Old Rightie Lies Never Die

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Bush Administration, Karl Rove, U.S. Attorneys

First, I want to thank everyone for the input into my hypothesis for the Stages of Rightie Reaction to a Republican Scandal. I definitely want to re-work this into something more ambitious. If anyone knows a good cartoonist/illustrator, chase ’em my way.

Along these lines, I want to share with you this charming email received this morning from Greg S.:

How come, as a journalist, you failed to report that Janet Reno demanded the resignations of all federal prosecutors? The NYT ran the story on 3/23/93. I guess it’s only political when a Republican culls the herd. You should have no problem getting a job in the New York area. You bozo’s all think and act alike, I’m sure some going out of business newspaper will pick you up.

Here is my response:

Greg: How come you can’t read? I’ve brought up the Janet Reno episode several times in the past few weeks. The last time I mentioned it was yesterday, in this post . I also brought it up on March 9 in this post.

I wrote about it extensively in these posts, which I urge you to read:

January 18: ” U.S. Attorneys: It’s the Replacing, Stupid

In the post linked I dug some stories from 1993 about Janet Reno’s firing of the attorneys out of the New York Times archives and quoted from them at length. You really should read it and educate yourself about what really happened, because you are embarrassing yourself by being ignorant of the facts.

February 16: “Drooling Idiot Alert

The “drooling idiot” post was inspired by a comment I had received from some other pea-brain rightie who demanded to know why I didn’t report that Janet Reno had asked for the resignation of all federal prosecutors. What was hysterically funny about that was that the drooling idiot had made this comment to a post in which I had extensively discussed Janet Reno’s firing of the attorneys.

BTW, why is it you righties all have the reading comprehension level of gnats?

I also mentioned the Janet Reno episode on January 19.

You can apologize to me whenever you’re ready.

Of course, he’s not going to apologize. He’ll slink off somewhere, whining that I was mean to him. Righties are so pathetic.

But this encounter made me think about where this kind of reaction falls on the “reaction” scale. It’s so typical I definitely need to work it in somewhere.

As I have explained at great length already, it is standard procedure for a new administration to ask for the resignations of the the former president’s attorneys, particularly if the former president was from the other party. U.S. attorneys serve for four-year terms, so as a rule when a new administration begins their terms are about to expire, anyway. George W. Bush asked for the resignations of most of Clinton’s attorneys, and replaced them with his own appointees, in 2001.

[Update: I just found this paragraph in an Associated Press story

When the party in the White House changes hands, it is common for the new president to fire all the sitting U.S. attorneys, as Ronald Reagan did in 1981 and Bill Clinton in 1993. By contrast, Bush allowed some to stay on the job for several months when he took office in 2001, although all were replaced eventually.

In 1993, the Dems should have been shrieking “Reagan did it, too!”]

As I have said before, replacing U.S. attorneys is not, in itself, scandalous. However, as explained at length in the posts linked above, the circumstances surrounding the recent replacements make these replacements grossly unethical if not illegal.

The Right Wing Noise Machine raised a huge stink when Janet Reno made the very routine and long anticipated request for the resignation of the Republican-appointed attorneys, which was all of them. (The Clinton Administration, for some reason, allowed one prosecutor to stay over — Michael Chertoff. Very weird. There’s probably a story behind that.) The Machine pretended there was something sinister about the firing of the attorneys and accused Bill Clinton of getting rid of all of them just to interfere with an investigation of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. (The investigation was not stopped; Rostenkowski would be indicted in 1994.)

This huge stink was just part of their ongoing campaign to smear, bash, discredit, and destroy the Clinton Administration any way it could, honest or dishonest. The Right’s knuckle-dragging followers dutifully got all worked up about it, and we see now that many of them still are.

ABC News is reporting that Senator Hillary Clinton is calling for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Righties who reacted with “nyah nyah Clinton did it to” (Stage 4) include: Macsmind (who, remarkably, somehow connects the U.S. attorneys to then-First Lady Clinton’s health care proposals), Gateway Pundit, Betsy Newmark, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Congratulations to the first three for being brainless stooges, and to WSJ for so diligently doing its job as a propaganda machine.

A clue about how these replacings are different — the Seattle Times reports today:

Former Washington state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance acknowledged Tuesday that he contacted then-U.S. Attorney John McKay to inquire about the status of federal investigations into the 2004 governor’s race while the outcome was still in dispute.

Vance also spoke regularly with presidential adviser Karl Rove’s aides about the election, which Democrat Christine Gregoire ultimately won by 129 votes over Republican Dino Rossi. But Vance said he doesn’t recall discussing with the White House McKay’s performance or Republicans’ desires for a formal federal investigation. …

… Vance is one of at least two Republican officials who called McKay to inquire about a possible investigation by his office into the governor’s race. …

…Vance said he felt compelled to approach McKay as a fellow Republican.

“Republican activists were furious because they felt that you had a Republican secretary of state [Sam Reed], a Republican county prosecutor in Norm Maleng and a Republican U.S. attorney, but still they saw the governorship slipping away, and they were just angry,” Vance said.

Combine that story with this March 7 story from the Seattle Post-Ingelligencer, and it’s hard not to conclude that McKay’s firing was punishment for not convening a grand jury and seeking indictments against Democrats in the Gregoire election. McKay says he couldn’t find enough evidence of voter fraud to convene a grand jury; apparently, that was no excuse.

From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

Among the documents is e-mail sent to Ms. Miers by Kyle Sampson, Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, ranking United States attorneys on factors like “exhibited loyalty.” Small wonder, then that United States Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego was fired. She had put one Republican congressman, Duke Cunningham, in jail and had opened an inquiry that put others at risk, along with party donors.

More disturbing details have come out about Mr. Iglesias’s firing. We knew he was ousted six weeks after Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, made a wildly inappropriate phone call in which he asked if Mr. Iglesias intended to indict Democrats before last November’s election in a high-profile corruption scandal. We now know that Mr. Domenici took his complaints to Mr. Bush.

After Mr. Iglesias was fired, the deputy White House counsel, William Kelley, wrote in an e-mail note that Mr. Domenici’s chief of staff was “happy as a clam.” Another e-mail note, from Mr. Sampson, said Mr. Domenici was “not even waiting for Iglesias’s body to cool” before getting his list of preferred replacements to the White House. …

…The Justice Department has been saying that it is committed to putting Senate-confirmed United States attorneys in every jurisdiction. But the newly released documents make it clear that the department was making an end run around the Senate — for baldly political reasons. Congress should broaden the investigation to determine whether any other prosecutors were forced out for not caving in to political pressure — or kept on because they did.

There was, for example, the decision by United States Attorney Chris Christie of New Jersey to open an investigation of Senator Bob Menendez just before his hotly contested re-election last November. Republicans, who would have held the Senate if Mr. Menendez had lost, used the news for attack ads. Then there was the career United States attorney in Guam who was removed by Mr. Bush in 2002 after he started investigating the superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. The prosecutor was replaced. The investigation was dropped.

In mid-December 2006, Mr. Gonzales’s aide, Mr. Sampson, wrote to a White House counterpart that using the Patriot Act to fire the Arkansas prosecutor and replace him with Mr. Rove’s man was risky — Congress could revoke the authority. But, he wrote, “if we don’t ever exercise it, then what’s the point of having it?”

Sort of how I’m feeling about impeachment power these days.

Update: McClatchy Newspapers explains

Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration. Prosecutors are usually appointed for four-year terms, but they are usually allowed to stay on the job if the president who appointed them is re-elected.

Even as they planned mass firings by the Bush White House, Justice Department officials acknowledged it would be unusual for the president to oust his own appointees. Although Bill Clinton ordered the wholesale removal of U.S. attorneys when he took office to remove Republican holdovers, his replacement appointees stayed for his second term.

Ronald Reagan also kept his appointees for his second term. …

… Nonetheless, Bush aide Dan Bartlett noted Clinton’s first term firings in defending Bush’s second term dismissals.

“Those discretionary decisions made by a president, by an administration, are often done,” he told reporters Tuesday.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Rev. Mike  •  Mar 14, 2007 @10:17 am

    The typical reaction by BushCo to the latest republican scandel:

    1. Silence

    2. Denial – “There’s really no scandel here, just the libruhl media trying to smear honest god-fearing republicans.”

    3. Dismissal – “How is this a scandal? CLINTON DID IT TOO!!1!”

    4. Blame – “It was just one low-level flunky, obviously planted by the libruhls, and has nothing to do with us upstanding republicans. No one at higher levels knew anything.”

    5. Revisionism – “Are you still harping about that? It never happened – libruhl smear, biased media, Clinton did it too.”

    6. Next scandel, return to step 1.

  2. Clayton  •  Mar 14, 2007 @10:54 am

    Here’s the crux of the argument being posited by righties as near as I can tell: Clinton’s administration fired U.S. attorneys much as the Bush administration just fired some of their own U.S. attorneys; ergo, Clinton deserves to be criticized just as much (if not more–he is and always has been, after all, in league with the devil according to them) as Dear Leader is being criticized now. At the risk of borrowing a favorite right-wing pseudo-religious analogy, it’s an eye for an eye if you will.

    Allow me to preface our next observations by reminding everyone that what made Clinton’s own firings unique was that this was a blanket firing on a scale that had never been seen before. Clinton dismissed all but one U.S. attorney upon assuming office, and in doing so, he bucked a trend of waiting for current terms of U.S. attorneys to expire before naming their replacements. That being said, there are two major problems with the comparison of Clinton versus Bush. The first and most obvious being that Clinton’s own appointments came at the beginning of his first term in office. Much as George W. Bush did at the beginning of his own first term, Clinton cleaned house of the previous administration’s attorneys in a purge primarily intended to sweep the U.S. attorneys’ offices clean of appointments made by the opposing political party. This is to be expected, and upon honest examination, it’s a very fair move on the part of either party.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Clinton firings came at the end of an *unprecedented* and unbroken twelve year chain of U.S. attorneys that were appointed by the Reagan and Bush administrations. The fact that the first Bush administration had failed to infuse the U.S. attorneys’ offices with enough new blood meant that by the time Clinton assumed office, a substantial cleansing was needed.

    There’s a lot that we could analyze in this situation, but I think the Clinton defense basically boils down, yet again, to the Republican ideal of governance by privilege. The argument at the time seems to be that Republicans were miffed at the idea of a collective of U.S. attorneys who had been dismissed after twelve years in control weren’t allowed to stay in control. (“If they’ve been doing well for this long, why the hell would we fire them?”) We saw this theme revived en masse during the 2006 campaign season when so many Republicans’ only defense of their own reelections was that since they’d been in office this long, they were obviously doing *something* right and thus should be elected to another term.

    Yet again we’re being handed more and more evidence of righties’ disconnect from reality. Because they are so wrong about this, the only defense that they have left is the suggestion that this has been done before in the past and that makes it okay.

  3. maha  •  Mar 14, 2007 @11:01 am

    Allow me to preface our next observations by reminding everyone that what made Clinton’s own firings unique was that this was a blanket firing on a scale that had never been seen before.

    No, it isn’t. According to this Associated Press story, Reagan fired ALL of the U.S. attorneys at the beginning of his term, too. And George W. Bush replaced all of Bill Clinton’s appointees during his first term, although not all at once.

  4. Clayton  •  Mar 14, 2007 @11:05 am

    Before I forget, there’s one more thing I forgot to add. Pay special attention to the administration’s spin today and tomorrow. This morning with Gonzales’ appearance on CNN with Miles O’Brien (and kudos to Mr. O’Brien for being so aggressive in his questioning), we saw the beginning of the very last line of defense: nothing we did was illegal. As a technicality, this is true, but what has happened here is unethical in the strongest sense of the word and stinks of pure politics.

    “We didn’t break the law,” is now the final spin this administration can put on this whole mess. This scandal is huge, and the attorney general could very well lose his job over this, but as far as the white house is concerned, this whole mess is null since no laws were broken. Highly ironic considering this administration’s complete disregard for the rule of law, no?

  5. Clayton  •  Mar 14, 2007 @11:06 am

    No, it isn’t. According to this Associated Press story, Reagan fired ALL of the U.S. attorneys at the beginning of his term, too. And George W. Bush replaced all of Bill Clinton’s appointees during his first term, although not all at once.

    I stand corrected. I was searching for such a story as I figured as much would probably be true, but I couldn’t find one. Thanks for pointing that out. 😉

  6. joanr16  •  Mar 14, 2007 @12:08 pm

    Indeed, the timing of the current firings is unique, halfway into Bush’s second term. So the righties’ comparisons to what Clinton did in ’93 (or Reagan did in ’81) are inaccurate, as usual. We’re learning that the current situation involved both BushCo’s love of patronage-for-incompetent-cronies, and their disdain for the U.S. legal system. And I still say it’s no coincidence that they began tweaking the Judicial Branch right after losing control of the Legislative.

  7. SamFromUtah  •  Mar 14, 2007 @4:06 pm

    “We didn’t break the law,” is now the final spin this administration can put on this whole mess.

    A tired, but effective, workhorse is this excuse.

    If it can be shown that they fired USAs for investigating corruption cases, isn’t there some sort of legal wrinkle there? I mean, I assume the attorney’s replacement is still legal, but trashing the investigations can’t be purely “at the pleasure of the president”, can it?

  8. jawbone  •  Mar 14, 2007 @10:02 pm

    What I don’t understand is why they think the public is so stupid as to believe the lies they continue to hand out.

    How stupid do they think we are?

    Goes for the MCM* which used the RNC talking points.

    *Mainstream Corporate Media

  9. Santa Monica Jeremy  •  Mar 15, 2007 @4:16 am

    Just to clarify:
    Putting in your own people at the beginning of your term is standard operating procedure.
    Firing your own people for either 1) going after Republicans or 2) refusing to politicize their office by pushing spurious charges against Democrats is not standard operating procedure, it is obstruction of justice and perversion of justice, respectively.



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