Monday, May 21, 2007

Yes, it does matter

By Mustang Bobby

The White House and the Orcosphere have dismissed the U.S. attorney purge scandal as "no big deal," and "there's no scandal here." This is their typical response nowadays, which is a strange tack to take for the party that basically brought the United States government to a screeching halt over a blowjob. But as
The New York Times points out in its editorial today, it does matter:

The Justice Department is no ordinary agency. Its 93 United States attorney offices, scattered across the country, prosecute federal crimes ranging from public corruption to terrorism. These prosecutors have enormous power: they can wiretap people’s homes, seize property and put people in jail for life. They can destroy businesses, and affect the outcomes of elections. It has always been understood that although they are appointed by a president, usually from his own party, once in office they must operate in a nonpartisan way, and be insulated from outside pressures.

This understanding has badly broken down. It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so. The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, they investigated important Republicans, or they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases.

It also takes aim at the White House and specifically at Karl Rove:

It is hard not to see the fingerprints of Karl Rove. A disproportionate number of the prosecutors pushed out, or considered for dismissal, were in swing states. The main reason for the purge — apart from hobbling a California investigation that has already put one Republican congressman in jail — appears to have been an attempt to tip states like Missouri and Washington to Republican candidates for House, Senate, governor and president.

It's nice to see the Times catching up with this, and it's also nice to notice that finally
The Washington Post too is waking out of its stupor and catching up to the fact that -- OMG! -- the president might have some role to play in this as well. As one of my friends used to say, "BTYFO" -- "'Bout Time You Found Out."

Of course, the White House is going to dismiss this story as "no news." That's standard operating procedure for every White House. Remember the "third-rate burglary" that turned out to be the starting point for Watergate? And while people like Kate O'Bierne and David Brooks can laugh and dismiss as "histrionics" the drama of the late-night hospital encounter between Alberto Gonzales and James Comey over the nearly-comatose John Ashcroft, the truth is that when you have people desperately trying to end-run the Justice Department that causes threats of mass resignations including the director of the FBI and the senior staff of the Justice Department, and when John Ashcroft, not known for his defiance of the president or his liberal interpretation of the law, turns out to be the hero by arising from his sickbed to defy the president's men and their attempts to break the law, it is a pretty big deal.

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