Is everyone clear on the specifics of the US Attorney debacle, or should I do another Scandal Cheatsheet, as I did with the Plame Investigation? I was talking with some co-workers earlier today and surprised to discover that they didn't really have any clear idea what was going on; now I'm wondering if that's true of most normal people (i.e., those who, unlike me, don't obsessively follow political blogs).
In the comments, please let me know if you'd like a primer, if you don't feel the need for a primer, or if you are so uninterested in the whole thing that you wouldn't read a primer even if I wrote it. Thanks.
Update: People clearly need / want a primer, so now I ask that you use the comments to put specific questions you'd like addressed (e.g., "I don't understand is how this is news -
hasn't he [Bush] done that [kicked out people who didn't do what he wanted] for what? 7 years now?")
Update2: The primer will appear Monday in The Morning News. Keep those questions coming.
Posted on March 29, 2007 to dy
I could use a primer. I feel as though I missed the initial scandal and have only been watching the after-effects (or shock wave scandals).
All I know is that some lawyers got fired, there are some emails and somebody should be in trouble over it (but nobody ever seems to get into any trouble over anything in the Bush administration).
I need one, for sure. My problem is I can't keep straight which facts are associated with which horrific political train-wreck. They're starting to blend together.
Yes please. I think I understand the gist of it (Bush kicked out people who didn't do what he wanted) but what I don't understand is how this is news - hasn't he done that for what? 7 years now?
Even though I normally obsessively follow events involving New Mexico that hit national media, I have no idea what's going on with this thing. All I know is that state Democrats might finally have the ammunition they need to unseat Heather Wilson. (Domenici? That good old boy won't be unseated until he retires. New Mexicans fear change.)
I've been following the scandal, but one thing a lot of people (myself not included) don't seem to understand is how this is different from Clinton firing 96 US Attorneys at the start of his term... so some explanation there would probably be useful.
A point brought up by regular contributors of the Republican persuasion to my local newspaper's Letters to the Editor column have summed up their arguments against scandal-hood with the following statement: "But fired U.S. attorneys during his administration. ." Please address how the Bush firings differed, if at all, from previous administrations.
Whoopsy daisy. My bad, as the kids these days say. That was supposed to read:
"But *insert President, usually Clinton* fired *insert random number* U.S. attorneys during his administration. *insert Clinton slur*."
There is one HUGE difference between Bush firing these attorneys and what Clinton did.
There is a little know provision of the Patriot Act that would allow the president to appoint US attorneys to fill these vacancies without getting Senate confirmation.
It doesn't sound like much, but you can see the fall out of what is happening. These attorneys were fired for whatever reason, but Bush could then name "loyal Bushies" to replace them, and no one could contest the appointment. That is the crux of the problem. The rest is just a red herring.
At least, that's my opinion of the matter. Feel free to correct me if I have misconstrued something.
Also it is normal (as in every time) at the beginning of a new term for all the u.s. attorney's to leave their posts for new ones to be appointed. It rarely happens in the middle of an administration, and never on this scale.
Please, a primer! I keep seeing things about this new scandal, but I missed all the initial information and am thus ignorant about the whole thing. Educate me, please!
I only know what the Daily Show tells me so, which means I have a broad picture of the scandal but many questions about the details.
How does this fit in with the pattern of separation-of-powers abuses by the Bush administration? Is this a worse abuse, or simply a more clear-cut one?
Much of the balance of powers, as I understand it, is constructed from practice -- not from formal delineation of where each branch's responsibilities lie. Will this set a precedent that expands the president's power and extends to future administrations? Is that precedent dangerous if we assume it will average out over liberal and conservative regimes?
Did Gonzalez lie about the firing process? Did other members of the administration?
How much is Bush within his rights to assert executive privilege? What does executive privilege really mean -- does it simply come down to a pissing match over whether the other branches can shame/force Bush to comply? What weapons does Congress have to compel Bush's advisers to testify publicly and under oath?
Can Bush be impeached for this? Will he be?
Just for historical perspective, when was it again that Germany passed their Patriot Act? Was that '38 or '39?
What does this have to do with duct-tape and plastic sheeting? Would this be happening if they had banned flag-burning? Did those lawyers have WMDs or IEDs or STDs? What does Dobson think about this? Which one of his hench-creatures is Bush likely to give the ring of prosecutorial power to if the Great and Powerful Gonzo is exorsized? Who has the final word on whether or not Rove has to comply with a congressional summoning?
I have two questions.
I also keep hearing the "but Clinton fired all blah, blah, blah" which I know is totally irrelevant, but I have not been able to find out if Bush II did as well. I'd like to be able to shut that logic down with a quick,
"yes, all administrations clean house when they come in. Clinton did it, Bush did it and nobody made noise about it then because it's business as usual. This is not. They were fired because of politics, then they lied about it ("No! It was because of performance issues!) and got caught and and told new lies and on infinitum.
Also, I've heard, but only on liberal blogs, that the Karl Rove lackey that they installed in Arkansas actually has a history of voter suppression (everyone references some BBC documentary, but I can't find source on this)? It's mondo icky for a government prosecutor, but it's also delicious irony, if true, since one of the lies about their firings was that they wanted the guys they fired to do more to go after voter fraud and problems, yes?
So - did Bush II fire them all when he came in? And is Timothy Griffin an unindicted criminal?
I want a picture of his buxom assistant wearing a bikini sitting on Gonzalez's lap in front of his yacht. Or maybe a picture of Gonzales cradeling a just-adopted orphan from Africa. Or a picture of Gonzalez getting out of a limo in which you can see up his mini-skirt. Or a picture of Gonzalez dangling his baby over a balcony railing.
Honestly, that's the only thing that's going to get me interested in this story. But then I'm very shallow.
I don't need a primer, since I'm following this as closely as it sounds like you are, but I enjoy your writing & would love to have something sensible and readable that I could send other folks to.
I'd also like to offer the observation (which I don't think is made as often as it should be) that there are different versions of the word "political" being conflated in the discussion around all this. Political as in "policy-based," i.e. US Attorneys weren't adhering strictly enough to Bush's political goals of making immigration enforcement a high priority, is very different from political as in "having to do with political parties," i.e. US Attorneys weren't prosecuting enough Democrats or weren't bringing "voter fraud" cases that could hurt Democratic turnout and thus affecting Bush's political goals of having more Republicans win. Historic aberrations aside, it's legal for presidents to replace US Attorneys for reasons of the former, but replacing them for reasons of the latter could be considered obstruction of justice.
Reuters writes a story about the "firestorm" of controversy, then throws in the sentence, without explanation of any kind, "U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of a president." If that's so, why could they not be fired, for any reason, political or otherwise, without explanation of any kind to Congress?
I need a primer. I *must* know why Harriet Miers continues to wear that absurd eye make-up years after it went out of style. In the sixties.
Aren't you slacking off just a bit on that Moby Dick project?
Primer, please! I've been following it, but today I feel like I missed something huge. One of the aides testifying plead the fifth! Doesn't that mean she is admitting that she could INCRIMINATE herself? Up until now, I was convinced this was all merely a nasty political dust-up, but the only incrimination would come from deliberate deceit (see: Bill Clinton and Monica, Oliver North and Iran Contra, Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame). But what could her fifth amendment plea mean? That she might be forced to lie because she won't tell the truth, therefore she is taking the fifth?
Oh, and this is my first time commenting, I think. You are most awesome and I check your site everyday! Thanks!
isn't it as simple as:
-eight federal justices were dismissed
-the grounds for this action were specious at best
-the attorney general denied his involvement in the whole affair
-documents were found to the contrary
-is this an issue of perjury? or something more nebulous?
Perhaps I'm making this issue too cut and dry, but the whole thing seems to stem from a government that it seems like no one in their right mind would trust anyway. It's primarily an issue of transparency in government, which I think America is slowly realizing doesn't work as it did in the days of FDR. The incorporation of the American population has found its reverse in the reliance upon support structures to back up ideologies. These ideas about the integrity of personal ideologies is being weighed by a government which will not fundamentally recognize them as individual but rather as part of a demographic management area. If this mess does anything, it can hopefully make America understand where we stand when it comes to our personal beliefs being censored, even at the highest levels of government.
I'm looking forward to the primer. I'd also like to see a list of your favorite political blogs...perhaps in your great, new dy link blog?
What I'd like to know is how these firings are - well, given his recent hanging, maybe I need to say "were" - Saddam's fault. Will Congressional hearings shed any light on the paternity of Anna Nicole's children? Also, if "you are what you eat" and Karl Rove is evil, what does Karl Rove eat?
As someone else mentioned, I'm following the whole thing, but I would love to see you summarize it with your Defective Yeti wit (or is that "defective Yeti-wit"?).
I agree with Josh Marshall on one aspect: the complaint that the US attorneys were not aggressively pursuing voter fraud cases is not being put in proper context. A lot of people don't catch on that these voter fraud claims are a) bogus and b) an attempt to suppress minority votes. I hope you'll pound on that.
Also, it would be extra nice to see you compare this with the GSA scandal, since at heart these are part of the same problem, namely, that the Bush administration is using the federal government *at all levels* as nothing more than an arm of the Republican National Committee to swing elections. I mean, this is a Teapot Dome level scandal, here, and it's amazing that the media hasn't presented it that way.
I hope one thing that comes out of this is that the political advisor to the President is barred from the White House for all future administrations.
So my question is, were Republicans just as farcical in their hectoring of Clinton as the Democrats appear now? I remember us getting all worked up about things as trivial as Hillary firing the entire White House travel office so she could hire her friends.
Oh, and is it true that even former presidents can cite "executive privilege" and keep their former staff from testifying as this article seems to suggest? The article says Clinton waives the privilege, which would indicate he could choose not to.
That's some good separation of powers there Lou.
Looking forward to your primer. Some questions I've been too lame to resolve and now hope you'll answer as my personal information lackey volunteer:
How does this compare/relate to the Nixon special prosecutor firings?
Which Senator slipped the vacancy-filling provision into the Patriot Act?
Are there reasons to believe that all eight were fired for political reasons, or were any of the firings apparently for legitimate performance reasons?
How many earlier Bush firings of US Attorneys have there been, and how many had similar dubious political grounds?
What are the backgrounds of the replacement attorneys?
Do US Attorneys fired for illicit reasons have a right to sue the government?
Has an Attorney General ever been impeached?
Primer! Please! You are far more knowledgable than I will ever be able to be when it comes to politics!
Sorry, I have another one. What's the deal with all the off White House system emails. Is it illegal to use personal email to subvert the record keeping and security systems?
Will it be harder or easier to track those lose emails down?
I heard on NPR this morning that Attorney General Gonzalez has "no recollection of his involvement in the firings of US attorneys." His top aide says otherwise. Question: 1)What is he smoking and 2) where can I get some?
The crucial, long-term question that comes out of the whole affair is: doesn't Congress use change control when they write laws? There's this statement kicking around in all the reports that "someone" put a clause into a law that eliminated the need for Congressional review of Attorney General appointments under certain conditions. The news report usually continues to say that no one seems to know who put the clause in. Who is the "someone"? Why can't they figure out who patched the law? Did no one review the code before the submit? Who is writing our laws? Clearly no one is reading them.
I've followed this, but I'd like to hear answers to these questions:
Is it true that all 8 of the fired US Attorneys were from Rove-forecast "battleground" states for the 2008 Presidential Election? As subtext, "fighting voter fraud" is a popular GOP euphemism for "aggressively suppressing the poor & minority vote."
If, as suggested, it's true that the fired USAs were not playing political ball by shielding Republicans and merrily indicting Democrats, is there evidence that those remaining USAs have been willing to, in fact, toss balls? (...he said, regretting his metaphor)
It's great that all the "anybody-but-Bush-ers" have found something else to pillage but, I'm seriously bored with this. Look, the admin didn't do anything illegal. That's it. They fired a bunch of attorneys. Yeah, they didn't do as ordered. If I don't do what I'm told at work, I'm out, too. That's not news, friends. There's got to be something out there that blows water up your rear in greater quantity than sticking your nose up the administration's butt in order to feel out cysts. As you've all put it so sweetly, "MOVE ON!" - Remember that? From George Soros? You don't? Oh.