Re: There Oughta Be a Law

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My temporary colleague Mr. Kinsley goes all Jay-pants (and tip-of-hat-less) with his second post on Swampland:

The trouble with this scandal, as a scandal, has been that—if you’re going to be honest (and why not?)—there is not only nothing illegal about the president firing a US attorney. There is nothing even really wrong with it. Even if it’s just to make room for a crony of Karl Rove. And I’m sorry, but I just can’t see how firing eight can be heinous but firing 93 is perfectly OK. Nor can I see—if the issue is neutral justice—how firing someone from your own party is worse than firing someone from the other party.

I have not been doing this pundit thing for nearly as long as Mike, so perhaps my reasoning is faulty here, but I’d like to address his implied questions:

1. The argument that the AUSAs themselves are making is not that anyone did anything illegal — or even wrong — in firing them for political reasons, but that the DoJ misrepresented the circumstances of their firing when political pressure was applied. The attorneys were all assured that the resignations were political, but then Gonzales told the Congress the resignations were “performance-based.”

(1b. I suspect that while Iglesias and Cummins claim there’s nothing wrong with political dismissals, the idea behind AUSAs — prosecutors that operate independent of political whim — suggests that there’s something a little fishy, at the very least, about such targeting. Otherwise why would Gonzales tell Congress, “I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons”?)

2. The comparison between Clinton and Bush’s call for resignations is inaccurate, as it is fairly typical to ask for resignations when one begins one’s presidency (both Clinton and Reagan did it), but highly atypical to ask for just a few resignations — in politically key areas — at mid-term. The Bush administration itself (at least the DoJ’s Sampson) recognized this when sussing out their talking points should “political upheaval” greet the resignations.

3. As far the relative merits or flaws in firing someone of one’s own party: I haven’t found anyone actually making the argument that intraparty dismissals are somehow “more wrong.” They’re just more interesting. That solid Republicans like Iglesias and Cummins would protest their own party’s actions suggests that something is amiss beyond mere “politics.” Perhaps just massive incompetence.

All that said, I think Mike’s post does point out the weaknesses of the Democrats’ attempts to gin up controversy over this. But there are plenty Republicans who find the handling of the resignations worrisome. How’s that for contrarian?

It does sound like Mike has a follow-up post planned that may point to the real controversy here being over the Bush admin’s use and abuse of the Patriot Act. I certainly think there’s a legitimate argument to be upset over that, just in addition to the resignation stuff. Do we have to choose?

UPDATE: As pointed out by commenters: The Carol Lam stuff looks very unsavory — and political, in a bad way.

UPDATE: Re: “Democrats’ attempts gin up controversy” — I’m more referring here to the heat and light being generated by Schumer, et al, rather than anything like the blogosphere’s — and some MSM’s — reporting on the matter. The facts themselves are pretty interesting; the Ds seem to want to make this about the inherent wrongness of “political firing,” which — as Mike’s post shows — is unconvincing to even some very smart people.