Friday, March 09, 2007

Gonzales and the Beleaguered Judiciary

As the recent news about eight fired prosecutors has unfolded, I've pretty much kept my mouth shut and listened. The implications are obvious--no need for me to add anything. Then came word that the motivation for firing them wasn't merely punitive--thanks to a Patriot Act provision, Bush could replace the fired prosecutors with appointees with "interim appointees"--stooges who didn't have to go before the Senate. And, since this only bolstered the obviousness of the first point, I again had no reason to comment. I mean, a coup's a coup, right?

The latest information comes from Paul Krugman (via Andrew Sullivan) about the Bush assault on the judiciary:

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: "We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest."

And let's not forget that Karl Rove's candidates have a history of benefiting from conveniently timed federal investigations. Last year Molly Ivins reminded her readers of a curious pattern during Mr. Rove's time in Texas: 'In election years, there always seemed to be an F.B.I. investigation of some sitting Democrat either announced or leaked to the press. After the election was over, the allegations often vanished.'

Today the Post reported that US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed to quit packing the court with toadies; he was forced by GOP Senators who could no longer bear the public outrage of the firings and their culpability in rigging the Patriot Act.

And with this news, I finally have an observation to add. Back when Bush had the opportunity to appoint a replacement for Rehnquist and later O'Connor, some thought he might select his old friend from Texas. But now we see why that was never in the cards. Bush had his man on the inside. Gonzales was far more valuable to him as a judicial bagman than a court appointee. Recall that before this flap, two of the hits on Bush's top ten crime list have Gonzales' fingerprints on them: blowing off the FISA courts to spying on Americans and torturing suspected terrorists, an act based onGonzales' "torture memo."

It's no wonder Bush ushered John Ashcroft out the door. While his first AG was an evangelical and huge supporter, he was apparently independent. Gonzales was not. But in the end, we may have gotten lucky--at least Gonzales can be fired (and may be on his way); had he become a Supreme Court justice, we'd have him around another forty years.


Zak J. said...

And now Gonzales is shocked--SHOCKED!--that the FBI has been breaking the law even after the wide latitude granted it in the Patriot Act. Makes you almost long for decency and intellectual rigor of Edwin Meese, doesn't it?


Mick said...

Ashcroft independent?! Please.

Ashcroft was dumped because he was a brainless fuck-up who kept embarrassing the admin. He bungled everything Rove gave him to do, and - worst of all - his JD leaked like a sieve. Plus, he allowed a German court access to his so-called "investigation" of a terrorist suspect and when they opened it there was nothing in it but unconfirmed rumors and raw gossip. Not a shred of anything that remotely deserved the term "evidence".

I think that was the last straw. IAC, he was ineffectual and a PR nightmare. With Alberto waiting in the wings, who needed Ashy? Nobody.