Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The DOJ U.S. Attorney firings "scandal"

I'll be honest, I've only been casually following the latest "scandal," the firing of 8 U.S. Attorney Generals mid-term for performance over their record of prosecuting voter fraud. I've been waiting for that shoe to drop that makes this a legit scandal rather than one of those manufactured scandals that every president seems to have but which people forget the details of 6 months later. I haven't seen that shoe drop, so I haven't been bothered to add to the cacophony over this. I wouldn't be writing about it right now if it weren't for the fact that Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters does seem to be getting worked up. This excerpt in particular has me a little befuddled:

One question that these memos raise is why it took so long to dismiss these prosecutors if they were performing so badly. Sampson compiled that ranking list two years ago this month. The effort seemed to be back-burnered until September of last year, when new rules on appointment of interim federal prosecutors made their way through Congress as part of a homeland-security bill. The new rules allow Justice and the White House to forego Senate approval on interim appointments, and the terminations commenced almost immediately after the law went into effect.

If competence and performance were the reasons for the terminations, why did Justice wait almost two years to do anything about it?

It seems to me that Ed answers his own question with the sentences I italicized above. Chances are, without the rule change, Justice never would have gone forward with the terminations. The Democrats in the Senate have fought Presidential nominations tooth and nail for the entire duration of the Bush administration. As Slate outlines, the topic of voter fraud tends to break out along partisan lines, and there is every reason to believe that the Senate Democrats would have tried to bury any replacements nominated by Bush. Given that environment, it was not worth removing the 8 individuals despite any displeasure over how they were handling voter fraud cases. Better to have the 8 U.S. Attorneys in place and not performing to expectation in the area of voter fraud than to remove them and having the positions sit open while the Senate Democrats obstruct the nomination of their replacements. Once the Senate changed the rules, however, that barrier was removed. The 8 could be fired and their positions filled with as little disruption as possible. That is why Justice waited for two years.

This is not to that Alberto Gonzales has done a stellar job running the DOJ. It has been flawed at times. There is something to be said for Andy McCarthy's opinion on defending him, though.

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