Friday, May 04, 2007

Gonzalez & U.S. Attorney Firings

U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, has been catching hell for the fact of and his role in the firings of eight U.S. Attorneys. His critics seem to be both, those who say firing the attorneys for political reasons is immoral and illegal and those who feel Gonzalez repeatedly misrepresented his role in the firings.

I've heard countless news reports which reiterate the point that new Administrations regularly "clean house" and bring in their own people. The point being that U.S. Attorneys (and Attorneys General) serve at the pleasure of the President of these United States, so they can be fired at any time, for any reason. However, others say that this type of thing is typically (and properly) done at the beginning of a new administration - not halfway through the term- and that politics should not play a part in the decision to hire or fire U.S. Attorneys.


To me, this seems like an artificial and somewhat useless distinction. Keep in-mind that I'm not an attorney and certainly am not as well-versed in governmental practices as some. Still, it seems to me that, if U.S. attorneys can be fired simply because "there's a new sheriff in town," (and especially if the new boss is from a different party) then politics are already a factor in the equation.

So, really, this comes down to Gonzalez's reportedly contradictory statements about the firings. But even then, I wonder about the point of Congressional Hearings on the subject. I mean, I like the idea of finding out what's what, but it seems that as long as President Bush continues to support him (as he's done throughout this controversy), Mr. Gonzalez will remain in the position of United States Attorney General, regardless.

So, really, I guess I'm saying that, while I find this whole Justice Department debacle distasteful (especially the lying), I don't really see what all the official fuss is about. If it's improper to fire U.S. Attorneys for political reasons at the halfway point, why isn't it improper to do so from the get-go?

As long as the latter is allowed, why get so incensed about the former?


Anonymous said...

"......this type of thing is typically (and properly) done at the beginning of a new administration - not halfway through the term- and that politics should not play a part in the decision to hire or fire U.S. Attorneys."

This made NO sense at all (or "Huh?" as you so eloquently stated). A firing is a firing is a firing. No matter when it happens, as long as its based solely (or primarily) on the new Administration wanting "their" people on the team, it ain't right. And I wonder, what are these "proper" means of firing US Attorneys that the news reports are alluding to?

Anonymous said...

The democrats are focusing on this stuff so that they don't have to focus on the real issues.

West said...

BG: The proper reasons supposedly have something to do with job performance - except when a new Administration steps in.

I guess they've got their creepy little traditions that they're not willing to part with, but they'll jump on you the rest.

DJBA: I keep hearing that sort of thing, but they seem to be addressing the war quite a bit. Seems pretty real, to me.

Anonymous said...


Addressing it in the most political arse saving way, not startegically or in any way that is of consequence.

Mark my words West, US troops will be in Iraq for many years to come, Democrat or Repbulican congress or President, in the immortal words of Wesly Snipes: "This thing is BIGGER Than Nino Brown..."

West said...

If the Democrats don't want to be in Iraq and their constituencies (assuming there's a plural form) don't want it, the only reason to stay would be for strategic reasons.

So, if we stay for years, to come, that suggests that Democrats WOULD BE interested in strategy and consequence.

Assuming we're talking about a hypothetical situation in which the Democrats controlled everything (hence, it would be up to them).

James Burnett said...

Great post, West. And good question posed in the post. The whole policy - that the "new sheriff" can just fire at will - stinks. So why get outraged over whether he does it in the beginning, middle, or end?

Anonymous said...

I've yet to figure out why these terminations are such a big deal. If a boss in NY State can fire at will (and they do), then why can't the president? How many tax payer dollars are we wasting on this?

West said...

Good to see you, again, James. Thanks.

Keith, I think pressuring a U.S. Attorney to pursue more cases against a certain party, would result in an imbalanced system of justice. Firing one (or eight) for failing to give in to such pressure (or for other political reasons) is even worse.

I just don't understand why it's cool to fire a bunch of attorneys in the beginning, for what basically amount to political reasons... but not to do that in the middle.

So, I do object to any Justice Department firings that weren't truly about job performance - and, of course, the Attorney General lying about it all. It's just such a weird line to draw.