Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Attorney General Dead-end

Over at Ragged Thots, Robert George has once again posted on the so-called attorney general scandal.

In his post, Robert links to a post by Josh Marshall, which makes the case for why this scandal is important:
"Whoever's in power and however intense things get, most of us assume that the party in power won't interfere with the vote count. We also assume that the administration won't use the IRS to harrass or imprison political opponents. And we assume that criminal prosecutions will be undertaken or not undertaken on the facts.

Yes, there's prosecutorial discretion. And the grandstanding, press-hungry DA is almost a cliche. But when a politician gets indicted for corruption we basically all assume it's because they're corrupt -- or, given the assumption of innocence, that the prosecution is undertaken because the prosecutor believes their case is strong and that the defendent committed the crime.
"

An indictment is NOT a conviction. Incorrect assumptions by the public is NOT a reason to change anything, except possibly public misconceptions. Did we learn NOTHING from the Duke lacrosse case?
"What we seem to see are repeated cases in which US Attorneys were fired for not pursuing bogus prosecutions of persons of the opposite party. Or vice versa. There's little doubt that that is why McKay and Iglesias were fired and there's mounting evidence that this was the case in other firings as well. The idea that a senator calls a US Attorney at home just weeks before a federal elections and tries to jawbone him into indicting someone to help a friend get reelected is shocking. Think about it for a second. It's genuinely shocking. At a minimum one would imagine such bad acts take place with more indirection and deniability. And yet the Domenici-Iglesias call has now been relegated to the status of a footnote in the expanding scandal, notwithstanding the fact that there's now documentary evidence showing that Domenici's substantial calls to the White House and Justice Department played a direct role in getting Iglesias fired.

So what you have here is this basic line being breached. But not only that. What is equally threatening is the systematic nature of the offense. This isn't one US Attorney out to get Democrats or one rogue senator trying to monkey around with the justice system. The same thing happened in Washington state and New Mexico -- with the same sort of complaints being received and acted upon at the White House and the Department of Justice. Indeed, there appears to have been a whole process in place to root out prosecutors who wouldn't prostitute their offices for partisan goals.

We all understand that politics and the law aren't two hermetically sealed domains. And we understand that partisanship may come into play at the margins. But we expect it to be the exception to the rule and a rare one. But here it appears to have become the rule rather than the exception, a systematic effort at the highest levels to hijack the Justice Department and use it to advance the interest of one party over the other by use of selective prosecution.
"

Well said. Now that we have identified the problem, what shall we do to fix it?

It seems clear: We need more Congressional oversight into the Executive Branch. We will need to give Congress authority (i.e. advise and consent) over all presidential attorney appointments. That will make the president think twice before appointing anyone for strictly political reasons! It will also make him think twice before firing anyone too, because then he will have to appoint someone acceptable to Congress!

Of course, Congress will be able to do with the attorneys what they did with Bush's judicial appointments: filibuster until they are withdrawn. Which means he possibly won't be able to appoint ANY attorneys! Just think how much that would mean to an opposition party which likes to keep their hands in the cookie jar?

Do we REALLY want to give Congress more power? I will grant what Bush did was unethical, but there is a VERY good reason for the president to have this authority. If he misuses it, what happens? He will get plenty of indictments, but no convictions. He will tie up the judicial system with a bunch of frivolous prosecutions.

On the other hand, if the president does NOT have the legal power to pursue corruption in opposition parties, what is to stop Congress from giving itself more immunity than it already has?

Frankly, this is a case where the cure is far worse than the disease. Let the Media have their field day over this "scandal", but don't dare to ask what should be done to fix it.

10 comments:

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes... "Over at Ragged Thots, Robert George has once again posted on the so-called attorney general scandal."

Yes... (*SIGH*)... we KNOW. (*GRIN*) Seems this Marshall guy has tickled RAG's fancy!

Now you know me, Ed... I enjoy mixing it up with our "fellow conservative" RAG, but I truly do wonder if it's that he CAN'T see the logic of your observation, "An indictment is NOT a conviction. Incorrect assumptions by the public is NOT a reason to change anything, except possibly public misconceptions. Did we learn NOTHING from the Duke lacrosse case?," or is it simply that in his mind the ends justify the means of bashing Gonzales and thus Bush?

Curious. (*SHRUG*)

In any case, since this is Politics and Pigskins and not Ragged Thots, Talking Points Memo, or TPMMuckraker, I'll go on to address your points:

Ed writes... "We need more Congressional oversight into the Executive Branch."

No doubt! But let's insert the word "reasonable" before "Congressional." It seems clear that this specific issue - from the Dems perspective at least - is more about playing politics and setting a perjury trap than about true "oversight." As I've mentioned time and again on Ragged Thots, it would have been nice if Congress - both the last Republican Congress and the present Democratic Congress - took their CONSTITUTIONAL responsibilities enshrined within the FRIGG'N TEXT of the Constitution a bit more seriously instead of mainly trying to micro-manage while at the same time ducking responsibility for actual decisions left unmade.

* I never know how much space I have to work with so I'll end here and start anew on another separate posting.

BILL

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes...

"We will need to give Congress authority (i.e. advise and consent) over all presidential attorney appointments."

In other words... we need to go BACK to the Constitution as it was written and intended. (*SMILE*) Remember Ed... it was the same CONGRESS... the same LEGISLATIVE BRANCH... which created legislation allowing the president to circumvent the Founders' intent and "delegate" his authority (and therefore HIS RESPONSIBILITY) to the Attorney General.

And NOW... as I believe I pointed out in my very first post on the subject over at RT when RAG first brought this matter up... the Dems want to circumvent the Constitution once AGAIN... but in a different and constitutionally even MORE unallowable way... by "delegating" clear EXECUTIVE BRANCH AUTHORITY to appoint AG's to members of the JUDICIAL BRANCH - i.e. judges.

BUZZ!!! Wrong frigg'n answer!!! (And if you recall that was yet ANOTHER very specific point I brought up some time back that none of the libs - nor RAG - felt like addressing.) (*SMIRK*)

BILL

William R. Barker said...

Ed wrote...

"That will make the president think twice before appointing anyone for strictly political reasons! It will also make him think twice before firing anyone too, because then he will have to appoint someone acceptable to Congress!"

Part one. True. And as it should be. Part two... two words, Ed: RECESS APPOINTMENTS.

Again... since you basically started this thread as a companion piece to the RT discussion... I must point out that I brought this matter up in one of my very first posts on the topic.

Bottom line, though I agree with you that the president should PERSONALLY be responsible for these appointments as was the Founders' intent, there was no "nafarious plot" behind Congress' actions in "streamlining" the process by allowing Gonzales (well, ANY Attorney General) to life a personnel "burden" off Bush's (or ANY president's) back. It's simply the law of unintended consequences kicking in. (*SMILE*)

Plus... of course... the reluctance of Bush and "his" White House to come right out and say what they mean, why they mean it, and why the other side is wrong.

My guess... the political idiots on Gonzales staff and the White House staff actually DID think they'd avoid embarassing the AG's (and thus causing the food fight we have now!) by "writing" the reason for the firings as "proformace" while ALSO writing GOOD REVIEWS on the record (as is the norm far too often across the board in American society) and "saying" at PUBLIC hearings that "performance" wasn't an issue.

Dumb. Just frigg'n dumb. But criminal? Even "political" in the sense RAG and the Libs and Dems use the term... no. I've seen NO evidence - NONE - that would make me think the Gonzales Attorney General's Office or "The White House" fired these eight in order to quash investigations into Republican wrongdoing.

It seems to me... just from what I've seen and heard... that these guys were fired because they weren't doing the sort of job that people like me, you, and Moose would WANT our U.S. Attorneys to do in reference to issues such as illegal immigration, vote fraud, and drug smuggling.

We'll see.

BILL

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes...

"I will grant what Bush did was unethical..."

(*BANGING ROB'S HEAD AGAINST THE WALL*)

Oh, Ed...

Oh, Ed, oh, Ed, oh, Ed...

Hmm... before I start ranting... (*GRIN*)... perhaps you'd like to "clarify" that remark?

What - WHAT EXACTLY - is it you think Bush did that was "unethical?"

Something tells me that you're just attempting to split the difference... throw the opposition a bone... but from my experience with you over a fairly long period (*GRIN*) I assume you'll dig your heels in and try and "defend" the remark after the fact instead of retracting it. (*SIGH*)

We'll see.

BILL

William R. Barker said...

Ed writes...

"[T]here is a VERY good reason for the president to have this authority. If he misuses it, what happens? He will get plenty of indictments, but no convictions. He will tie up the judicial system with a bunch of frivolous prosecutions."

(*HUH*)

O.K. First things first.

ED... there *is* indeed a "very good reason" for the president to have this authority: THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES GIVES IT TO HIM.

(*BANGING, BANGING, BANGING ROB'S HEAD INTO THE WALL IN FRUSTRATION*)

O.K., Ed... one more time...

There are THREE BRANCHES to the Federal Government. These are...

(*SMILE*)

Point Two: If a president were to "misuse" the appointment/firing power of his official perogatives for nafarious... or if you'd rather, "unethical" purposes... that little document called (*DRUM ROLL*) THE CONSTITUTION sets up the mechanism for CONGRESS to deal with such malfeasence. It's called IMPEACHMENT. (*SMIRK*)

Oh, Ed... (*SHAKING MY HEAD*) No need to reinvent the wheel here, buddy.

(*GRIN*)

BILL

William R. Barker said...

In closing...

(*HUGE FRIGG'N GRIN*)

So... Ed... ya think any of the lurkers (Rob, RAG, AIP) are gonna post any counter-arguments here at P&P? (Nah... me either.)

I tell ya... it does bug me when people like Rob and John O falsely accuse me (and you, sometimes in a different context) of not addressing the issues or of ducking their supposed "facts."

(*SMIRK*)

I know... I know... we all have different personalities and different "buttons," but between ALL my posts at RT over the past couple weeks and my posts here... can YOU see how anyone in good faith could accuse me (or YOU for that matter) of simply repeating unquestioning support of Bush?

(*SHAKING MY HEAD*)

BILL

EdMcGon said...

Bill, we HAVE to get you a blog! :)

Seriously, you may have missed it, but I was being sarcastic when I suggested changing the Constitution. I was hoping my ending points would make that clear.

The idea of giving Congress more oversight over ANYTHING turns my stomach.

Robert A. George said...

Ed: "It seems clear: We need more Congressional oversight into the Executive Branch. We will need to give Congress authority (i.e. advise and consent) over all presidential attorney appointments. That will make the president think twice before appointing anyone for strictly political reasons! It will also make him think twice before firing anyone too, because then he will have to appoint someone acceptable to Congress!"

I'm not sure if you were being facetious here, but U.S. attorneys are currently to Senate confirmation. One reason why the firing issue became controversial is because of a provision added to the Patriot Act during its renewal that gave the president greater power to fire and replace prosecutors WITHOUT Senate approval.

EdMcGon said...

Robert,
I was being facetious. In spite of the ethical shortcomings of the Bush administration, Congress is far worse right now.

Giving Congress oversight powers over the Executive Branch is the equivalent of putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

William R. Barker said...

Robert,

The reason the firing issue became controversial is because the Democrats now control Congress and thus have investigatory powers and because the liberal media and anti-Bush at any cost "conservatives" like you give it more play than say... oh, I don't know... $20 frigg'n BILLION of pork used mainly to BRIBE a few wavering politicians to vote for a "suggested" end to the Iraq war bill. (*SMIRK*)

The inference in your posts on your website has always been that Bush/Gonzales DID something wrong... something unethical... something perhaps criminal... by firing those few U.S. Attorneys. There is of course NO evidence of this, but... (*SMIRK*)

Was the WAY it was done wrong? YES! No one I know has ever said otherwise.

And as to this Patriot Act boogieman... (*SMIRK*)... I don't know of ANYONE who has a problem with cutting the AG out of the loop he was placed in by Congress and returning the CONSTITUTIONAL DISCRETIONARY POWER solely to Bush along with CONSTITUTIONAL advise and consent powers to the Senate backstopped with CONSTITUTIONAL presidential recess appointment authority.

In other words, Robert... you and people who think like you seem more content of creating strawmen in order to ultimately discredit Bush than in working the constitutional angle which is the KEY angle.

BILL