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James Comey's Testimony, and His Continuing "Errring on the Side of Neutrality and Independence":
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee today, and his recollection of the work of the 8 fired U.S. Attorneys stood in sharp contrast to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's official line. The gist of Comey's testimony: Most of the fired U.S. Attorneys were outstanding, and they certainly weren't fired for what you would traditionally think of as "performance" reasons.

  Listening to Comey's testimony reminds me of this fascinating 2004 Legal Times story (that I blogged about here and here) on why the universally-respected Comey was not likely to be nominated for the Attorney General slot when Ashcroft stepped aside. From the introduction of the 2004 story, with emphasis added:
  There are a number of candidates who could be tapped to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general if President George W. Bush wins re-election. But perhaps the most obvious choice, Deputy AG James Comey, almost certainly will not be.
  Since his confirmation as the No. 2 Justice Department official in December 2003, sources close to the department say Comey has had a strained relationship with some of the president's top advisers, who feel that Comey has been insensitive to political concerns.
  According to several former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, tensions were sparked when Comey appointed a special prosecutor to take over the investigation into whether a White House official leaked a Central Intelligence Agency operative's name to the media. The special prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, has doggedly pursued the probe, and several administration officials, including presidential adviser Karl Rove, have been questioned by prosecutors.
  Distrust of Comey deepened after some of his early staff picks were vetoed by the White House for not having strong Republican credentials, sources say.
  "The White House always wants to make sure the administration is staffed with people who have the president's best interests at heart. Anyone who resists that political loyalty check is regarded with some suspicion," says one former Bush administration official. "The objective in staffing is never to assemble the best possible team. It is to assemble the best possible team that supports the president."
  Earlier this year, after the disclosure of internal administration memos that seemed to condone the torture of suspected terrorists overseas, Comey pushed aggressively for the Justice Department's memos to be released to the media and for controversial legal analyses regarding the use of torture to be rewritten.
  In a deeply partisan administration that places a high premium on political loyalty, sources say Comey — a career prosecutor and a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — is not viewed as a team player.
  "[Comey] has shown insufficient political savvy," says the former official. "The perception is that he has erred too much on the side of neutrality and independence."
  Comey still has this "problem," it seems. Of course, the White House's eventual pick, Gonzales, does not.
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