Thursday, March 08, 2007

Eating Their Own

There's a growing controversy this week over a rash of firings of U.S. attorneys around the country. The common thread seems to be that these prosecutors were fired for building cases against GOP politicians, or in a couple of instances, not pursuing cases against Democratic politicians.

The substantive thing that disturbs me the most is that these actions were not illegal--like the late great Molly Ivins used to say, the worst scandal isn't the illegal behavior, it's the behavior that passes for legal. The Executive Branch was given this new power, to fire U.S. Attorneys at will without Senate approval, by a clause in the Patriot Act, or as I like to call it, The Chronic Festering Disease That Keeps On Giving. As Michael Moore famously pointed out, Congress passed this huge sweeping omnibus anti-terror law in such a rush that many reps didn't know what was in the thing. We're saddled with this fucker, and there are new toxic irruptions here and there on a regular basis, and the most depressing idea is I don't know if any future president, even a Democratic one, will have the brass statesmanlike balls to revoke or reform the Patriot Act. When does a president voluntarily reduce the scope of his or her powers?

But in a darkly amusing twist, it's been pointed out to me today, the Republicans would have gotten away with this if they had just been able to resist the urge to fuck over other Republicans. These U.S. attorneys were political appointees, Republicans themselves, and though they surely didn't like being relieved of their jobs for showing an excess of integrity, all of them took their medicine and said tactful things on their way out the door, of the "want to spend more time with my family" variety. But the Bush Administration fixers had to gild the lily.

Kevin Drum:

And the fired official themselves, who are all Republican loyalists in the first place, would have packed their bags and gotten other jobs. They know how politics works.

But no. This administration is so dedicated to spin and deceit that they just couldn't leave it alone. They figured maybe they could avoid any criticism by claiming the firings were for performance-related reasons. That should shut everyone up! But of course it did just the opposite. The fired attorneys, who were originally willing to suck it up and accept their political fate, were unhappy over being called incompetent. Who wouldn't be? And so the whole thing unraveled. Now it's a case of U.S. Attorneys being fired because they were too zealous about prosecuting Republican corruption, and the Department of Justice is reduced to feebly arguing that it's just a coincidence that so many of the Pearl Harbor Eight were investigating corruption cases.

It's the Bush administration in a microcosm: a too-clever-by-half expansion of executive power, spin and deceit when it's discovered, followed by a storm of backtracking and protestations of innocence that no one believes. It wouldn't be so bad if this weren't also the Bush administration in a macrocosm. But it is.

Lance Mannion:

...Moschella appears to have expected that Cummins would continue to play the patsy. Or he thought, or at least hoped, that people would think Cummins was lying.

This is how the Bush Leaguers treat their "friends." Cummins was trying to help them out and Moschella was willing to either use him as a stooge or throw him under the bus....

For all these guys, the point of politics is power. You go into politics in order to be the guys in charge. And you want to be in charge so you can do whatever you want. Everything in the Bush Administration is politicized because everything is about the people running the show having the power to run the show.. That's what the man meant when he called them the Mayberry Machiavellis. They don't do anything for the public good.

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