Politics, Pure and Cynical
We wish we’d been surprised to learn that the White House was deeply involved in the politically motivated firing of eight United States attorneys, but the news had the unmistakable whiff of inevitability. This disaster is just part of the Bush administration’s sordid history of waving the bloody bullhorn of 9/11 for the basest of motives: the perpetuation of power for power’s sake.Now nobody is questioning the President's authority to replace US Attorneys; the problem is they were replaced because they refused to turn their positions into political tools.
Time and again, President Bush and his team have assured Americans that they needed new powers to prevent another attack by an implacable enemy. Time and again, Americans have discovered that these powers were not being used to make them safer, but in the service of Vice President Dick Cheney’s vision of a presidency so powerful that Congress and the courts are irrelevant, or Karl Rove’s fantasy of a permanent Republican majority.
In firing the prosecutors and replacing them without Senate approval, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took advantage of a little-noticed provision that the administration and its Republican enablers in Congress had slipped into the 2006 expansion of the Patriot Act. The ostensible purpose was to allow the swift interim replacement of a United States attorney who was, for instance, killed by terrorism.
But these firings had nothing to do with national security — or officials’ claims that the attorneys were fired for poor performance. This looks like a political purge, pure and simple, and President Bush and his White House are in the thick of it.
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.Of course this must lead us to question the US Attorneys who weren't fired. Did they pass the "loyalty test".
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.