, my anecdote proves absolutely nothing and I make no claims except that I accurately quoted the participants.
3.21.2007 2:49pm
Justin (mail):
"weak, petty, and defensive" not withstanding, there is simply no precedent of Congress every having succeeded in compelling the testimony of a Presidents personal advisors about advice they gave to the President in the performance of his lawful duties.

First of all, "lawful duties" pretty much begs the question, no?

Second of all, as a practical matter, its not true. As many point out, Clinton tried to keep his aides from testifying, and yet Congress still managed to get sworn testimony out of all of the following:

Samuel Berger, National Security Adviser
Lanny Breuer, Special Counsel
Lloyd Cutler, Special Counsel
Lisa Caputo, Press Secretary to the First Lady
Charles Easley, Director, White House Office of Security
W. Neil Eggleston, Associate Counsel
Mark Gearan, Assistant to the President for Communications
Deborah Gorham, Assistant to the Associate Counsel
Nancy Heinreich, Deputy Assistant
Carolyn Huber, Special Assistant
Harold Ickes, Deputy Chief of Staff
Joel Klein, Deputy Counsel
Evelyn Lieberman, Deputy Press Secretary
Mark Lindsay, Director of White House Management and Administration
Bruce Lindsey, Special Adviser
Capricia Marshall, Special Assistant to the First Lady
Thomas McLarty, Counselor
Cheryl Mills, Deputy Counsel
Bobby Nash, Director of Presidential Personnel
Stephen Neuwirth, Associate Counsel
Dimitri Nionakis, Associate Counsel
Beth Nolan, Associate Counsel
John Podesta, Staff Secretary
John Quinn, Chief of Staff to the Vice President
Charles Ruff, Counsel
Jane Sherburne, Special Counsel
Clifford Sloan, Associate Counsel
Patty Solis, Director of Scheduling for the First Lady
George Stephanopoulos, Senior Policy Adviser
Patsy Thomasson, Assistant Director for Presidential Personnel
Margaret Williams, Chief of Staff to the First Lady

Furthermore, I am aware of no cases in which Congress demanded a subpoena, the White House never submitted, and Congress did not withdraw the subpoena, resulting in either a permanent stalemate or a juduicial decision in the White House's favor that implied Congress lacks the authority as a general principle.

If your argument is simply that no White House has ever fought a Congressional subpoena and won (or, maybe I am wrong, and there are particular instances where the won, probably under some sort of limited, specialized interest), you probably just come out and say that.
3.21.2007 2:59pm
uh clem (mail):
Question: I'm sure that there are some people here who have served as prosecutors. How common is it for an elected official to contact you and pressure you to bring charges against their opponent? What would be your response if one of them did?

Just curious.
3.21.2007 2:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't believe the dems want to find out anything. There isn't much likely that is, 1, relevant, and, 2, existent, and, 3, they don't already know.
The reason is to keep a show going, hence the term "show trial", and, by pumping endless smoke about Bush, convince some poor soul watching CNN in a group home that there really was someone done wrong.

The other thing is, guessing at Scooter Libby's legal bills, there exists the strong possibility of ruining, bankrupting, anybody they don't like by filing false charges of perjury.
The Clintons did that when they fired the travel office folks. Couldn't let it go. Just because they could, and because they're naturally vile, the sicced the FBI onto the guys and ruined them financially. I guess the dems think of that as a feature, not a bug, of partisan posing.
3.21.2007 3:01pm
Steve:
"weak, petty, and defensive" not withstanding, there is simply no precedent of Congress every having succeeded in compelling the testimony of a Presidents personal advisors about advice they gave to the President in the performance of his lawful duties.

Except there's no indication Rove and Miers are going to be asked about advice they gave to President Bush, and if that was the case, there's no way Bush would let them talk about it without being sworn, either.
3.21.2007 3:02pm
Justin (mail):
"I don't believe the dems want to find out anything. There isn't much likely that is, 1, relevant, and, 2, existent, and, 3, they don't already know."

To the extent that we "know" that Lam was fired in order to impede the investigations into the CIA and Jerry Lewis, that MacKay was fired for failing to present a baseless indictment that would hand Rossi the election, and that Iglesias was fired for failing to indict two New Mexico officials before the 2006 election (and I am not sure whether the indictment was not handed down because it was either baseless), Democrats obviously do not have enough evidence to make those facts clear, and need to present more to either justify impeachment of whichever official, to convince the DOJ to prosecute their own, or to create sufficient public pressure to present more oversight of executive misconduct.

Also, Democrats "know" that 90% of all public corruption cases were against Democrats over the last few years. What we do not know whether this was due to recruiting the "right kind of Bushie" who would only prosecute Democrats, or explicit instructions that may constitute illegal obstruction of justice or prosecutorial misconduct.

But of course none of this is as important, as you know, steroids in baseball. What a shock to find out that Barry Bonds uses steroids? And Jose Casenco? Who would have guessed!
3.21.2007 3:10pm
ray_g:
"The US Attorney from New Mexico gets a call just before last November's election, at home, from a Republican Senator, asking if anyone is going to be indicted before November in a local corruption investigation involving Democrats. When the answer is no, the Senator hangs up the phone."

OK, I've seen this story or variations - so (1) is there proof that this really happened; (2) if so, what is this Senator's name; (3) I contend that the scandal here is not whether the President fired the attorney general, but the Senator's phone call, so why doesn't Congress supoena this "U.S. Attorney from New Mexico" and get him to tell us this Senator's name? Oh, but that would involve investigating another Congresscritter, and they would not want to set that precedent.

This is just business-as-usual petty Beltway politics blown into a bogus "national scandal". As a citizen and taxpayer I'm angry with both Congress for wasting their and the President's time on this.
3.21.2007 3:21pm
Andrew W (mail) (www):

...Democrats obviously do not have enough evidence to make those facts clear, and need to present more to either justify impeachment of whichever official, to convince the DOJ to prosecute their own, or to create sufficient public pressure to present more oversight of executive misconduct.


Hence the investigation and subpoenas--and the temptation to find out what was included in those two weeks' worth of emails from late November '06 that the administration left out of its document dump.
3.21.2007 3:21pm
uh clem (mail):
I don't believe the dems want to find out anything.

Actually, we do. Like what transpired between November 15th and December 4th of 2006. In the most recent document dumps there's not a single email included from those 18 days - why the gap? Do you have a plausible explanation?
3.21.2007 3:23pm
Mary Beth Woods (mail):
In the most recent document dumps there's not a single email included from those 18 days - why the gap? Do you have a plausible explanation?


Left my foot on the pedal again... whoops!
3.21.2007 3:27pm
timmay!:



No, dismissing them all at once, at the start of a new Administration, is common. In fact, that was the very word John Ashcroft used when he announced that Bush would replace all of Clinton's US Attorneys.


Is this so common Mr. Field? I got my information from this wall street journal story
that stated "Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired". However when Mr. Clinton became president, "Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno--or Mr. Hubbell--gave them 10 days to move out of their offices."
So unless the journal is wrong on facts, it was not common before Mr. Clinton for a president to fire the whole slate of U.S. attorneys at once. Perhaps the Bush administration wanted to follow the Clinton example of stupidity or partisanship(very possible), or get rid of some political flunkies. I don't know exactly how much attorneys were fired when President Bush joined office, all I have read so far is that it was recommended they all be fired, but not all were. Someone may have to point me to some stats on that. Regardless I stand behind the rest of my previous post. Look to see which congressman, there have been some named, tried to obstruct justice, and subpoena them. Do not attack the president's "right" to fire. That is a losing battle.
3.21.2007 3:27pm
Steve:
OK, I've seen this story or variations - so (1) is there proof that this really happened; (2) if so, what is this Senator's name; (3) I contend that the scandal here is not whether the President fired the attorney general, but the Senator's phone call, so why doesn't Congress supoena this "U.S. Attorney from New Mexico" and get him to tell us this Senator's name? Oh, but that would involve investigating another Congresscritter, and they would not want to set that precedent.

There's only one Republican Senator from New Mexico. His name is Pete Domenici. There was also a similar call from Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

The US Attorney in question has already testified to Congress. He also has an op-ed in today's NYT where he tells his side of the story. Domenici, for his part, has admitted the fact of the phone call, and frankly hasn't denied a whole ton of the specific allegations about what was said. It's clearly not normal for a Senator to personally call up a US Attorney at home to ask how an investigation is going.

I'm sure that as a citizen and a taxpayer, you were equally outraged when Congress spent all kinds of your money investigating things like Bill Clinton's Christmas card list. However, the present scandal has quite a bit more substance to it. As a citizen and taxpayer, I don't want to live in a country where officials try to win elections by pressuring prosecutors to indict members of the opposing party.
3.21.2007 3:28pm
rarango (mail):
ray_g: the honorable members were Senator Dominici and Rep Wilson--they have already fessed up

uh Clem: maybe Rosemary Woods had her foot on the server--oh wait, that was 18 minutes, not days. 18 is to scandal like 42 is the answer to all questions perhaps.
3.21.2007 3:29pm
Justin (mail):
(1) is there proof that this really happened;

Yes. An admission by the Senator.

(2) if so, what is this Senator's name;

Pete Dominici (R-NM)

(3) I contend that the scandal here is not whether the President fired the attorney general, but the Senator's phone call, so why doesn't Congress supoena this "U.S. Attorney from New Mexico" and get him to tell us this Senator's name?

We already know who it is. And he admitted to it. So has Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM)
3.21.2007 3:31pm
rarango (mail):
Steve: you mean like that Ronnie Earle guy in Texas? or maybe that Mike Nifong guy in Durham? Of course the LAX players weren't running for anything, but Nifong was.
3.21.2007 3:32pm
timmay!:
sorry it didn't link it. Here is the story
3.21.2007 3:35pm
Angus:

OK, I've seen this story or variations - so (1) is there proof that this really happened; (2) if so, what is this Senator's name;


Pete Domenici. Domenici admits making the call, but claims it was not an attempt to pressure Iglesias. Dominici also admits that he called Justice and asked them to fire Iglesias after the conversation, and Iglesias was indeed fired a week later.
3.21.2007 3:38pm
Preferred Customer:

OK, I've seen this story or variations - so (1) is there proof that this really happened; (2) if so, what is this Senator's name; (3) I contend that the scandal here is not whether the President fired the attorney general, but the Senator's phone call, so why doesn't Congress supoena this "U.S. Attorney from New Mexico" and get him to tell us this Senator's name? Oh, but that would involve investigating another Congresscritter, and they would not want to set that precedent.

This is just business-as-usual petty Beltway politics blown into a bogus "national scandal". As a citizen and taxpayer I'm angry with both Congress for wasting their and the President's time on this.


Others have already provided the info you seek, but my query is this: If it would be a "scandal" for a Senator to call a US Attorney at home in order to pressure him about an indictment, wouldn't it also be a "scandal" if the US Attorney who had been pressured was fired because he refused to give in to that pressure?

Just wondering.
3.21.2007 3:39pm
Justin (mail):
Nifong (whose being investigated) is a totally different set of facts.

Earle's prosecutions and investigations included Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson (case was dropped after evidence was quashed), Tom DeLay, David Bradley and Bob Offutt (State Board of Education), and Texas State Rep. Mike Martin (pled guilty to perjury). He also prosecuted and/or investigated the following Democrats (all Texas unless noted):

Supreme Court Justice Don Yarborough (5 years for forgery and lying to a grand jury)
Treasurer Warren Harding (no contest to official misconduct)
AG Jim Mattox (acquitted)
House Speaker Gib Lewis ($2000 fine for failing to disclose deal)
State Rep. Betty Denton (six months probation, $2000)
State Rep. Lane Denton (60 days work release, 6 years probation, $6000)
BOE Member Joe Bernel (indicted on misdeameanor charges by another attorney along with the GOP members)
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle - (yess, that Ronnie Earle. Convicted and paid $212 fine.

See, guys - THIS is what it looks like when you go after prosecution GENERALLY. THAT's not a crime, nor is it prosecutorial misconduct.
3.21.2007 3:45pm
Steve:
Steve: you mean like that Ronnie Earle guy in Texas? or maybe that Mike Nifong guy in Durham? Of course the LAX players weren't running for anything, but Nifong was.

Nifong should absolutely be tarred and feathered for what he did. That's a no-brainer.

As for Ronnie Earle, I'm afraid there's no evidence to suggest the DeLay prosecution was motivated by a desire to win re-election. You need a little something more than the defendant's complaints of a partisan witch-hunt, I'm afraid, since that seems to be quite routine in prosecutions of politicians. Indeed, DeLay's supporters seem to have been quite mistaken in their guarantees that the case would be quickly thrown out of court.
3.21.2007 3:45pm
rarango (mail):
I, like Captain Reynaud and gambling at Rick's cafe americaine, am shocked to find that indictments and prosecutions might be used for political purposes--who knew. I am similarly shocked to find that a senator who may control the budget of a federal agency would use his or her power to get his or her way with that federal agency.

I don't doubt that officers of the court might find these events "disturbing," but frankly find it difficult to believe that these same officers of the court are unaware these events occur accross both parties and particularly for those in the party in power at any given time.
3.21.2007 3:49pm
Houston Lawyer:
It's not like Ronnie Earle was bragging about his indictment of Delay at Democratic fund raisers or anything. I'm no fan of Delay's, but he is being prosecuted under a theory never tried before based upon alleged but so far nonexisting evidence.

I would personally approve of a law that would prevent prosecutors from running for higher office. This would hinder cases being brought for purposes of aggrandizing the prosecutor.
3.21.2007 3:57pm
rarango (mail):
To be absolutely clear my comment above was not meant to justify the misuse of political power or the use of the legal system for political advantage. But that does seem to be the way that both political parties operate these days. The spoils system is alive and well irrespective of which party controls what branch of government or house of the legislature.
3.21.2007 3:57pm
Bobbie (mail):
Keep in mind that several Republicans have also been outraged over this incident. Bush is being misleading when he implies this is simply a democratic witch hunt.
3.21.2007 4:05pm
uh clem (mail):

So unless the journal is wrong on facts, it was not common before Mr. Clinton for a president to fire the whole slate of U.S. attorneys at once.


You are quoting a WSJ editorial, not a straight news story. The WSJ editorial page often gets their facts wrong and even when they get them right they're highly tendentious in the way they present those facts. The article you cite is a combination of both, and it appears that they were successful in misleading you. Maybe you should find a better news source?

To quote Stuart M. Gerson, Assistant Attorney General under Bush Sr and Acting Attorney General at the start of the Clinton Term (he served on the transition teams of Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr, so he's quite informed about what happens in a transition).

It is customary for a President to replace U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of a term. Ronald Reagan replaced every sitting U.S. Attorney when he appointed his first Attorney General. President Clinton, acting through me as Acting Attorney General, did the same thing, even with few permanent candidates in mind. What is unusual about the current situation is that it happened in the middle of a term.


Boy, am I getting tired of swatting down this ridiculous talking point.
3.21.2007 4:11pm
Steve:
I would personally approve of a law that would prevent prosecutors from running for higher office.

What is Earle running for? Attorney General? Going after powerful Republicans may get you re-elected in Austin, I assume, but I can't imagine it would be a ticket to success in a statewide race.
3.21.2007 4:12pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
This standoff between the White House and Congress is so bloody petty. Instead of addressing the looming Medicare and Social Security Crisis, instead of addressing how to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, instead of addressing how to balance the budget, instead of addressing border control, instead of addressing more important and pressing issues, Congress and the President are going to get into a pissing contest over whether or not the President fired AT WILL employees for political reasons. Our federal government has become a joke. What sickens me even worse is that we, the peoples of the United States, have allowed our federal government to become a joke by continuing to send these two-faced elected officials from both parties to Washington DC.
3.21.2007 4:13pm
Blue:
We have been seeing the wheels of even marginal competence come off Team Bush for the last year or so. Now, to some extent this is true of every Administration at the six year mark--any political appointment with real talent has long since spent their time in government service and has left to either make money, take a position in academia, or whatever.

The problem for Bush is that his initial team was no group of All-Stars...and the 3rd class clowns now bubbling out of the dregs of the party are not even marginally capable political hacks. (A great example is that George Deutsch guy who tried to squelch NASA's climate change research--didn't even have his Texas A&M degree completed.)
3.21.2007 4:18pm
Blue:
David, loathe as I am to do it, let me defend Bush a bit here.

It is really tough for a Republican president to ensure that the bureaucracy he is the titular head of follows his instructions. This is because he (or she) is faced with tens of thousands of civil servants, each with some ability to delay or diminish the decisions of the President AND who are, to a very large degree, voters of the Democratic party.

So, while a Democratic president has to merely overcome standard bureaucratic inertia and iron triangle interest group relations between the agency, the Congress, and their external supporters, a Republican president must also face an interminable number of bureaucratic gnats each trying to stick a knife in him. (This is not just theoretical--I have seen this, personally, in the behavior of the Office of the Inspector General at Ed towards Presidential initiatives in that department.)
3.21.2007 4:25pm
Daniel DiRito (mail) (www):
See a tongue-in-cheek visual of George Bush once again beating his head with a board...as he searches for the Holy Grail...here:

www.thoughttheater.com
3.21.2007 4:26pm
Visitor Again:
The Bush Administration is displaying all the classic signs of guilt. False explanations, evasive explanations, incomplete explanations, stonewalling--all these are circumstantial evidence that casts the firings in the worst possible light. And they are the reason the Democrats are pursuing this to the end.

It's important to get to the bottom of this because a system in which prosecutors are fired for going after the Administration's political friends and/or for refusing to go after the Administration's political enemies is a perversion of both justice and democracy. The reputation of the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney's offices across the nation is at stake.
3.21.2007 4:30pm
rarango (mail):
Blue--I havent seen the term iron triangle used in quite a while! Good description of the "process" or lack thereof although I thought the iron triangle was between congressional staffers, lobby groups, and their allies in the executive branches.

Another useful reference on bureaucratic behavior is James Q. Wilson's book on the Bureaucracy. IIRC, Senator Dominici was the Ranking Republican on Senate Ways and Means--if I were a bureaucrat, and that individual called me and said jump, I would have asked how high. Should Sen Dominici have asked for Mr. Yglesias to be gotten rid of, I would not be surprised why DOJ would have done it. Was the removal "right?" of course not; but it is certainly both understandable and predictable.
3.21.2007 4:36pm
Mark Field (mail):
uh clem made substantially the same point I was going to make regarding previous administrations. It's possible that there were US Attorneys who survived as holdovers under Carter or Reagan (I didn't count them), but in general terms they were replaced. I've quoted a NY Times article below just to show how the issue came up after Reagan's election.

More significantly, though, the argument about the beginning of the term replacements is irrelevant. Everyone agrees that the President has every right to hire and fire the US Attorneys. Much the same is true of employers generally -- under at-will employment, they can be fired for any reason or no reason. What can NOT happen, though, is a firing for prohibited reasons such as race or religion. Same with Bush -- he could have fired these Attorneys for pretty much any reason. What he could NOT do is fire them in order to corrupt the judicial process.


"Copyright 1980 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

November 28, 1980, Friday, Late City Final Edition

SECTION: Section B; Page 11, Column 1; National Desk

LENGTH: 956 words

HEADLINE: DECISION BY REAGAN IS AWAITED ON U.S. ATTORNEYS WHO ARE DEMOCRATS

BYLINE: Special to the New York Times

DATELINE: WASHINGTON, Nov. 27
Many Federal prosecutors, former prosecutors and Justice Department officials say they hope that Ronald Reagan will depart from custom by allowing incumbent United States Attorneys to complete their terms.

Of all the Government officials subject to replacement by the new President, few are in so delicate or ambiguous a position as these 94 Presidentially appointed prosecutors, who try cases involving Federal laws throughout the country. They are supposed to be strictly nonpolitical in their work, though in many cases they were appointed as a result of political patronage.

They have four-year terms, but serve at the pleasure of the President. The law says that ''each United States Attorney is subject to removal by the President.'' It does not say that removal may be ''only for good cause,'' as some statutes provide.

Those who hope that Mr. Reagan will let the incumbents finish their terms said that such a move would enhance the lawyers' status as professionals. He might also avoid the fights that caused embarrassment to President Carter when he removed several Republican prosecutors against their will, most notably David W. Marston, in Philadelphia.

Aides to Mr. Reagan said last week that they had not set a policy, but would be inclined to review separately the qualifications of each United States Attorney.

Merit Over Partisanship

In some large metropolitan districts, merit has begun to overtake partisan politics as a major factor in the selection and retention of United States Attorneys. Senators in about eight states, including New York, have set up merit selection commissions to screen candidates.

The terms of 52 of the 94 prosecutors expire in 1981. Another 15 terms will be up in 1982. In addition, Federal District Courts have appointed United States Attorneys to fill vacancies in 12 districts. The President could appoint new people to those positions at any time. All nominees would be subject to Senate confirmation.

The decision to retain incumbent United States Attorneys depends at least as much on senators, because Senators of the President's party have usually had the dominant voice in choosing Federal prosecutors."
3.21.2007 4:37pm
Adeez (mail):
"The Bush Administration is displaying all the classic signs of guilt. False explanations, evasive explanations, incomplete explanations, stonewalling--all these are circumstantial evidence that casts the firings in the worst possible light. And they are the reason the Democrats are pursuing this to the end."

Vistor: kinda reminds me of the Dubai ports controversy. The average American (myself included) is not in a position to immediately make an informed analysis of the pros and cons of such a deal. I mean, selling to a Dubai company sounds bad, but let's get the facts. But no, how did Bush react? He whined like a petulant baby about how the deal is going to go through b/c he says so. He did this before he even knew the details himself. It wasn't the news of the transaction that made me so skeptical, it was his continous defensive posture about the whole issue that raises eyebrows. I mean, for someone who doesn't mention the loss of an American city in his SOTU address or Osama Bin Laden, why would he have so much passion over this one "little" transaction?
3.21.2007 4:40pm
Brett:
I find this entire episode sad and ridiculous.

Democrats, whose newfound regard for the crimes of perjury and obstruction is absolutely precious, have worked themselves into high dudgeon about the possibility that there may have been politics involved in the hiring and firing of political appointees. (The suggestion in this thread that the discretionary firing of a prosecutor by his boss could amount to obstruction of justice is particularly hilarious.)

Meanwhile, Republicans who scorched the earth with Congressional subpoenas during the Clinton administration are now making broad claims of executive privilege.

Like I said: sad and ridiculous. I think we went past history repeating itself as tragedy, and straight through to farce.
3.21.2007 4:42pm
Gabriel Malor (mail):
Visitor, that is an excellent explanation. Google made the same mistake with the China fiasco. Is giving China a nerfed browser (just like Yahoo and MSN did) really a bad thing? No. Is it illegal? No. Did Google immediately act guilty anyway? Yes; they even briefly removed their motto, "Do No Evil."

If you act guilty, we will assume you are guilty. You'd think every PR person would have this tattooed on the back of their eyelids by now.
3.21.2007 4:52pm
Joe Blow (mail):
For anyone who is interested, wikipedia has an extensive entry about this controversy Link
3.21.2007 4:56pm
rarango (mail):
visitor and gabriel malor: both comments are true, I think, but one major PR issue is how genuinely difficult it is to put together "the facts of the case" in some sort of coherent time sequence when there are a lot of players involved, documents to be assembled, press releases and emails, recollections to be refreshed, and all done without error, internal contradiction, and within a short enough time to meet news cycle deadlines.

I fear that process simply can't be done coherently without producing precisely those things you cite as suggestion guilt; and were any administration to say, give me three days to do this, it would be assumed that time was done to concoct a story. I think any administration is really in a no-win PR position.
3.21.2007 5:00pm
John Herbison (mail):
I have a question. If a Congressional committee issued a subpoena, and the recipient did not move to quash the subpoena, but simply ignored it, what is the enforcement mechanism? Wouldn't enforcement of the subpoena necessarily involve the Department of Justice requesting the U.S. District Court to act? The Department of Justice headed by Gonzales?
3.21.2007 5:13pm
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III (mail):
Let us see. We have a US Attny who refused to investigate and prosecute voter fraud, and in California we have one who will not inforce or prosecute border policy. There were two US Attorneys who failed to execute Administration policy concerning voter fraud and one who failed to prosecute illegal alien cases until there were as many as 13 illegal border crossings by the individual. It is the executive branch that is tasked with enforcing laws. If the President must answer to those who make the laws about enforcement, the legislative branch becomes an end all. The Pres. has the power and authority to fire US Attorney at his will. Thats it and thats all. Find a law that was provably broken. The Supreme Court will find this laughable.
3.21.2007 5:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
"This is the root of all of his problems: his inability to articulately convey his message to America."

Yup. Bush's problem isn't that the War in Iraq is going badly, it's that he just hasn't been able to get Fox News to convey that it is.
3.21.2007 5:16pm
Ejote (mail):
Tu quoque.
3.21.2007 5:19pm
Mark Field (mail):

I think we went past history repeating itself as tragedy, and straight through to farce.


Not to be all nitpicky, but Marx said the first time was tragedy, the second time was farce.


Wouldn't enforcement of the subpoena necessarily involve the Department of Justice requesting the U.S. District Court to act? The Department of Justice headed by Gonzales?


There's a post in the other thread which explains this in more detail, but generally yes. Enforcement in most cases goes to the US Attorney for DC.
3.21.2007 5:20pm
Pantapon Rose (mail):
I wonder if this is connected to the plummeting approval ratings of Dems in Congress?

Now that the Democracts in Congress have a far lower approval rating the lame duck Bush, there's little incentive for him to change what he's been doing lately, as it's obviously been working for him.
3.21.2007 5:27pm
uh clem (mail):
Democrats, whose newfound regard for the crimes of perjury and obstruction is absolutely precious, have worked themselves into high dudgeon about the possibility that there may have been politics involved in the hiring and firing of political appointees.

Um...It's not just Democrats. Listen to Bob Barr, Attorney General under Reagan:

But what's really unfortunate here, both from the White House standpoint as well as the standpoint of what's best for the country, is the integrity of the Department of Justice is being used as a political football by the administration to prove who's the toughest hombre in all this. It's very unfortunate. I'm not sure the administration has chosen the best line in the sand to draw here, so to speak. Congress clearly has a right to inquire into the running of the Department of Justice, to inquire into the integrity of the process of hiring and firing U.S. Attorneys, notwithstanding the fact that that is technically a prerogative of the president. Rather than fight this, the administration really ought to be going out of its way to do what prior administrations have done, such as the Bush 1 administration and Reagan administrations, and that is take whatever steps are necessary to assure the American people that the integrity of our justice system has not been compromised.

[T]he Judiciary Committees in both the House and the Senate have a pretty clear right to demand information that relates to the propriety of the running of the Department of Justice. These, after all, are all people, whether Karl Rove or a U.S. Attorney or an attorney general, who are paid by the taxpayers with funds appropriated by the Congress. And Congress has a right to assure itself that these funds are being used properly and that is consistent with the appropriate standards of justice and integrity at the Department of Justice. ... If in fact the White House insists on not sending people forward, not making the information available, then the loser in all of this is the Department of Justice in the sense that justice is fair and impartial. That used to be the hallmark of the running of our government.


There you have it. The Bush administration is willing to sacrifice the reputation of the DOJ in order to win a pissing match with congress. Talk about undermining respect for the rule of law - if I was one of the 85 remaining USA's I'd be livid at the damage to my reputation.
3.21.2007 5:34pm
ed o:
if domenici and wilson are the problem, why are they not subpoenaed and placed under oath to get to the bottom of things. if the USA's were not enforcing stated administration policies, why shouldn't they be gone?
3.21.2007 5:35pm
uh clem (mail):
"Bob Barr, Attorney General under Reagan"

Oops. Make that one of the US Attorneys under Reagan. Fumble fingers.
3.21.2007 5:37pm
Centrist:
uh clem:

Um...It's not just Democrats. Listen to Bob Barr, Attorney General under Reagan:

that just goes to prove how non-partisan Reagan was - he hired someone with obvious Democratic leanings as AG
3.21.2007 5:38pm
Hoosier:
I'm a Republican, I guess.

But good God--Is it 2009 yet?

A memo to My Fellow Americans: Let's not do this MBA-President-thing again. In fact, let's close down the "management" schools.
3.21.2007 5:41pm
Brett:
uh clem:

The Bush administration is willing to sacrifice the reputation of the DOJ in order to win a pissing match with congress.


Barr is entitled to his spin. I'm entitled to think he's an opportunist and a fool.
3.21.2007 5:46pm
Observer (mail):
Orin - Do you have a view on the legal merits of the executive privilege claim? Let's assume arguendo that the firings were for partisan polical reasons. What would the legitimate legislative inquiry be that would justify overruling executive privilege? Could Congress constitutionally prohibit the president from firing political appointees for partisan reasons? If not, if the only purpose of the Congressional hearings is to embarrass the president and put political pressure on him, is that enough of a reason to overrule executive privilege?
3.21.2007 5:55pm
ShelbytheIntern (mail) (www):
Our next Pres. better have their act together and it better not be Hillary. I think the great flaw there is that she leans too much upon her husbands sucesses for her own campaign. The guy isn't exactly weatherproof either.
- Back to the Future, Clinton-Style
Christopher Ruddy
3.21.2007 5:58pm
calmom:
Go to any coffee shop or grocery store or park bench and listen to what people are talking about in the way of current events. It ain't this.

It's illegal immigration, Iraq, the stock market, property prices and taxes, the cost of that MRI they had to have.

The Congress plays politics. The administration plays politics. It's all just irrelevant noise to the voters who have to deal with bread and butter issues.
3.21.2007 6:00pm
frankcross (mail):
Pantapon, I believe that is factually incorrect. Congressional approval ratings are low but not plummeting. They are at least as high as before the election.
3.21.2007 6:02pm
uh clem (mail):
Do you have a view on the legal merits of the executive privilege claim?

I'm not Orin or even a lawyer, but my understanding is that the only precedents for executive privilege relate to national security issues. So, were Bush to base his challenge to the subpoenas on executive privilege he'd be breaking new legal ground here. (i.e. he'd need to establish a new precedent).

I'll cheerfully accept a correction from somebody more knowlegable.
3.21.2007 6:10pm
Dave N (mail):
Centrist,

Your comment (I am assuming referring to Bob Barr) is a real head-scratcher. Bob Barr was a U.S. Attorney during the Reagan Administration and then spent 8 years in Congress as the most conservative member of the Georgia delegation.

However, he may have an ax to grind against the Bush Administration. In 2004, the politicos in the Bush White House supported Johnny Isakson over Barr for the open U.S. Senate seat. Paybacks can be hell.
3.21.2007 6:22pm
davod (mail):
frankcross:

sorry to dissilusion you but the Congresses `ratings have plummeted and they are rated below the President. With the latest BS I would suggest they will be in the negative.
3.21.2007 6:23pm
uh clem (mail):
Go to any coffee shop or grocery store or park bench and listen to what people are talking about in the way of current events. It ain't this.

It also ain't any other topic* covered by the Volokh Conspiracy. But I fail to see the utility in pointing that out in every thread.


* Well, maybe the 30 minute seder in certain neighborhoods. (c:
3.21.2007 6:24pm
calmom:
It's not a legal point. It's a political point. The more time Congress spends on a topic that doesn't affect the average person and which the typical American doesn't give a fig over, the lower their approval ratings sink. Then the same congress people and media will wring their hands over low voter turnouts and simply not understand the connection. They aren't tackling issues people care about.
3.21.2007 6:29pm
Centrist:

Centrist,

Your comment (I am assuming referring to Bob Barr) is a real head-scratcher

sarcasm
3.21.2007 6:29pm
Justin (mail):
Calmon,

I'm not sure you appreciate the impact that "corruption" had on the 2006 elections - and that was before Libby was convicted.
3.21.2007 6:50pm
calmom:
Given that William Jefferson was re-elected, I don't think that corruption was really much of an issue.

It was Iraq.
3.21.2007 6:56pm
tsotha:
The whole affair is political. As far as I can see, there's no credible allegation of wrongdoing. Bush can hire and fire US Attourneys. The end. The rest is just Leahy fulfilling his pledge to drown the administration in hearings.

I think Bush has made quite a few political calculations in the last six years, but the whole affair is going to leave the Democrats worse for wear. Americans are starting to remember why we voted them out of office in 1994.
3.21.2007 6:58pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
As far as I can see, there's no credible allegation of wrongdoing.


People who keep saying this are simply ignoring the evidence. Here is a direct quote from one of the fired USA's:

Politics entered my life with two phone calls that I received last fall, just before the November election. One came from Representative Heather Wilson and the other from Senator Domenici, both Republicans from my state, New Mexico.

Ms. Wilson asked me about sealed indictments pertaining to a politically charged corruption case widely reported in the news media involving local Democrats. Her question instantly put me on guard. Prosecutors may not legally talk about indictments, so I was evasive. Shortly after speaking to Ms. Wilson, I received a call from Senator Domenici at my home. The senator wanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges — the cases Ms. Wilson had been asking about — before November. When I told him that I didn't think so, he said, "I am very sorry to hear that," and the line went dead.

A few weeks after those phone calls, my name was added to a list of United States attorneys who would be asked to resign — even though I had excellent office evaluations, the biggest political corruption prosecutions in New Mexico history, a record number of overall prosecutions and a 95 percent conviction rate. (In one of the documents released this week, I was deemed a "diverse up and comer" in 2004. Two years later I was asked to resign with no reasons given.)


That's called OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, people.

Not to mention the fact that Gonzales and others blatantly lied to Congress.
3.21.2007 7:04pm
plunge (mail):
I can't believe that anyone actually takes any statements of fact from the WSJ editorial page at face value. How many times does someone have to get burned by them to wise up?

"Brett: Democrats, whose newfound regard for the crimes of perjury and obstruction is absolutely precious, have worked themselves into high dudgeon about the possibility that there may have been politics involved in the hiring and firing of political appointees."

You, like many others, are simply not getting what this controversy is about, or are just dishonestly trying to pretend that the issue is about hires and fires rather than the conduct behind the hires and fires and the way the Republican party appears to have tried to use the justice system to generate ink and, perhaps more severely, bury and negate investigations of Republicans for misconduct. US attorney's are indeed political appointees, but that doesn't mean that they aren't bound by ethics or don't have certain duties.

We so far have pretty good evidence that many of the people who were fired we fired because they didn't do something that was flatly unethical: i.e. mount investigations they couldn't otherwise justify for the purpose of helping their party generate ink and win elections. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. There WERE many investigations of Democrats before the midterms that generated headlines but never actually developed into anything and seem to have simply been forgotten about now that the elections are over. Suddenly, countless numbers of these cases now look suspect. You don't see how that could be a serious problem? And that's not even getting into what appears to be evidence of trying to quash existing or planned investigations of Republicans.
3.21.2007 7:12pm
uh clem (mail):
Mahan Atma,

Oh, he's just a crazed DemocRAT moonbat with BDS like that Bob Barr guy. Fools and opportunists. It's all spin. Nothing to see here. </sarcasm>
3.21.2007 7:13pm
plunge (mail):
tsotha:"The whole affair is political. As far as I can see, there's no credible allegation of wrongdoing. Bush can hire and fire US Attourneys."

Case in point: this talking point about the issue being just over whether or not Bush can hire or fire these people. Has ANYONE ever claimed that he couldn't do so? Why is this the only question his defenders seem willing to answer, especially given that it is a question no one asked? How can people be either this grossly misinformed os this boldly dishonest?
3.21.2007 7:17pm
Steve:
Go to any coffee shop or grocery store or park bench and listen to what people are talking about in the way of current events. It ain't this.

Rasmussen:

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Americans say they are following the stories surrounding Gonzales Somewhat or Very Closely.

Twenty-seven percent (27%) say they are Very Concerned about the recent firing of 8 U.S. attorneys. Another 28% say they are Somewhat Concerned.


There's more:

The current survey, completed Tuesday night March 20, finds that just 26% have a favorable opinion of Gonzales. That's down six points from a survey conducted five days earlier. At the same time, the number with an unfavorable opinion of Gonzales has climbed to 52%. Last week, 49% had an unfavorable view, a figure that had already jumped up from 41% a month ago.


You can pretend, if you like, that the actions of one committee are what's holding up the solution to global warming and the cure for cancer, but the facts won't back you up.

Given that William Jefferson was re-elected, I don't think that corruption was really much of an issue.

Again, anecdotal evidence from a single district hardly trumps actual evidence in the form of exit polls and election results. You don't see me making the absurd argument that because Joe Lieberman got re-elected, the public didn't care much about Iraq.

Americans are starting to remember why we voted them out of office in 1994.

Wishful thinking in the extreme. Wow, the Republicans took over in 1994 because the public didn't like investigations? The Republican majority never would have lasted past the first investigation of Clinton's Christmas card list if that were the case. No, the Republicans took over because the public was quite rightly concerned about corruption and wrongdoing on the part of Democrats, and there's no reason to think they care any less now that the shoe is on the other foot.

I just wonder where all these people who think it's a crime to waste the valuable time of the Executive Branch were in the 1990s.
3.21.2007 7:18pm
Justin (mail):
"Given that William Jefferson was re-elected, I don't think that corruption was really much of an issue."

Given what we've now learned about the AUSAs, whose to believe that William Jefferson was guilty? (note: I personally doubt Jefferson is innocent, although my concerns about Bob Casey and Bob Menendez's ethical issues have been greatly reduced by the knowledge of how the AUSA's office is run under the Bush administration).
3.21.2007 7:41pm
Steve:
What ever happened to that Menendez investigation, anyway? I swear, back in September and October, it was in the papers every day...
3.21.2007 8:31pm
karl (mail):
Let's face it. Washington politicians, all of them, don't give a rat's behind about the country or their constituents. All they care about is power. Their entire existance is based on getting reelected and any thread they can grab onto to make their opponets look bad is fair game. What's the greatest threat to the United States? Terrorists, global warming, immigration, natural catastrope? None of the above. The greatest threat is the political system in Washington, DC.
3.21.2007 9:01pm
Brett Bellmore:

Given what we've now learned about the AUSAs, whose to believe that William Jefferson was guilty?


Got me there, I certainly keep thousands of dollars of cash I can't account for in the freezer. And that footage of him taking bribes? Doesn't prove a thing...

I think Bush is in a better position than many want to admit: A corrupt Congress wants to attack the White house on the basis that US attorneys were fired for not investigating Democrats? There's a pretty effective counter to that: Bring indictments against a few Democratic members of Congress. And suddenly the complaints look an awful lot like guilty people who don't want the police looking into their affairs.

Which I suspect is pretty close to the truth.
3.21.2007 9:09pm
ray_g:
Thanks to all who provided information. I admit to being lazy and/or uninterested enough to follow this. I should do my homework before commenting.

To answer a couple of questions:

"I'm sure that as a citizen and a taxpayer, you were equally outraged when Congress spent all kinds of your money investigating things like Bill Clinton's Christmas card list."

The relevance of this escapes me, but yes, I was. I'm outraged by most Congressional investigations, as they usually seem to more about politics than discovering facts or actually accomplishing something useful.

"However, the present scandal has quite a bit more substance to it."

I'm not convinced of that. I stand by my opinon that in the past, irrespective of which party it was, this would just be part of typical political maneuvering. I don't think it is right or fair that these folks were fired, but I see no threat to freedom from it. As someone else said, I'm shocked!! that political appointees were fired for political reasons.

"...If it would be a "scandal" for a Senator to call a US Attorney at home in order to pressure him about an indictment, wouldn't it also be a "scandal" if the US Attorney who had been pressured was fired because he refused to give in to that pressure? "

I consider the Senator's actions more objectionable, because he started this series of events, and most likely insisted that this person be replaced. I believe that the Executive should have resisted this, first because it is not right or fair to the US Attorney, and second because it was politically stupid, but perhaps they thought they needed the Senator's good will. That is politics. In this case, probably a political mistake.

But to start treating this as some huge scandal, requiring Congressional investigation with supoenas and oaths and looking for criminal activity - just strikes me as grandstanding at best, and yes, a show trial and witch hunt at worst.

The thought of Senators and Representatives grilling people and making impassioned speeches about how horrible and evil the other side is and what a threat to the republic - it disgusts me. Pot, kettle, black.

The one thing that I am sure is truly bi-partisan is corruption. Followed closely by dirty political infighting.
3.21.2007 9:36pm
Justin (mail):
"I'm not convinced of that."

How can you be convinced of that? You just admitted not knowing even the basic facts surrounding the scandal.
3.21.2007 9:39pm
Frietag (mail):
Given the lack of any language saying that Attorneys can be removed "only for good cause", the Democrats' case doesn't seem strong. It's not like any of these attorneys haven't served their 4-year terms; they were all on their second shift.

(Even if it did say "good cause", who's to say what a good cause is? "For not enforcing the laws" is pretty good. Of course, you can certainly argue that point. But to do that, you'd have to get past the ridiculous sob stories about how "my boss called me and said I wasn't doing my job, and I got really scared."

(About which: Geez, grow up. You're a political appointee. What did you think you were signing up for? If you work "at someone's pleasure" -- which is, incidentally, what 99% of us wage-slaves are doing -- and somebody who outranks you tells you to do something that could reasonably be construed as your job -- and doing that construed something isn't actually illegal -- then you suck it up and do it. These human-interest "agony accounts" read like those PR-firmed statements that parties in civil suits always put in their press releases. Speaking as a total cynic, the dismal science of public relations has lowered my "sob-story" tolerance to near zero. Exceptions are allowed for lynchings or actual physical abuse. Everything else is too easily exaggerated.)

I'm glad that 'uh clem' is around to "slap down" any of our lame "talking points". Of course, he left out the fact that one of the reasons that the GOP bitched so much about the "Reno 93" was that a number of them were considering bringing an indictment against Dan Rostenkowski at the time. (Source: .) However, that one might actually have been a coincidence, given the timing.

But what about when Jimmy Carter canned Philadelphia U.S. Attorney David Marston for investigating PA congressman Joshua Eilberg? That was in the middle of a term -- it took place in 1978. And Carter fired him at the recommendation of ... Joshua Eilberg himself. (Who subsequently got charged by the Ethics Committee, lost his reelection, and pled out to a five-year sentence. Something about a kickback for a federal grant to a hospital.) Way to go, Jimmy! That was 1xxx times more outrageous than what Dubya did. (Here, "xxx" stands for "a certain number of zeroes, depending on your party affiliation.") Source: .

I hope that Marston thing doesn't count as a "talking point." That could bring the "slap down" from uh clem, you know. Well, I can always write a sob story about it ... and post it under the aforementioned "physical abuse" exception.
3.21.2007 10:22pm
Brett:
plunge:

You, like many others, are simply not getting what this controversy is about, or are just dishonestly trying to pretend that the issue is about hires and fires rather than the conduct behind the hires and fires and the way the Republican party appears to have tried to use the justice system to generate ink and, perhaps more severely, bury and negate investigations of Republicans for misconduct.


No, plunge. I "get", perfectly, that this is what you would like this controversy to be about: you're desperately trying to spin Gonzales' incompetent explanations for the firings, plus the absence of evidence of good cause for the firings, plus this wishful thinking...

We so far have pretty good evidence that many of the people who were fired we fired because they didn't do something that was flatly unethical: i.e. mount investigations they couldn't otherwise justify for the purpose of helping their party generate ink and win elections.


...into a scandal allowing intellectual and ethical midgets Henry Waxman and Pat Leahy to grandstand, with the ultimate goal of enabling the nutroots to collect a scalp or two, and possibly stick some additional mud to a president you despise. Of course, you don't actually possess "good evidence" of any wrongdoing or impropriety; you have the self-interested statements of the fired prosecutors themselves, plus email documentation that your fellow partisans have busily been romancing into innuendo, but which -- as Patterico has amply demonstrated on his blog -- isn't nearly as conclusive or damning as you'd have the world think.

Ultimately, it all boils down to what I said above: lefty partisans feigning to be shocked, shocked, that politics -- inclusive of decisions as to how to prioritize investigatory effort and allocate prosecutorial resources -- may have been a factor in the hiring and firing of political appointees. No amount of partisan spin, or hilariously declaring your critics ignorant or dishonest, alters that basic fact.
3.21.2007 10:38pm
Justin (mail):
Frietag,

you're making the same mistake everyone else is making. Nobody is alleging that the firing of the US Attornies was a crime in and of itself. It was possibly the tool to commit or encourage another crime (such as obstruction of justice or malicious prosecution) - and that's the statute you'd want to focus on in discussing the criminal issue.
3.21.2007 10:57pm
frankcross (mail):
Goodness, we don't know the facts. Hence, the reason for the investigation. If this is ordinary and legal, that will can be explained in the investigation. The Dems want this for political gain, but if there's nothing there, there's nothing there.

Now, I'm thinking that when you call people "intellectual and ethical midgets" or make comparable claims you are just revealing your closed minded partisanship. Which is certainly your right. But why would you expect anyone to be persuaded by the content your post after you demonstrate this fact?
3.21.2007 11:31pm
frankcross (mail):
Goodness, we don't know the facts. Hence, the reason for the investigation. If this is ordinary and legal, that will can be explained in the investigation. The Dems want this for political gain, but if there's nothing there, there's nothing there.

Now, I'm thinking that when you call people "intellectual and ethical midgets" or make comparable claims you are just revealing your closed minded partisanship. Which is certainly your right. But why would you expect anyone to be persuaded by the content your post after you demonstrate this fact?
3.21.2007 11:31pm
frankcross (mail):
Goodness, we don't know the facts. Hence, the reason for the investigation. If this is ordinary and legal, that will can be explained in the investigation. The Dems want this for political gain, but if there's nothing there, there's nothing there.

Now, I'm thinking that when you call people "intellectual and ethical midgets" or make comparable claims you are just revealing your closed minded partisanship. Which is certainly your right. But why would you expect anyone to be persuaded by the content your post after you demonstrate this fact?
3.21.2007 11:31pm
uh_clem (mail):
you're desperately trying to spin Gonzales' incompetent explanations for the firings, plus the absence of evidence of good cause for the firings

Ok. So how do you spin Gonzales' incompetent explanations for the firings, and the absence of evidence of good cause for the firings?

Extra points for explaining how Bush can be "out of the loop" and "didn't sign off" on the firings, yet retain the role as sole decision maker on who stays and who goes.


When I get a narrative that's at least internally consistent then I can start examaining it to see if it comports with observable facts. As long as I'm staring at at a collection of excuses that contradict each other I'll continue to call BS.
3.21.2007 11:36pm
The General:
Bush can fire these US attorneys because he doesn't like the color of their ties. In other words, it's the President's perogative to keep or fire these people, even for political reasons. Nothing is wrong with that. Nothing the Dems investigate will change that. They're just hamming it up for the cameras because they lack a popular agenda or any real policy ideas that are supported by the bulk of the American people.
3.21.2007 11:44pm
Henry679 (mail):
Nixon unquestionably had the power to order the AG to fire Archibald Cox. He had to go three deep to find a toady willing to do that, but it was unquestionably legal (which is why the late Independent Counsel Act was passed).

If you can't see at least the possible larger issue here, you are buried to the neck in the bullcrap of partisanship.
3.21.2007 11:46pm
uh_clem (mail):
Bush can fire these US attorneys because he doesn't like the color of their ties.

Ok. Fine. If that's the reason then let him go on national television and say so. "Because I say so" is never a good reason, and no thinking person should accept it as an excuse.

I'm still waiting for a valid reason why they were fired that passes the laugh test. As it is, Bush and Gonzles are trying to simultaneously hide behind the "I was out of the loop" defense and claim the "Because I said so" excuse. Neither are exculpatory, and they're logically mutuallly exclusive.

So, which is it? It can't be both.
3.22.2007 12:43am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Americans say they are following the stories surrounding Gonzales Somewhat or Very Closely."

I wouldn't read too much into this statement. The phrase "somewhat or very closely" is pretty vague. Anyone who has just heard of the Gonzales matter will likely answer "yes" to this question. I really doubt this issue fevers and lathers the country (borrowing a phrase from H. L. Mencken). It's inside the Beltway stuff for political junkies. I suspect a lot of people are actually pissed off that Congress is wasting time on this. There were pissed off when the Republicans did much the same thing to Clinton. We are ripe for a third party. The Stupid Party has become evil (as well as stupid) and the Evil Party has become stupid (as well as evil). Scotty beam me up, this place sucks.
3.22.2007 3:24am
calmom:
Agreed, Zarkov. This kerfuffle isn't even on the radar when it comes to the issues that are going to determine which way people vote in '08.
3.22.2007 11:45am
markm (mail):
The argument that "I'll let my aides testify, but only if they're not under oath and there's no transcript" (not that "testify" is the right word in that case) is just as tone-deaf as when Congress objected to the FBI raid on William Jefferson's office.

OTOH, given that bad memory while testifying in the investigation of a non-crime is now punishable with prison (Scooter Libby), but apparently only for Republican officials (how much time did Bill Clinton serve, for what was unquestionably perjury?), Bush may simply think that he has to protect his people by seeing that they never go under oath.
3.22.2007 12:08pm
markg8 (mail):
Bush has said he doesn't recall anyone consulting him on the firing. He's even blown the unvarnished advice defense by admitting that.

Clinton's appointees testfied dozens of times under oath on the Hill. Bush will lose this fight. By dragging it out he's inviting comparisons to Nixon. That's not what any president wants to do but it may be bad enough that it's what he has to do.
3.22.2007 1:20pm
eddie (mail):
I am truly amazed that some of the statements made here have so much contempt for our system of government.

Just a few examples:

"These are political appointments" of course they are political appointment, but the prosecution of the duties of the USAs must be scrupulously non-political, if the rule of law has any meaning. Don't they teach basic civic anymore? And how can a blog that is moderated by law professors be populated by commenters who show such an ignorance (or is it disdain) for both the rule of law and the actions of officers of the court?

"Bad memory is now a crime" This is really a good one. Mr. Libby had the chance to testify that this was simply a case of failed memory and the jury could have weighed his testimony and credibility. However, please enlighten me as to how you can prove faulty memory without such testimony? And please spare us all of the specious argument that "expert testimony" could prove this. That's like saying I can prove a person's intent by providing third party testimony that he is a wonderful person (which really only proves that a person believes that the defendant is a good person).

Finally, whether a crime was committed or not is irrelevant to the controversy. The Congress has clearly defined and well-established precedents for oversight. In the midst of breathtaking inconsistencies offered by both the AG and the Administration, only a fool would simply say, "OK, no harm no foul; who needs an explanation anyway?"

"Corrupt Congress" This is truly a truly bankrupt statement. The investigations of the Democratic lawmakers were made in respect of matters occurring prior to the Nov 06 elections. The Republicans held the majority at the time and the Democrats had no power to forward any particular agenda. The fact that there is such a huge discrepancy between Republican investigations and Democratic investigations is certainly prima facie cause for suspicion. But more importantly, when making sweeping accusations regarding our lawmakers, at least provide some basis. There simply has not been enough time since the elections for such corruption to have festered, at least if one uses common sense. But being "liberal" I certainly would be open to examining any evidence of such "corruption".

Any mention of "Ronnie Earle" is pure and simply apples and oranges. Ronnie Earle is not a USA nor is Mr. Delay, to my knowledge under investigation or indictment by any federal authorities.

This is truly a pathetic display of "politics" by those who at least on the surface are concerned about the "law". There is a difference. It's too bad that our law schools are not so concerned with inculcating the importance of that difference.
3.22.2007 3:14pm
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
Let me add some data for one case and then make a general point.

First, as those who have followed Stefan Sharkansky's work at Sound Politics know, there was good reason to investigate the 2004 election here in Washington state. Stefan has, so far, found more than 500 votes counted by King County, which should not have been counted. McKay refused to investigate. (Full disclosure: I am one of the contributors to the site.)

Second, the 7-1 (or 10-1, or whatever the ratio was in that silly study that Krugman cited) of Democratic corruption cases to Republican corruption cases sounds about right, if prosecutors are choosing cases purely on their legal merits. Democrats really are that much more likely to be involved in corruption than Republicans -- and the ratio is even higher in vote fraud cases. (If you want examples for the last point, see John Fund's "Stealing Elections". Or just do regular searches, as I do, for vote fraud news stories. You'll find that nearly all of them involve Democrats, often, by the way, in Democratic primaries.)

Or take a look at one of our most famous corruption cases, Abscam. Make a count of the public officials who were convicted and their parties. I'll bet you come pretty close to 7-1 Democrats to Republicans. And that investigation was started under, as I recall, Jimmy Carter, who is not now and never has been a Republican.

This is not to say that all Democratic officials, or even most Democratic officials, are corrupt. But anyone familiar with our political parties will know that, if you are looking for corrupt officials, you will find more on the left side of the aisle. And I knew that even when I was a Democrat, years ago.
3.23.2007 9:24pm