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March 20, 2007

The Attorney Firings, By The Numbers

Michael Kinsley, in Time, is absolutely priceless on the attorney firings brouhaha:

The argument so far goes something like this:

1) The Bush administration fired eight US attorneys.

2) So what? Bill Clinton fired all 93 US attorneys almost the minute he took office.

3) But it’s much more suspicious to fire just a few in the middle of your term than to clean house at the beginning.

4) Is it? Why is that? The Bushies considered firing all of the US attorneys at the start of Bush’s second term, but decided that would cause a political firestorm. Are you telling me they had it backward--that if he’d canned the whole lot, no one would have complained?

5) Well, maybe or maybe not. But these eight were Bush’s own appointees—most of them Republicans!

6) And you’re saying that’s more suspicious than if he’d fired eight—or 93—Democrats? What are you suspicious of, anyway?

7) Well, obviously, I’m suspicious that he fired them because he didn’t like what they were doing.

8) What were they doing?

9) Well, one of them had sent a Republican congressman to jail for acceping a bribe. A couple of them were opposed to capital punishment. A couple weren’t being vigorous enough for the administration in pursuit of obscenity. A couple were too lax about prosecuting illegal aliens. One was ignoring evidence of voter fraud, and another had let a Democrat become governor by failing to demand a recount of a close, contested election. Once again, all this is as the administration saw it.

9) Aren’t these all policy questions? And doesn’t a president have the right to appoint US Attorneys who agree with him on policy matters?

10) It’s not a policy question if a US Attorney is fired in order to squelch a criminal investigation of some kind. That’s obstruction of justice.

11) Do you have any evidence that any of these eight were fired in order to squelch an investigation?

12) Did you read Adam Cohen in the Times this morning?

The trouble with this scandal, as a scandal, has been that—if you’re going to be honest (and why not?)—there is not only nothing illegal about the president firing a US attorney. There is nothing even really wrong with it. Even if it’s just to make room for a crony of Karl Rove. And I’m sorry, but I just can’t see how firing eight can be heinous but firing 93 is perfectly OK. Nor can I see—if the issue is neutral justice—how firing someone from your own party is worse than firing someone from the other party. Much of the commentary on this story has seemed disingenuous about this: breathless revelations that the White House was involved in the decision, that it may have been (gasp!) political, and so on.

An editorial in the Washington Post last Thursday, for example, avoids disingenuousness—but only at the price of utter confusion. It dismisses the Clinton administration precedent as “a red herring, not a useful comparison,” but fails to explain why. The editorial scrupulously points out that one of the US attorneys fired by Clinton was weeks away from indicting a powerful Democratic congressman—a closer connection to a more important investigation than anything now at stake. The Post concedes that Clinton’s mass firing was “unprecedented,” and “unprecedented” is the toughest adjective the Post can bring itself to apply to the recent Bush firings, too. Then it says, “But unprecedented doesn’t equal wrong.” It acknowledges that a “president…is entitled to have..prosecutors committed to his law enforcement priorities,” and is honest enough to include concerns over issues like immigration and obscenity cases as falling in this permissible-motive category. Then it runs out of steam, notes accurately that the Bushies have been lying up a storm, says this is another reason that the Clinton episode is a bad comparison, and stops.

Cohen cuts through all this, and offers several grounds for at least suspecting that the firings were part of an illegal obstruction of justice. Read it for yourself and see if you buy it. And try to be honest: would you buy the argument if it was being applied against a Democratic president? I’m afraid I wouldn’t, absent more evidence than I believe is there.

What is going on here is a classic game of chicken. Cohen has not only constructed his argument (such as it is) from shamefully thin gruel but, unsurprisingly for a Times columnist, gets several material facts flat wrong:

Let’s take the case of Carol Lam, United States attorney in San Diego. The day the news broke that Ms. Lam, who had already put one Republican congressman in jail, was investigating a second one, Mr. Sampson wrote an e-mail message referring to the “real problem we have right now with Carol Lam.” He said it made him think that it was time to start looking for a replacement.

Cohen would like you to believe Lam's replacement was prompted by her current activities. But as Patterico explained last week, Justice Department emails clearly show Lam on the targeted list long before before the Cunningham matter came up. How very inconvenient for his thesis.

But then facts often are. This is why we don't have trials-by-OpEd. And Lam was not, as Cohen alleges, targeting that second Republican congressman. In fact, that investigation was being handled by a different attorney, Debra Yang, in another city:

Not surprisingly, Debra Yang was asked by The Times and had no explanation:

Debra Wong Yang, then the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said Wednesday that she was befuddled that anyone in Washington would be upset with Lam over a case being pursued in Los Angeles. “I’m not sure I understand the link,” she said.

That’s because there is no link, except in the minds of Democrat partisans — and L.A. Times reporters and editors.

But then who needs facts when obfuscation and innuendo serve just as well to mislead an inattentive public disinclined to chase down the details of a complex case? In the end, as we heard a Democrat Senator dryly remark on the radio the other day, no one really cares whether Alberto Gonzalez resigns or not. The real target is George Bush's poll numbers.

The beauty of this game is that they win either way.

The "scandal" will receive far more attention than whatever tortured explanation eventually emerges and all the public will remember is the image of slime dripping from the White House -- regardless of whether it sticks, and regardless of whether their accusations were justified by the evidence.

In a town like Washington, slime pays.

Posted by Cassandra at March 20, 2007 05:24 AM

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Comments

Damn. Looks like I'm going to have to re-think voting for Bush in '08 in light of this new scandal.

And darned if I hadn't already ordered the "Damn the Constitution: Bush in '08" bumper sticker too.

I guess I'll order the "Save the Taxpayers Some Money: Vote Hillary in '08. She Might Bring Back the Whitehouse China" sticker instead.

Posted by: daveg at March 20, 2007 10:25 AM

WTF is all the indignation about? The Whitehouse might have had something to do with these firings, and that's supposed to be a smoking gun?

I don't get it. This is the most egregious attempt at making political hay--out of nothing-- that I've ever seen!

Posted by: JannyMae at March 20, 2007 11:07 AM

This morning on NPR (an acronym that reads "No Power to the Radio" to me) they trotted out some of the fired lawyers, who were shocked, shocked that they had been fired. Tomorrow they will top this scoop by finding prisoners in the local penitentiary that are "innocent, I tells ya, innocent!"

I mean really, how hard is it to find a fired employee, an lawyer no less, that doesn't think he/she should have been fired? I hearby shout out a big "Duh!" to NPR!

Posted by: daveg at March 20, 2007 11:22 AM

Personally, I happen to be of the opinion that they should give out some kind of medal for firing lawyers. But, that's just me.

Posted by: RIslander at March 20, 2007 01:01 PM

And how many divorces have you been through? :P

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2007 01:15 PM

"One was ignoring evidence of voter fraud"

The DOJ determined that the "voter fraud" in question could not be proved if they took it to trial. That is not the same thing as "ignoring evidence of voter fraud". Hence, the attorney was fired because he would not prosecute a case that could not be won.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 03:03 PM

By the way ... it was the Republicans who wrote the playbook on using the law as a tool for political harassment. It therefore reeks of hypocrisy for them now to whine that they are being subjected to undue scrutiny now that they've lost both houses of Congress. Waaaaaaaaaa waaaaaaaaaaaaa waaaaaaaaaa. It is "due" scrutiny.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 03:06 PM

That last argument sounds an awful lot like 'two wrongs make a right', Mark. So what you're saying is, it was right all along?

Or you don't care if it's wrong or not, now that you're in power you're going to stick it to the ones who aren't?

Compelling argument from the party who were going to change the political dynamic in Washington. Tell me again why the country elected you all?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2007 03:16 PM

And how many divorces have you been through? :P

Ahhh Muqtada, I've been through 3. It was NOT Infidel bombs, why i'm ghost...:).

Posted by: Zarqawi's Ghost at March 20, 2007 04:01 PM

No; I'm not saying it is right; just that all the right-wing whining about everything lately rings a little hollow. I admit that the evil, closeted-selfish-screw everybody else-demon sitting on my shoulder (my left shoulder? - ha ha ha) keeps whispering to me to support all this "sticking it to the administration" stuff that seems to be going on. Besides, if "Dubya and Co." were causing all these US Attorneys to be fired because they weren't marching in lockstep with Der Terdblossom's orders to prosecute baseless charges of voter fraud, that does seem to warrant an investigation, when the apparent effect of all the then-contemporaneous commotion about voter fraud was seen, by some if not everyone, as part of an effort to keep certain (ahem) undesirables away from the voting booths. Oh yea - the country elected "us all" because we were generally fed up with the GOP which mollycoddled middle-aged child abusers, trumped up a bunch of hooey about why we had to undertake "Operation Iraqi Liberation", and then kept changing the rationale after the fact to brush over the "inconvenient" facts on the ground (mushroom clouds, WMD, bringing democracy to Iraq, etc., lack of bouquets of flowers in the welcoming arms of the Iraqis), and then wasn't with material or strategy for the mess that followed the invasion.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 04:15 PM

erratum:

"and then wasn't PREPARED with matériel (i.e., arms, protective clothing, etc.) or strategy for the mess that followed the invasion."

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 04:24 PM

mollycoddled middle-aged child abusers

You mean like Gerald Studds and Barney Frank, maybe?

Posted by: El Cid at March 20, 2007 04:31 PM

Gerald Studds was during a different administration, and is/was a Democrat (but you already knew that, didn't ya Sid?), and Barney Frank hasn't been caught or accused of diddling youngsters - just diddling his significant other of the same sex, which is different than what Mark Foley was doing (or trying to do) to the pages and former pages. And besides, it wasn't the Democrats who were making such a big deal about how freaking moral and family oriented they all were - it was the Republicans. And people in Middle America were getting REALLY fed up with the hypocrisy of the Repubs' covering for Foley AND the bungling Operation Iraqi Liberation.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 04:37 PM

erratum:

"AND the bungling OF Operation Iraqi Liberation."

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 04:45 PM

"Operation Iraqi Liberation".

Believe that is "Operation Iraqi Freedom", unless you're trying to be cute and acronym OIL. But then You can get some (OIL) from Cindy's lay, Hugo. He helps the infirmed, the old, the dumb, the helpless.

And should you want...look up what your Dem's (if you are) stated about the OIL country in their passage of the Iraq Liberation Act...OH and damn near EVERY nations intelligence service said the OIL country had the (can I type fucking?) WMD's.

Of course, YOU would have taken the chance of having a bigger bang for YOUR buck...and when that occurs, I'm kinda' hoping...Cali...as in Irvine.

Ahhh see you prejudge...I'm speaking of tectonics...:).

Posted by: El Cid at March 20, 2007 04:49 PM

Gerald Studds was during a different administration

Well now, that makes it A-OK. Gosh, why didn't I think of that....hmmmm.

Google Barney...(or it that Barney Google) and I'm sure you'll find his name came up a time or two, with Jerry in helping find...boys.

Nope didn't tag his ass (oh my) but that was before Al Gore's invention took off...the email thingy.

Oh hell...HERE. I did it for you...Jesus!

Oct. 4, 2006 - Rep. Mark Foley isn’t the first member of Congress to deal with a scandal involving young men. Former congressman Gerry Studds admitted in 1983 to having sex with a 17-year-old male page, and Rep. Barney Frank, the longest serving of the current three openly gay members of the House of Representatives, dealt with his own scandal involving a male prostitute in 1989. While Studds and Frank went on to successful careers in the House, that obviously won’t be the case for Foley, who abruptly resigned last Friday after his lurid e-mails and instant messages to male pages were disclosed.

MSNBC

Posted by: El Cid at March 20, 2007 05:04 PM

Sid: Who ME? Try to be CUTE? I would NEVER! And don't think anyone's going to let you get away with pretending you aren't aware of all the info that came out after the fact about how Dubya and Co., decided first (on 9/12/2001 or so) to invade Iraq and THEN rummaged around looking for a justification. You're smarter than that, aren't ya Sid? Aren't ya?? Don't misunderstand me, Sodom Hussein was a very bad man (understatement of the moment ...) but he (i) didn't have anything to do with 9-11 and (ii) didn't have WMD (as Hans Bixel would have found out if Dubya had let him have a few more days/weeks to finish his job). All the palaver about "Iraqi Freedom, democracy" etc was after-the-fact thrown-together-justification for a decision that had been made on different grounds.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 05:10 PM

OK - Studds was the same page-turner as Foley - you've got me there ("don't touch me there..."). And we shouldn't patronize prosties either.

But, c'mon Sid - move on. You had your chance to vilify Barney Frank and Gerry Studds way back "then"; it's probably too late to do it now. Besides, as Cassandra has taught me recently (thanks Cassandra - I owe you): "That last argument sounds an awful lot like 'two wrongs make a right', [Sid]. So what you're saying is, it was right all along?". If it wasn't right for me, it isn't right for you. I know; it's painful; we have to move on, though.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 05:16 PM

OK - you've got me (again), Sid - what does this mean: "Cindy's lay, Hugo" - I'm from California (you got that too), and we're so blissed out all the time from the great weather, lack of smoking in private AND in public, organic food, Jay Leno, Beverly Hills, surfing, tofu and jogging, that I don;pt recognize your reference to "Cindy's lay, Hugo". Help me out here, Sid - I'd do it for you, you know that!

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 05:21 PM

MoveOn...bet you are...ever heard of ANSWER? But first you must get the questions...and ummmm you well, Frank-ly never will.

Thanks for playing Errvine...lol. I will come back and visit with you regularly...not a warning or threat, just fact.

Posted by: El Cid at March 20, 2007 05:26 PM

Oh I get it - Hugo Chavez - duh - the caffeine must be wearing off. He's a slime, blood sucking despotic oil man (uh oh).

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 05:32 PM

Ha ha ha - "ERRvine" too funny. Ha ha ha. Well, gotta go - it's time for my Pilates-spin class at the Malibu pier with Brittney and Jenn and Simon, and I have to stop off at Starbucks for a non-fat, Madagascar cinnamon, half-caf/half-decaf frappuchino with a sprinkle of crushed Jamaican blue coffee beans, a shot of "orgeat" syrup and half the usual ice ....

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 05:37 PM

"Ha ha ha - "ERRvine" too funny. Ha ha ha. Well, gotta go - it's time for my Pilates-spin class at the Malibu pier with Brittney and Jenn and Simon, and I have to stop off at Starbucks for a non-fat, Madagascar cinnamon, half-caf/half-decaf frappuchino with a sprinkle of crushed Jamaican blue coffee beans, a shot of "orgeat" syrup and half the usual ice ...."

*snicker* Actually all that is pretty funny. But, naw. It doesn't make you right about all the stuff you went on about. All of what you said makes you sound... well... unhinged.

Its hardly hypocritical to point out the injustice of what is being done by the left. Truthfully, I wouldn't mind the right being kept in check by the left in return, myself. However... it seems to me that they're rarely reasonable about it. And this instance of making a mountain out of a molehill is not one of those 'rarely reasonable' times. Its just the medias way of making news where there is none.

Posted by: Kevin L at March 20, 2007 06:19 PM

"All of what you said makes you sound... well... unhinged"

Unhinged is in the eye of the beholder, so judge not lest ye be judged. Or go ahead and judge, 'cuz we'll probably judge you anyway. [turnabout is fair play, after all]

"I wouldn't mind the right being kept in check by the left in return"

Interesting point. Many "conservative" pundits were saying, last fall, before the election, that the Democrats SHOULD win, because Congress works best when there is the tension of both sides of the aisle being forced to work together, rather than one side being able to shove too much of anything down the other side's throat.

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 07:03 PM

""All of what you said makes you sound... well... unhinged"

Unhinged is in the eye of the beholder, so judge not lest ye be judged. Or go ahead and judge, 'cuz we'll probably judge you anyway. [turnabout is fair play, after all]"

Lol. True. But we've already started there, Mark. When one goes off topic in a rant about the general inadequecies of the opposition, rather than the topic at hand... one becomes unreasonable. Granted, most people here at this blog have very little good to say about the Left. But, for the most part they've kept on topic. Whereas your argument spiralled off into complete derision. Hence 'unhinged'.

"Many "conservative" pundits were saying, last fall, before the election, that the Democrats SHOULD win, because Congress works best when there is the tension of both sides of the aisle being forced to work together, rather than one side being able to shove too much of anything down the other side's throat."

Mark, I don't care who should or should not win in congress. But, you're right. They SHOULD work together. Alas, they don't.

Posted by: Kevin L at March 20, 2007 07:36 PM

Mark, you really seem to be laboring under a number of misapprehensions. As annoying as I find our Democrat brethren-in-Christ, I wasn't among those who were weeping, wailing, and rending their clothing on election day. I figured they'd soon find out exactly what they are currently deakubg with, namely the realization that - gee whiz - being the majority party comes with a price tag: people expect you to actually DO something instead of just sitting around carping and anklebiting all day.

And it is starting to wear thin even with their base, just as it did when the Rethugs didn't produce results. Suprise, suprise, suprise. The view never changes, even when you're the lead dog. Sometimes especially when you're the lead dog :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2007 07:40 PM

Re: "When one goes off topic in a rant about the general inadequecies of the opposition, rather than the topic at hand ..." and "Whereas your argument spiralled off into complete derision. Hence 'unhinged'". [Posted by: Kevin L at March 20, 2007 07:36 PM]

I quote:

"... Tell me again why the country elected you all?" [Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2007 03:16 PM]

" ... Oh yea - the country elected 'us all' because we were generally fed up with the GOP which mollycoddled middle-aged child abusers, trumped up a bunch of hooey about why we had to undertake 'Operation Iraqi Liberation', and then kept changing the rationale after the fact to brush over the 'inconvenient' facts on the ground (mushroom clouds, WMD, bringing democracy to Iraq, etc., lack of bouquets of flowers in the welcoming arms of the Iraqis), and then wasn't wasn't PREPARED with matériel (i.e., arms, protective clothing, etc.) or strategy for the mess that followed the invasion." [Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 04:15 PM]

So, Kevin L, if I went "off topic", which I don't particularly think I did, it was in response to the lovely Cassandra's inquiry: "... Tell me again why the country elected you all?"

Posted by: Mark In Irvine at March 20, 2007 09:49 PM

The GOP actually removed the "middle aged ..." oh, he didn't actually abuse any children, did he?

And you are doing exactly WHAT about the war that you promised your constituents?

Stopping it? Un-huh. Got it. That must be that vote the Dems refused to take to directly cut off funding for the war? The one so many Democrats have been criticizing their own party for not pursuing?

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2007 10:04 PM

"...they are currently deakubg with,..."

deakubg

Um, what was this again?

;-/

Posted by: Sly2017 at March 21, 2007 11:34 AM

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