Last Refuge of a Soundrel

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson said. Maybe ’twas true then, but we’ve stooped a bit lower since. When all else fails, blame incompetence.

At least, that’s what the Wall Street Journal is doing. Check out this editorial about the FBI’s improper use of national security letters:

Just when President Bush seemed to have beaten back the Congressional defeatists on Iraq, along comes his own Justice Department to undermine some hard-won antiterror policy gains. The incompetence at Justice is getting to be expensive for Presidential power.

Remember, WSJ still believes President Bush has a glorious strategy for victory in Iraq. So for them to have gone from denial to excuses in such a short time is something of a miracle.

It’s true that the Justice Department’s internal investigation on the national security letter issue blamed human error and shoddy record keeping for most of the unauthorized wiretapping. But this tells me that the people at the top — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller — have been winking at nodding at gross violations of citizens’ 4th Amendment rights. If these two had made it clear that all surveillance would be conducted lawfully, you can bet there’d have been a whole lot less human error and shoddy record keeping.

Dem Senator Chuck Schumer has called on Alberto Gonzales to resign. Republican Senator Lindsay Graham accused Schumer of interjecting “a little politics here.” I guess some righties are still in denial. I also infer that it’s unseemly for a Senator to speak up on a serious lapse if the lapser is a member of the other party. But if Republicans would take responsibility for their problem children, the Dems wouldn’t have to speak up. But Republicans, in effect, let the kids run all over the restaurant screaming and tripping the waiters and stealing food off plates, and when, finally, some adult says stop that, you little brat, the GOP gets all indignant about it.

(On a related note, see the Carpetbagger — “It’s become a fairly common refrain, hasn’t it? The right does something offensive, the left gets mad when there are no consequences, time elapses, and the right, annoyed by lingering resentment, tells the left to ‘get over it.’”)

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney purge continues to get attention. What we know so far is that some of the U.S. attorneys were fired after Republican officials in their districts complained to Karl Rove— the bleeping White House political director — about the attorneys’ performance.

Paul Krugman wrote today

Sources told Newsweek that the list of prosecutors to be fired was drawn up by Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, “with input from the White House.” And Allen Weh, the chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, told McClatchy News that he twice sought Karl Rove’s help — the first time via a liaison, the second time in person — in getting David Iglesias, the state’s U.S. attorney, fired for failing to indict Democrats. “He’s gone,” he claims Mr. Rove said.

After that story hit the wires, Mr. Weh claimed that his conversation with Mr. Rove took place after the decision to fire Mr. Iglesias had already been taken. Even if that’s true, Mr. Rove should have told Mr. Weh that political interference in matters of justice is out of bounds; Mr. Weh’s account of what he said sounds instead like the swaggering of a two-bit thug.

As Digby writes,

The minute I read that the Arkansas replacement was one of Rove’s little minions and that Iglesias had been pressured before the election to indict a Democrat, it was clear that this was Rove deal all around.

The Dems want to question Rove ao I suspect we are going to see some executive privilege claims start flying. Rove seems to have developed a bad case of SMS (Scooter Memory Syndrome) in which he can’t remember a damned thing whenever it becomes clear that he was playing politics in the lowest most obvious way possible. In his case, once the investigations start, the disease will render him braindead so he probably won’t be much use to anyone from this point forward.

And have I mentioned in the last few hours that we are paying this asshat’s salary?

See also Ron at Middle Earth Journal.

Update: Jack Cafferty calls Alberto Gonzales a “weasel.”

Supporting the Troops!

The Talking Dog interviews James Yee! You might remember that Yee was the Muslim Chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. While on leave Captain Yee was arrested and accused of espionage and spying, charges which carried the death penalty. He was then placed in solitary confinement in the Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, under conditions resembling those in which Guantanamo detainees were kept, for 76 days. As the case against Yee fell apart, the military instead added criminal charges of adultery and having pornography on his computer, charges that were also eventually dropped. Captain Yee left the Army with an honorable discharge and service commendations.

Lindsay Beyerstein interviews Nina Berman, who took this iconic photograph of an Iraq vet and his bride.

Mark Benjamin reports that injured soldiers are being sent back to Iraq.

As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records.

Feel free to snark about how Bush supports the troops in the comments.