About those fired US attorneys

Paul at Power Line has a post about how the firing of the eight US attorneys is not the scandal that the media is portraying it:

The alleged scandal over the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys has made it to the front page of the Washington Post as today’s top headline. Let’s take a look at the Post’s story and the “scandal.”

The Post breathlessly informs us that the “Firings Had Genesis in White House.” Reading on, we learn that President Bush told Attorney General Gonzales he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud invesitgations. Voter fraud is a serious offense, and both political parties say they oppose it. So it seems perfectly proper for the president to pass along a complaint that some prosecutors weren’t pursuing such investigations. The question would then become how Gonzales followed-up and whether he did so fairly. More on this in a moment.

The Post also says that Harriet Miers recommended that all U.S. Attorneys be fired. Gonzales wisely rejected this blunderbuss recommendation. It’s worth noting, though, that such a mass firing would not have been unprecedented. President Clinton, through Janet Reno, fired all of the U.S. Attorneys after he was elected. Clinton used the mass firing as a means of covering up his real intention — to fire the U.S. Attorney in his home state of Arkansas. They didn’t call Clinton “Slick Willie” for nothing.

This time, eight prosecutors lost their jobs. It’s not implausible to think that out 93 U.S. Attorneys, eight might be good candidates for replacement. But let’s take a quick look at some of the specifics. According to the Post, three of them had low ratings — Margaret Chiara in Michigan, Carol Lam in San Diego, and Bud Cummins in Little Rock. Cummins was replaced by Tim Griffin, whose career Karl Rove apparently wanted to advance. There’s nothing novel in appointing a rising star with good connections to the job of U.S. Attorney. I’ve seen no evidence that Griffin was unqualified and, as noted, Cummins had received a poor rating.

Jeralyn Merrit, a criminal attorney and liberal blogger, explains how US Attorneys are appointed:

With all the cries of “foul” over the U.S. attorney firings, I think it might be helpful for readers to know just how U.S. attorneys are selected.

The job has always been a political plum. The U.S. Attorney is nominated by the President, based on recommendations from the Senators in the particular District. Almost without exception, the appointee is from the President’s political party. When a new President is elected, we get new U.S. Attorneys.

The Assistant U.S. Attorneys get to stay, under civil service rules. They can’t be ousted because of political reasons.

The travesty of the current U.S. Attorney firing scandal is not that U.S. Attorneys are being replaced. That is expected after an election, such as the one in 2004. It’s that it’s happening in 2007.

So what if these attorneys are fired in 2007 as opposed to in 2004? Since, as she points out, these positions are political in nature and the US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, the date they are replaced should not be an issue – except when the Attorney General ousting them is in the Bush Administration.

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