Colleagues Cite Partisan Focus by Justice Official
WASHINGTON, May 11 — Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers.I suspect she was largely acting on her own when it came to the lower level employee decisions but was taking orders from the Rove White House when it came to the US Attorneys themselves.
“You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.”
Ms. Ashton’s ouster — she left the Executive Office for United States Attorneys for another Justice Department post two weeks later — was a critical early step in a plan that would later culminate in the ouster of nine United States attorneys last year.
Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”
Ms. Goodling also moved to block the hiring of prosecutors with résumés that suggested they might be Democrats, even though they were seeking posts that were supposed to be nonpartisan, two department officials said.
And she helped maintain lists of all the United States attorneys that graded their loyalty to the Bush administration, including work on past political campaigns, and noted if they were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.
By the time Ms. Goodling resigned in April — after her role in the firing of the prosecutors became public and she had been promoted to the role of White House liaison — she and other senior department officials had revamped personnel practices affecting employees from the top of the agency to the bottom.
So who and what is Monica Goodling? I think she is what Bob Altemeyer would call an authoritarian follower.
Authoritarian followers usually support the established authorities in their society, such as government officials and traditional religious leaders. Such people have historically been the "proper" authorities in life, the time-honored, entitled, customary leaders, and that means a lot to most authoritarians. Psychologically these followers have personalities featuring:This brings us to one of the most important facts about Monica. Sandy Levinson at Balkinization explains:
1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in their society;
2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3) a high level of conventionalism.
Because the submission occurs to traditional authority, I call these followers right-wing authoritarians.
Still, the story walks on eggs with regard to one of the most important aspects of Ms. Goodling, her religious zeal. Lipton mentions that she graduated from Regent Law School, '99, and notes that that is Pat Robertson's law school. But there has still been no genuine examination of the extent to which Ms. Goodling used her remarkable clout within the Justice Department to focus on hiring not only conservative Republicans, but also persons who were equally opposed to what she no doubt believes is the sinful secularism of modern society.Disciples of charismatic religious leaders like Pat Robertson are trained to not question authority - are by their very nature "authoritarian followers". This makes them very useful to secular authoritarians like Karl Rove. If Monica Goodling had any knowledge of Constitutional Law and theory, which is doubtful considering her educational background, it would be displaced by the wishes of the authoritarians she worked for. The story of Monica Goodling is not so much about the purge of US Attorneys as it is about the danger of the religious right in government.