Federal Attorney Dismissals: Ideological Firewalls Constrain Questions

(Posted 03/16/2007) - This soapbox rant may disappoint some readers in that I examine arguments presented by apologists for the Bush Administration on the propriety of the recent dismissal by Justice of several Federal Prosecuters. I believe these arguments boil down to just two themes.

After browsing internet news reports and op-eds, as well as a number of blog's reader-response columns, I would sum up the thinking of Bush Administration supporters as follows:

(1) Federal Prosecuters are appointed and can be dismissed without cause, so no laws were broken when the Justice Department removed these eight individuals. It follows that the media shouldn't pursue this non-event, and that Democratic controlled government oversite committees should have no role in investigating the dismissals.

(2) The Democratic Clinton Administration cleared the decks in 1993 when they fired 93 (92) federal prosecuters without cause. Since there was no flap in the press or in Congress then, why is there such a flap now?

There is a distinction to be made between the current firings and those made in 1993. But ideology seems to preclude its recognition. In this case Bush Administration supporters refuse to examine the substantive question of the day. To Wit: Were ongoing criminal investigations which threatened Bush allies undermined by removing these prosecuters?

This is the as yet unanswered question at the core of the Democratic challenge. If it goes unproved, the firings become a non-event. If further investigation shows collusion to undermine ongoing investigations, people can go to jail in addition to being dismissed from their jobs (I wonder how well Mr. Gonzales is sleeping these days).

The thing that intrigues me is how Bush Supporters cannot get their arms around the real point of this investigation. Instead we hear over and over, "Federal prosecuters serve at the pleasure of the president -- the'yre appointees", and "Clinton replaced his entire federal prosecutorial staff at the beginning of his first term!"

When pressed about the real issue of whether there was a criminal conspiracy to suppress ongoing federal investigations by removing select prosecuters, these same folks throw up their hands and say "but nothing has been proven; it's only the Democratic Noise Machine pumping the Liberally biased Main Stream Media!"

They want no investigations by congress or by the Justice Department. They want doubters to take their word that "there was of course no conspiracy." But the trust-environment that the Bush Administrattion finds itself in is of its own creation. The high-handed approach that has been applied to the loyal opposition is coming home to roost.

If congressional oversite determines that members of the Bush Administration did collude to squelch criminal investigations by firing the principles, there will be more special prosecuters and more trials in the remaining days of this administration.

That's what we do in an open society -- we investigate allegations and determine if they have merit.