Drooling Idiot Alert

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Bush Administration, criminal justice, U.S. Attorneys

Nothing like slapping down some drooling idiot first thing in the morning to get the juices flowing. I caught a fat one this morning in this old post about the Bush Administration firing US attorneys in mid-term without cause.

As I explain in the post, it is standard practice for an incoming president to ask for the resignations of US attorneys appointed by his predecessor. He then appoints new attorneys, who serve a four-year term. When George W. Bush became president he replaced all of Bill Clinton’s attorneys, for example.

However, back in 1993 when the Clinton Administration asked for the resignations of the Bush I US attorneys (who knew full well they’d be asked to resign), the Right-Wing propaganda machine went into overdrive ginning up a phony controversy to whip their drooling, knuckle-dragging followers into an anti-Clinton frenzy. As I wrote in the old post,

I dug an article about this episode out of the New York Times archives. On March 24, 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno demanded the resignation of all United States Attorneys. At the time, this prompted accusations from the Right that the Clinton Administration was trying to save the political career of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. (If that was the plan, it didn’t work.)

In any event, I went to great pains to explain in the post (titled “U.S. Attorneys: It’s the Replacing, Stupid”) that presidents do have the authority to fire US attorneys whenever they like. However (1) it is highly unusual for US attorneys to be fired and replaced in mid-term except in cases of gross misconduct; and (2) the real issue is a provision in the Patriot Act that allows the White House to circumvent the constitutional requirement to have the appointee confirmed by the Senate. This is explained in detail in the post.

Lo, this morning some drooling idiot literacy challenged individual named Jim Quinn added this comment:

hmmmm. this has a familiar ring to it. let’s see, wasn’t it 1993 when the Clintons fired EVERY us attorney except one to cover for getting rid of the one (whose name escapes me) who was hot on their little whitewater trail?

I advised Mr. Quinn that he had just violated commenting rule #8 — commenting on a post without bothering to read it first. But if he wants to make a public fool of himself, who am I to get in the way?

Here’s the latest on Attorneygate — Laurie Kellman writes for the Associated Press:

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Thursday that would curb the Justice Department’s power to fire and replace federal prosecutors. Democrats had sought to give the courts a role in the appointments of U.S. attorneys, to GOP opposition.

The objection by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to the proposal was long anticipated. So Democrats used the occasion to complain anew about the firings of at least seven prosecutors, some without cause, under a little-known part of the Patriot Act.

Democrats say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used the law to get around the Senate confirmation process and install Republican allies. …

… Democrats contend that prosecutors were forced to resign to make way for Republicans’ political allies and that the White House slipped the provision into the Patriot Act to permit such indefinite appointments.

As Paul Krugman wrote in the January 19 New York Times, “the Bush administration is trying to protect itself by purging independent-minded prosecutors.” Obviously.

However, ultimately the Senate must revoke that part of the Patriot Act that allows the White House to appoint “interim” attorneys who can serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation. (If they want to revoke the rest of the Patriot Act while they’re at it, I wouldn’t mind.)

A couple of days ago Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers reported that several of the US attorneys fired by Bush II had good performance reviews. And their replacements are being selected from the inner circle of the Bush Administration.

The Bush administration has said that six U.S. attorneys were fired recently in part because of “performance-related” issues.

But at least five of them received positive job evaluations before they were ordered to step down. …

… The decision to fire the U.S. attorneys came under scrutiny late last month after Senate Democrats discovered a change in the Patriot Act that allowed Gonzales to appoint interim U.S. attorneys for indefinite terms without Senate approval.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, McNulty conceded that H.E. Cummins, the former U.S. attorney in Arkansas, wasn’t fired because of how he handled his job. Rather, McNulty said, administration officials wanted to make room for Timothy Griffin, a former aide of presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Cummins was involved in the federal investigation into Missouri’s license fee offices, an investigation first revealed by The Kansas City Star. His office was asked to determine if Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration had improperly awarded the sometimes lucrative offices to political supporters.

Last October, before he officially resigned but apparently after he was asked by the Justice Department to step down, Cummins issued a statement clearing the Blunt administration of wrongdoing.

Here is a list of the US attorneys known to have been asked to resign, although there could be more we don’t yet know about.

  • Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego, who successfully prosecuted former Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, now in federal prison. Her last day in office was Thursday.
  • Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., resigned Dec. 20 and was replaced by former Karl Rove assistant Timothy Griffin.
  • Paul Charlton, the U.S. attorney in Arizona, announced Dec. 19 that he was resigning at the end of January.
  • John McKay, the U.S. attorney in Seattle, said he was ordered by the Justice Department on Dec. 7 to resign.
  • Kevin Ryan, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, announced his resignation Jan. 16. Ryan was overseeing investigations into steroids use by major league baseball players and the backdating of stock options by Apple Inc., and other firms.
  • Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorney for Nevada, announced Jan. 18 he will resign effective Feb. 28.
  • David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney for New Mexico. An assistant announced Iglesias’ resignation Dec. 19.
  • See also:Speedy Gonzales“; “The Purge.”

    Update:
    Paul Kiel writes at TPM that former Karl Rove assistant Tim Griffin, who was appointed to replace Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, has decided he won’t go forward with the Senate confirmation process because he thinks the Senate will be mean to him. Kiel quotes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

    “I have made the decision not to let my name go forward to the Senate,” Griffin said Thursday evening….

    Griffin on Thursday blamed “the partisanship that has been exhibited by Sen. [Mark ] Pryor [D-Ark. ] and other senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the recent hearing” for his decision to bow out….

    Griffin said Thursday that if he were to go through the confirmation process, “I don’t think there is any way I could get fair treatment by Sen. Pryor or others on the judiciary committee.”

    Poor baby. Kiel continues,

    It’s been a rough couple weeks for Griffin, who was the most egregious case among the seven prosecutors purged in December. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty admitted to the Senate last week that Griffin’s predecessor had been forced out for no other reason than to make room for Griffin. And this morning, The New York Times revealed that Griffin had been installed as per the wish of White House counsel Harriet Miers.

    There does seem to be some question, though, as to why Griffin is bowing out…

      Pryor’s spokesman, Michael Teague, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday, after Griffin said he was withdrawing his name from consideration, that [Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales himself had called Pryor earlier Thursday “and told the senator he was not going to submit Tim Griffin’s name.”

    It seems clear that the threat of Senate confirmation ended Griffin’s tenure — but who it spooked more, the administration or Griffin himself, is not so clear.

    The only reason Griffin was facing Senate confirmation at all, Constitution or no Constitution, was pressure from the Senate and the press. However, Thanks to that pesky Patriot Act Griffin can still hold the job indefinitely.

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    24 Comments

    24 Comments

    1. patrick  •  Feb 16, 2007 @9:31 am

      I’m fascinated by the particular turn of logic employed by your commenter. Pretend, for a moment, that all the paranoid rantings of Republicans about the Clintons were true. Current conservative movement logic on a whole range of issues seems to run like this: “The Clinton administration was the most corrupt in modern history, therefor, we must adopt — and indeed, expand upon — every corrupt tactic we’ve ever accused them of.” How often has this administration’s apologists leapt to the “Clinton did it” defense on some bit of controversial policy?

      Oh well: I guess it’s not that different from the way the ’94 Republican congress took over and “cleaned up” all the corruption they had so cleverly spied out. Good thing we have a vigorous Free Press to call these guys out on this stuff. . . .

    2. Bonnie  •  Feb 16, 2007 @9:57 am

      I have read that it was a staff person of Spector’s who slipped in that passage without telling any one, even Spector. As a result, I think it should be immediately pulled. I can’t believe that such action did not break a few rules along the way. After all, this person is not an elected official. He also should be fired.

    3. Bonnie  •  Feb 16, 2007 @10:21 am

      I wonder if Fitzgerald will be asked to resign after the Libby trial?

    4. Bill H  •  Feb 16, 2007 @11:03 am

      Carol Lam celebrated her last day by announcing indictments of Wilkes and Foggo. They, of course, claim that it is some kind of vendetta.

    5. sachem515  •  Feb 16, 2007 @12:05 pm

      Update:

      Ousted! Tim Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove whom the administration installed as a U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, is out, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

      http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002585.php

    6. sachem515  •  Feb 16, 2007 @12:39 pm

      Looks like there is a Harriet Miers connection to the Griffin cronipointment (from #5):

      “Ms. Miers, the aides said, phoned an aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales suggesting the appointment of J. Timothy Griffin, a former military and civilian prosecutor who was a political director for the Republican National Committee and a deputy to Karl Rove, the White House political adviser,” Johnston continues. “Later, the incumbent United States attorney, H. E. Cummins III, was removed without explanation and replaced on an interim basis by Mr. Griffin. Officials at the White House and Justice Department declined to comment on Ms. Miers’s role in the matter.”

      http://www.rawstory.com//news/2007/NYT_Did_exBush_counsel_intervene_on_0215.html

    7. Swami  •  Feb 16, 2007 @12:41 pm

      If you want to get some first hand knowledge of what exactly constitutes a drooling idiot watch the live coverage of the Iraqi war debate. I’m absolutely shocked by caliber of some members of Congress in not being able to remotely grasp the situation they are called to consider. They are babbling on about Vietnanese boat people, the Kobar Towers, and other assorted excursions in emotionalism. They’re not getting it..and I don’t think its a deliberate evasion of reality..it’s either a diminished mental capacity or a crippled emotional state.
      Whatever I’m seeing is frightening because it reflects directly back to the American public..we elected them.

    8. Swami  •  Feb 16, 2007 @1:13 pm

      Oh Brother!..Now they’re rehashing Iwo Jima..when they get to San Jaun Hill or Little Big Horn, I’m gonna pull the plug.

    9. Bonnie  •  Feb 16, 2007 @2:33 pm

      . . . I’m gonna pull the plug.

      It’s the only humane thing to do, Swami.

    10. Donna  •  Feb 16, 2007 @2:35 pm

      What a mess we have to clean up both internationally and domestically from just a few years of unchecked power scurrying by righties! Whole nestfuls of drooling idiots invaded and overran the country I love. I am sure impatient for the exterminators to oust the vermin and destroy their nesting places.

    11. joanr16  •  Feb 16, 2007 @2:38 pm

      Swami, there’s a darned good reason why my tv is off while I’m home today on vacation. Yargh… Iwo Jima?!

      Bonnie, do you happen to remember where you saw that about Arlen Specter’s staff person? I’d like to know more. Is he not dying fast enough for his own staff? And did he have any control over the Judiciary Committee, when he was chair? Wow.

    12. Bonnie  •  Feb 16, 2007 @2:46 pm

      Swami, Did you catch Tim Ryan’s speech on the floor. It was really good. Just saw YouTube at hoffmania.com

      joanr16, I think I saw the best write-up at TPM Muckraker. I will look around for it and get back to you.

    13. Bonnie  •  Feb 16, 2007 @3:12 pm

      joanr16, here is the link about the Spector aid:

      http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002487.php

    14. No More Mr. Nice Guy!  •  Feb 16, 2007 @3:40 pm

      The official story re Paul Charlton is that he disagreed with Gonzales over the death penalty (he wants to consider it on a case by case basis, Gonzo wants to apply it indiscriminately). However I think the real story was that Charlton was investigating Arizona congressman Rick Renzi (considered one of the 20 most corrupt in Congress) over two separate shady land deals, and this investigation is now in limbo. More here:

      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Rick_Renzi

    15. moonbat  •  Feb 16, 2007 @4:06 pm
    16. joanr16  •  Feb 16, 2007 @7:56 pm

      Bonnie, thanks for that link. Poor Arlen (and I’m not saying that snarkily); he was a tool, and mostly clueless about it.

      I just hope there’s something Pat Leahy can do about these cluster-bomb replacements, now that he’s Judiciary chair.

    17. Bruce A  •  Feb 16, 2007 @11:55 pm

      One of the Republican idiots even brought up Davey Crockett with a Blackberry (I’m not kidding) at the Alamo. Jon Stewart replayed it on the Daily Show

    18. Zeus  •  Feb 17, 2007 @12:52 am

      “When George W. Bush became president he replaced all of Bill Clinton’s attorneys, for example.”

      Have I missed something here? Doesn’t this mean that Bush is replacing his own? So did he make terrible choices in the first place or did his picks not tow the proverbial line? These men/women had the audacity to do their jobs which is exactly why they lost their jobs. Too bad-so sad and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

      On the other hand – Bush, etal. just want to take advantage of every little thing they snuck into the Patriot Act before they leave office. It makes one wonder – what else is hidden in that emergency legislation that we don’t know about?

    19. moonbat  •  Feb 17, 2007 @3:01 am

      OT, via Orcinus, Bob Altemeyer, a researcher at the University of Manitoba has put togetther a set of chapters about authoritarianism.

      In this chapter, toward the middle of it he takes a set of people who scored LOW in authoritarianism, and puts them in charge of running the world, via a simulation. After a few hours of simulation, and despite a few crises and problems, the world wasn’t in that bad of shape. In fact, those familiar with the simulation, said it was one of the best runs ever.

      Next, he took a set of people who scored HIGH in authoritarianism, and gave them the same task: running the world. In short order, they completely destroyed the planet, killing off everyone. The game had a feature where it could be rolled back a couple years before the holocaust, to “try again”, and while the authoritarians managed to avoid total catastrophe this time, the result still was not pretty.

      The whole series is an easy read and worthwhile, and this simulation so confirms what so many of us have been intuiting, saying, and fighting for. Stunted people such as these authoritarians shouldn’t be put in charge of anything of consequence.

    20. Zeus  •  Feb 17, 2007 @3:26 am

      Iwo Jima, Vietnam – How about Muslim Pirates! I actually heard a Republican congressman (I think it was Steve King-R-IA) equating the current war on terrorism with muslim pirates from the 1700s. This was his reasoning for opposing the Democrat’s anti-escalation resolution. He piqued my curiosity when he said that the term ‘leathernecks’ originated when the Marines began wearing straps of leather around their necks to reduce the likleihood of being beheaded by these muslim pirates. He went on to quote the following:

      “In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then the ambassador to France, and John Adams, then the ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the ambassador to Britain from Tripoli. The Americans asked Adja why his government was hostile to American ships, even though there had been no provocation. The ambassador’s response was reported to the Continental Congress:

      That it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.[2]

      I tracked this to Wikepedia. According to this congressman, we better defeat these Muslims now – after all, they’ve been out to get us for 300 years.

    21. Julie O.  •  Feb 17, 2007 @1:43 pm

      Once again, legend or rumor stated as fact.

      Leatherneck: Now accepted by Webster as a synonym for Marine, the term “Leatherneck” was derived from a leather stock once worn around the neck by both American and British Marines–and soldiers also. Beginning in 1798, “one stock of black leather and clasp” was issued to each U. S. Marine annually.
      This stiff leather collar, fastened by two buckles at the back, measured nearly three and a half inches high, and it prevented the neck movement necessary for sighting along a barrel. It supposedly improved military bearing, by forcing the chin high, although General George F. Elliott, recalling its use after the Civil War, said it made the wearers appear “like geese looking for rain.”

      >Leatherneck: In 1776, the Naval Committee of the Second Continental Congress prescribed new uniform regulations. Marine uniforms were to consist of green coats with buff white facings, buff breeches and black gaiters. Also mandated was a leather stock to be worn by officers and enlisted men alike. This leather collar served to protect the neck against cutlass slashes and to hold the head erect in proper military bearing. Sailors serving aboard ship with Marines came to call them “leathernecks.”

      Leatherneck: Since the days of the Barbary pirates, United States Marines have called themselves “leathernecks.” Legend and lore have it that the term leatherneck was derived from leather neckbands worn in the late 1700s to protect Marines from the slash of the cutlass. Another more likely reason is that the high stocks were worn for discipline to keep the Marines’ heads high and straight. Neither explanation has ever been verified. Whatever the reason, the name leatherneck stuck and the distinctive dress blue uniform blouse still bears a high stock collar to remind Marines of the leatherneck legacy.

    22. Doug Hughes  •  Feb 17, 2007 @8:38 pm

      If we are going to rehash Barbary Pirates and Jefferson’s use of the Navy against the pirates. The pirates were working the Med. sea demanding ransom from ships in international waters for safe passage. Jefferson found it offensive, but did not want to go to Congress for a declaration of war he was not sure he would get. So he ordered a very limited use of force with no invasion.

      The rules of engagement called for putting the pirates who surrendered after battle to land and their ships torched or sunk. Some accounts say that the restrained practice of putting sailors of the defeated pirate navy ashore had the unintended result of building the reputation of the US Navy. The stories sailors tell grow in the retelling and Barbary sailors became wary of ships flying the US flag.

      Bottom line: the incident of Barbary pirates established the precident of LIMITED presidential authority to use military force to protect US interests. It does NOT illustrate the authority of the president to conduct war on an unlimited basis w/out Congressional authorization.

    23. whig  •  Feb 17, 2007 @9:39 pm

      Jim Quinn is or was a radio host in Pittsburgh, when I lived there. He is the principle right-wing voice of Pittsburgh radio after Rush Limbaugh.

    24. whig  •  Feb 17, 2007 @9:45 pm

      It’s worth mentioning that Pittsburgh may play an important strategic position for the VRWC, being as it is where Richard Mellon Scaife is also located and his newspaper is the second largest daily. Rush himself used to be a radio host in Pittsburgh, under the name of Jeff Christie.



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