Saturday, January 20, 2007


Misplaced Priorities

It's disconcerting that, even though the Democrats are now running Congress -- and passing some fairly horrid legislation, the antics of this Republican administration is still managing to turn my stomach.

Here's a nice question for you: After an election that partly turned on a belief that Republicans were more interested in their own self-aggrandizement rather than the general welfare of the country, wouldn't you think that the administration would go out of its way to prove the opposite? Wouldn't you think that Republicans would want to show their general integrity and reassure the public that they understand the big picture?

Yes, you might think that.

Alas, you would be wrong: Over the last few weeks, the administration has cashiered several U.S. attorneys. Not for any sort of malfeasance, mind you -- just so they can pad the resumes of other GOP apparatchiks.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, who nominated Bogden, learned about a month ago that Bogden's services no longer were needed by this administration. The senator asked for reconsideration, arguing to no avail against removing someone doing a good job. Bogden became one of at least seven federal prosecutors getting the boot for no stated reason.

The most vocal critics of the forced resignations have been California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, both Democrats, who object that the Patriot Act is being used to remove the U.S. attorneys and replace them with interim appointees without Senate confirmation. They're not defending the current Bush appointees as much as they are defending the process of checks and balances.

From what I know, there was no misconduct on the part of this career prosecutor who took charge on Sept. 10, 2001, one day before terrorism became law enforcement's priority. There was no suggestion that he was playing politics with the office.

A GOP source said Ensign was told that the decision to remove U.S. attorneys, primarily in the West, was part of a plan to "give somebody else that experience" to build up the back bench of Republicans by giving them high-profile jobs.

So, whether the previous U.S. attorneys were doing a good job was irrelevant (one got quite a scalp: She successfully prosecuted ex.-Rep. Duke Cunningham). Nope, they had to be pushed aside because, well, the days of the Bush administration are drawing to a close and a number of people need new jewels on their C.V.s. Josh Marshall's muckraking site sees even darker motives -- getting partisans in place (particularly in Arkansas) to start digging up dirt against Hillary Clinton. So far, there is no evidence of that. But, that doesn't matter. If the information given Sen. Ensign is true, that's bad enough as it is. One of Josh's readers also points out that even if the Senate objects to one of the appointments, placing a pure political appointee in the prosecutor's role can still damage the office's integrity.

And, yes, I'm fully aware that the Clinton White House pulled this kind of stuff before. But, I happened to be part of a team that slammed that White House for that behavior.

And, yes, you did read the above passage correctly: Giving further ammunition to those who think that the Patriot Act was one of the most insidious bits of legislation ever passed (either in its original form, or its 2005 revamped version), the law passed to help a president fight terrorism turns out to have a provision making it easier to fire U.S. Attorneys -- and replace them without consulting the Senate.

Yep, one man's "Patriot-ism" is another man's way of helping his political buddies enhance their future career options!

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