Skip to comments.About those fired U.S. Attorneys
Posted on 03/13/2007 9:01:20 PM PDT by neverdem
The alleged scandal over the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys has made it to the front page of the Washington Post as today's top headline. Let's take a look at the Post's story and the "scandal."
The Post breathlessly informs us that the "Firings Had Genesis in White House." Reading on, we learn that President Bush told Attorney General Gonzales he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud invesitgations. Voter fraud is a serious offense, and both political parties say they oppose it. So it seems perfectly proper for the president to pass along a complaint that some prosecutors weren't pursuing such investigations. The question would then become how Gonzales followed-up and whether he did so fairly. More on this in a moment.
The Post also says that Harriet Miers recommended that all U.S. Attorneys be fired. Gonzales wisely rejected this blunderbuss recommendation. It's worth noting, though, that such a mass firing would not have been unprecedented. President Clinton, through Janet Reno, fired all of the U.S. Attorneys after he was elected. Clinton used the mass firing as a means of covering up his real intention -- to fire the U.S. Attorney in his home state of Arkansas. They didn't call Clinton "Slick Willie" for nothing.
This time, eight prosecutors lost their jobs. It's not implausible to think that out of 93 U.S. Attorneys, eight might be good candidates for replacement. But let's take a quick look at some of the specifics. According to the Post, three of them had low ratings -- Margaret Chiara in Michigan, Carol Lam in San Diego, and Bud Cummins in Little Rock. Cummins was replaced by Tim Griffin, whose career Karl Rove apparently wanted to advance. There's nothing novel in appointing a rising star with good connections to the job of U.S. Attorney. I've seen no evidence that Griffin was unqualified and, as noted, Cummins had received a poor rating.
Two of the fired prosecutors -- Kevin Ryan in San Francisco and David Iglesias in Albuquerque -- received strong evaluations. But according to the Post, Ryan's firing "has generated few complaints because of widespread managment and morale problems in his office."
The focus instead is on Iglesias because, in addition to the strong evaluation, he was not on the original list of prosecutors recommended for removal by Gonzales' aide Kyle Sampson. Rather, he apparently was added as a candidate for removal in response to complaints from New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans that he was not prosecuting enough voter-fraud cases.
Is the firing of Iglesias a genuine scandal? As David Frum notes, it depends on the facts: was there a serious problem of voter fraud in the state, was Iglesias sluggish in dealing with it, and did the administration act even-handedly by insisting that its U.S. Attorneys adequately deal with serious allegations of voter fraud lodged by both political parties?
Until we see good evidence that the answer to one or more of these questions is "no," the firing of Iglesias is not scandalous.
UPDATE: Jeralyn Merritt, a liberal blogger and criminal lawyer whose work I respect, argues that
The travesty of the current U.S. Attorney firing scandal is not that U.S. Attorneys are being replaced. That is expected after an election, such as the one in 2004. It's that it's happening in 2007. . .In 2007, there should be no replacements, except for any U.S. Attorneys who proved to be unqualified.
But Merritt doesn't really explain why this is so. She agrees that U.S. Attorneys "serve at the pleasure of the President." So why shouldn't a U.S. Attorney be replaced at any time if he or she is not performing well overall, or if his office is plagued by morale problems, or if she is not enforcing the immigration laws, or if he is not dealing adequately with substantial allegations of voter fraud? That's the way it works for all other presidential appointees; why not U.S. Attorneys?
The issue should be the merits of the individual decisions, not the violation of some presumption that U.S. Attorneys will only be removed at a designated point in the political cycle.
To comment on this post, go here.
Sherrif Darren White should become the voice of reason for this story. He is really good
Attention Media Folks
Oh brother ...
You may be right. If that's the case then he is wrong. Whenever he doesn't stand up and shout the truth, he is committing a sin of omission by allowing a lie to stand.
It does not matter a whit what he does - the dems will just move on to another area where they can instill doubt in the president and his administration.
The dems have the media that carries the plan for them and we have never learned to fight back against the dems. We just jump on the bandwagon and complain about Bush.
So, all the while criticizing Bush we might just look at how we allow the dems to be corrupt without repercussions, allow them to tell our administration what must be done, allow them to make black white, allow them to tell us what words we can use.
We are idiots for not throwing these accusations, wherever they appear, right back at them and then ignore them. Same as they do to any of our complaints - ignore and do exactly what they want to do.
Will we ever, ever learn we are stronger when we work together in the party instead of continually eating our own under the guize of "pure conservatism" or, in reality, purely childish tirades to boost our own petty egos?
I would frankly like to see a few just stand up here and let the dems know - "back-off".
Oh puh-leaze. Even if Gonzalez did anything worthy of being fired, I wouldn't want to get rid of him with Harry Reid's filibuster-happy crowd in control of the Senate. They haven't yet voted on a replacement for John Bolton, have they?
The real scandal is that NOBODY ever gets fired in the DC bureaucracy! The great Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, would famously demand of his managers that the cull out the lowest 10-20% of performer each year, arguing that there is always a bell-curve, and that there always are sub-par performers (by definition). Only in government bureaucracies does incompetence get rewarded again and again by that blind eye of neglect.
My old firm did exactly that, and I'm sure we were not alone.
Was it not Clinton who, in 1993, fired all but one U.S. Attorney--most appointed by Republicans? Where was the outcry then?
I'm seeing conflicting reports on this and I don't remember myself which is correct:
Did GWB also fire all (or most) US Atty's following is election or did he not?
Dunno yet. Found this though:
"One of President Clintons very first official acts upon taking office in 1993 was to fire every United States attorney then serving except one, Michael Chertoff, now Homeland Security secretary but then U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, who was kept on only because a powerful New Jersey Democrat, Sen. Bill Bradley, specifically requested his retention."
you might be interested in this
The dems have the media that carries the plan for them and we have never learned to fight back against the dems.
Reagan never seemed to have that problem, did he.
I certainly agree with that!
I found this little exchange at NPR (it doesn't matter who, just a couple of pant stains posing as NPR journalists). I just marvel at the amount of shit these guys can shovel and not gag on the stench.
How unusual is it for a U.S. attorney to be fired?
It's very unusual. Richard Nixon fired one when he was in office. [Jimmy] Carter fired a U.S. attorney who was making an investigation of a Democratic House member that he wanted to keep in office. Bill Clinton fired one. But it's really very rare for this to happen.
In this case it was eight attorneys.
That is close to unprecedented. I did a book on the Justice Department, and I just have never seen something like this.
Now, that being said, when a president comes into office, historically, all the U.S. attorneys leave. And he appoints a new set of these individuals there are about 90 of them.
I guess we're supposed to learn from this exchange that when Bill Clinton came into office and all 93 U.S. attorneys abruptly cleaned out their offices and left at the same time to be replaced by a new set of individuals it was NOT because they were FIRED by the new administration. No, of course not. They just LEFT. Because that's what HISTORICALLY happens. ALL the U.S. attorneys JUST LEAVE. On their OWN. For NO REASON!
Pardon me if I sound a little bit incredulous.