Thursday, March 29, 2007
There's been lots written about the whole Alberto Gonzales/fired federal prosecutors story, a daunting amount, so I'll skip through the major talking points. Political firings (but they're not illegal), firings in the face of good performance reviews (suspicious but not illegal), lying to Congress (that could be illegal) and general posturing by all parties involved, most lately the lawyer for Monica Goodling, Justice Department liaison to the White House, who invoked the Fifth Amendment on behalf of his client because his client was in danger of being falsely accused of a crime.
Nope, can't do that. If you've committed a real crime, then you get to invoke the Fifth. If you don't like the forum, too bad. Democracy is messy, as Donald Rumsfeld has mentioned. Indeed, a reader at the blog Talking Points Memo suggested that Goodling might be guilty of obstructing an investigation by asserting a bogus Fifth Amendment right.
The most complete coverage of this whole sprawling case has been in TPM, as it is called. It was TPM that got an army of volunteers to go through the 3,000 pages of e-mails and memos released by the White House. TPM is a worthy and struggling organization; you can help it by sending a check to TPM Media LLC, P.O. Box 490, Old Chelsea Station, New York City 10113.
Here's my first question: If those eight U.S. attorneys were fired at the behest of Karl Rove for real or imagined disloyalty to the president (and that does seem to be the case), then what were the 85 other prosecutors doing right? Why are they still in place? It can't be their performance ratings; performance ratings had nothing to do with the firings. Could it be that, in some way or another, all of them had demonstrated their malleability? Is there perhaps a corruption case they have not prosecuted? Have they been raising a little money on the side?
See, the thing is, there's an election coming up in 2008. There are likely to be disputes about what happened in the voting booths. A pliable federal prosecutor would be a useful thing to have around when legal challenges are starting. Since the plan to fire the attorneys had been in the works for two years, it could be an example of Karl Rove's ability to think long term. Just an idea.
The other interesting thing is the use by now-resigned Justice Department employee Kyle Sampson of the phrase "loyal Bushies." What is interesting is that he did not use the phrase "loyal Republicans." There have always been patronage appointments, and most often those appointed are members of the same political party as the president. James Garfield, it will be remembered, was killed by a "disappointed office seeker," that is, a person who thought he was entitled to a job under the patronage system.
But George W. Bush and the Republican Party are not coterminous. It would be hard to describe the belief system of a loyal Bushie, other than unquestioning faith in George W. Bush. Would he be in favor of reduced government spending, increased individual liberties, a conservative and prudent foreign policy? Nope. George W. Bush does not stand for any of those things. Loyal Bushies can be counted on to do the right thing, the Bush thing, whenever a thing needs doing. That's the belief system.
One of the more depressing books written in the past few years is "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. It details the early months of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was in charge of the reconstruction effort after the military victory in Iraq.
Loyal Bushies ran that operation. The loyal Bushies did not have to have experience in the Middle East, or in rebuilding nations, or in information systems or electrical grids or Islam or anything that might be useful. There are people in the United States who have those skills, but they were not called on. Most of the people in charge had either donated large amounts of money to the Republican Party or had expressed strong neoconservative views in think-tank policy papers, or had just hustled their way onto the gravy train with a sharp line of patter.
Inevitably, there were competent people; just as inevitably, they were brushed aside by ideologues, who did want to be confused by facts. Many Iraqis had cheered the fall of Saddam; many Iraqis were waiting for American know-how to help rebuild their country. American know-how didn't know how because loyal Bushies were in charge of everything, and loyal Bushies neither liked nor trusted Iraqis. They stayed inside the Green Zone, wearing their "Bush/Cheney 2004" T-shirts and eating hamburgers imported from the United States by Halliburton.
Whoever wins in 2008, there will still be a lot of loyal Bushies in place, and woe, woe is us.
Karl Rove thinks long term, but he thinks only about one thing. Would that someone had thought long term about Iraq.