U.S. Attorney Firings: Oh No! Confrontation! Klieg Lights!
In the 1947 movie “Copacabana,” in the song “Go West, Young Man,” Groucho Marx explains why you need to head for the frontier,
“You can ride a bucking bronco or a pony; You can cut a calf in half and make baloney.”
This White House doesn’t need to travel. It doesn’t even need a calf. It generates its own baloney.
The U.S. Attorney firings are a particularly clear example of fascinating gibberish.
Here’s the story in one sentence: The White House and the Justice Department in coordination with Republican legislators, targeted U.S. Attorneys to be fired, either because they didn’t agree to immediately harass and prosecute Democratic candidates, or because they did prosecute and convict Republican office-holders.
Is that illegal? No. Is it nakedly political? You bet. Can the Democrats do anything about it? Not really. All they can do is expose it for the record, so it won’t disappear into the fog of time.
In reaction to the Democratic push for accountability, the President and his staff are maneuvering and contorting enough to put the “Cirque de Soleil” acrobats to shame.
On Tuesday, the President said that “Democrats now have to choose whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people’s business.”
--Oops. Minor problem: It’s Congress’s job to decide when and whether it’s necessary to confront the executive branch. Checks and balances. The Republicans were gleeful at dragging Clinton White House officials in to testify. Remember?
Bush said he wouldn’t stand by while Congress was “dragging White House members up there to score political points, or put the klieg lights on.”
--Your folks fired these attorneys exactly because of politics, Mr. President. And if you’re afraid of a little light thrown on the subject, that speaks for itself.
Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett told NPR’s Robert Siegel, “Well, Robert, we sure hope there doesn't have to be a confrontation with another branch of government, the legislative body here.”
--The word “confrontation” comes up a lot. Must be a Republican Talking Point, one of those words or phrases they’ve all been encouraged to use whenever discussing this issue.
“What I fear, Robert, is that what members of the Democratic Party who are in charge of this investigation may really be aimed at is not really, 'let's learn the facts,' but, 'hey, we have a huge political opportunity here. Let's bring up the villain himself, Karl Rove, and put him before the klieg lights here and have a big trial in which we can throw any question we want at him.'”
--There are those damned “klieg lights” again. Apparently, America’s two greatest dangers are “confrontation” and “klieg lights.”
Fine. Let’s cut to the chase. Rove and his minions are willing to do “private interviews” with Congressional leaders, where they can lie, then lie about what their lies, and avoid prosecution for perjury, if any remaining U.S Attorney has the guts to even charge them. Rove and company don’t want the public to know how they operate, or for there to be an agreed upon transcript of what they’ve said, or to be legally liable if they don’t tell the truth.
And once again, all the coverage on this story ignores or obscures the most important feature of it. Which is: time and again, this administration obliterates the “gray areas” where government worked well without excessive refereeing.
For years, new Presidents have come in, fired a bunch of U.S. Attorneys at the start of their new administrations, though the firings were often entirely political, it was an accepted practice. Now that this gang has fired individual attorneys for failing to accommodate specific political aims, Congress is going to have to make a bunch of stupid regulations to make sure that nobody is this cravenly petty again.
If you hate regulations, please let’s remember, they’re usually prompted by somebody else’s previous bad behavior. You and I aren’t going to fly planes into buildings; but because people did that, we all have to start every trip by attesting that we won’t. You and I wouldn’t have a factory with no exits, so one spark can turn the building into a tomb. But some companies did, and now there are regulations. You and I aren’t going to take stockholders’ money and build solid gold statues of ourselves; but somebody else did, and now, there’s a new set of regulations.
And now, every time you hire or fire a U.S. Attorney, even for a routine reason, there are going to be 50 hearings and a luau before we can just move on to the next order of business.