Saturday, March 10, 2007

U. S. Attorneys

Updated below

There are a lot of things that make living in San Diego a pleasure; weather, beaches, girls at the beach (oops, my wife might read this), food, the people, local politics, the Chargers, Balboa Park…

One issue that did us proud was our U.S. Attorney, Carol Lam. She has been a credit to her profession in every way imaginable: a model of integrity, neither seeking or shunning publicity, hard working, apolitical and ever courteous to all. When fired, she took it a good deal more gracefully than did her local colleagues, who were universally outraged.

Of course, her firing is part of a larger issue, the firing of her and seven more of her counterparts across the country in an equally Byzantine manner.

It has done my heart good to see this pile of dung hitting the fan and splattering in the face of the Bush Administration. (How do you like that image?) It illustrates in several levels the depths of degradation to which our government has sunk.

First is the mechanism which facilitates this whole stinking mess, the clause in the renewal of the Patriot Act which allows the president to appoint replacement U.S. Attorneys to serve indefinitely without the approval of the Senate. That this clause even exists at all is a disgrace. It was supposedly “slipped in” by an aide to the committee chairman without his knowledge, said aide being a former member of the administration, serving in the Department of Justice. If true, then that should be considered a criminal act by the aide and the administration.

Further, Arlen Specter should be brought up on some sort of criminal charge for sending the bill to the Senate without knowing that the clause was there. Is there no requirement that a Senate committee, or at least its chairman, know what the contents are of a bill that it is referring to the full Senate for its consideration?

Further, every member of the Senate who was unaware of that clause should be brought up on some kind of charge. Is it not malfeasance to vote for a bill, or for that matter even against a bill, without knowing the contents thereof? Well, okay, maybe only misfeasance.

But the Senate only failed to prevent the measure. The real culprit is the administration that sought to get the measure put into place to begin with, and succeeded. The administration sought this measure with a plan in mind, and that plan was the advancement of their goal of a unitary government and of their ability to indulge in uninhibited patronage.

I don’t think that patronage is, in and of itself, all that big an evil or a real danger to the well-being of society. Someone works to get me elected, so I get them a job as assistant in charge of paper clips for the Water Department in the state capitol at a few thousand a year. By the time I’ve rewarded a couple hundred campaign workers it has been a rather costly exercise, but society is not endangered by it. I’m not advocating that it should happen, but I’m hardly outraged that it does on some small scale.

The Bush Administration had taken patronage to a whole new level. Remember, the “Heck of a job, Brownie” thing? Well, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Even worse catastrophe has resulted from jobs being awarded on a patronage basis in Iraq. It turns out the the firings of the eight was to provide openings for resume-enhancing jobs for friends of the Bush Administration. The job of U.S. Attorney is too important to our society to be awarded based on whose tailbone you last kissed.

I am not one who thinks that the eight were fired as punishment for their “lack of loyalty” per se. I believe that the Bush Administration had eight patronage handouts they wanted to make and, needing eight openings, picked the eight U.S. Attorneys whom they least liked and fired them to create the openings.

That’s almost worse than firing them for disloyalty, in a way, isn’t it?

So far we have the administration “sneaking” clauses into bills, senators not noticing that happening, legislators voting on bills without knowing what’s in them, patronage in government, the administration nullifying congressional oversight… Pretty bad stuff, but we haven’t gotten to the bad part yet. There is worse, much worse to come.

In the course of the investigation it emerges that more than one of the U.S. Attorneys received phone calls from members of the Senate and House that were improper to a degree verging on ethics violations (in my opinion there was nothing “verging upon” about the degree) regarding matters that the attorneys were handling. That is real “Alice in Wonderland” stuff.

Riding on the administration’s coattails, the then-in-control party reached a level of arrogance that permitted them to attempt to influence the performance of a U.S. Attorney. Policy is set at the top, and that arrogant abrogation of propriety derived from the Bush Administration and permeated the entirety of the Republican Party for the entire time that it was in power. It did precisely as it pleased and it answered to no one, least of all to the American people. It was so firmly entrenched in the administration that it spilled over into the rest of the party membership. ”We’re with them, so you can’t touch us.”

Just to cap everything off, when the eight began to speak out they were faced with threats from the administration that worse would come if they did not shut up. My God. They’ve already been fired and now they’re being threatened, in effect blackmailed, by the administration that fired them.

Congress is just stupid, but this administration is evil.

Update: Mar 15, 2007

Okay, I blew that one, they were were fired as punishment for their "lack of loyalty." There is the smoking gun of "the real problem we have with Carol Lam". Yeah, I would say her sending your cronies to jail is a real problem all right, especially when she has more of them in her gunsight.

And that raises the question, by no means original to me, of what the other 85 did or did not do in order to retain their jobs. Some of that is already becoming clear.

This administration is unimaginably corrupt.

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