Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why the Gonzalez Affair Matters

I know that there has been some shrugging of shoulders in the blogosphere as to why the issue concerning Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and the firing of eight US Attorneys simply because they weren't loyal enough.

Now at the surface, it doesn't seem like a big thing. These attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and they can be replaced at any time. It's quite normal when there is a change in party for the lawyers to resign or be fired by the incoming president. Gonzalez didn't do anything illegal in that matter. If the president wanted to fire all the attorneys because they had the wrong color hair, that's his (or her's) perogative.

There are a few things that are chilling here:

First, these firing took place in the middle of a presidency at the beginning of a second term. Second, these were attorneys already appointed by President Bush. Finally, the reason they were let go, was not because they weren't doing a good job, but because they weren't loyal enough.

Maybe it's me, but you would think you'd want US attorneys to at least appear impartial and fair since they represent the people of the US, not President Bush and not the Republican party. Suppose the gay man is the victim of a hate crime that somehow broke some national law. If that US attorney was hired because he was a soild Republican, would he truly prosecute the perpetrators? Or flip the script and make the US attorney a hired hack of a Democratic president. Would a Republican or conservative feel comfortable seeking help from them?

What has happened here is not illegal, but it could be potentially damaging to our justice system. Would anyone trust them? Would we know if they would work for all the people or just some of us?

A lot of people have seen the Bushies as creating some kind of a authoritarian or theocracy here in America. I think it is rather sexy to think we are fighting against some fascistic regime, but in reality, none of this happening. We still live in a relatively free society. Also, the people who make up the Bush Administration make crappy ushers of an authoritarian society. We've been witness to their incompetance too many times to count. If they were that nefarious, you'd think they would be better at all this. Russia's Vladimir Putin is the master, in that he is creating an authoritarian state without the public really knowing it. And if they had a role in the poisioning a Russian ex-pat, they really are masters in that they left no fingerprints on the body.

The Bushies aren't that good. However, what I do think they are doing is bring us closer to becoming some kind of bannana republic, where the leaders are corrupt and office are handed out to those who gave the most money to the President (witness the Michael Brown/FEMA disaster). Loyalty wins out over competence. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a reporter for the Washington Post, writes in his book, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" about how some of the people hired to oversee reconstruction in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, were not given jobs based on expertise, but on their loyalty to current GOP orthodoxy (such as, were they pro-life or not).

That's what bothers me about the Bush Administration. I don't care if you are in favor of big or small government, you at least want your government to work and you want to trust it. I don't think we are at the level of corruption in countries like Nigeria, but we have slipped a bit. Under Clinton, FEMA was transformed from a federal joke of an agency to a top-notch disaster management team. It was headed by a professional, James Lee Witt, the head of the Arkansas version of FEMA. When Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the head of FEMA was Michael Brown, a person with no experience in disaster management and whose only claim to fame was being a contributor to the Bush campaign. The people in Louisiana and Mississippi needed the federal government to come in and manage the situation. They trusted that the Feds would come in and help. That didn't happen. Meritocracy was replaced with nepotism.

Nepotism should have no place in a government. The government is not a place for the President to put all his friends in office. Yes, you would like people of similar philosphy, but you also want to know they can do the damn job.

That's why this scandal matters. The Bush Administation has done damage to the good name of the US government, making it a place where ideological purity is placed above anything else and in the end the people suffer, whether its the people of Iraq, New Orleans, or any other place.

1 comment:

Paul Wartenberg said...

You mentioned that you think that what has happened here is not illegal? In some cases, it may well be...

One of the US Attorneys that 'resigned' AKA 'got their asses booted' was in the midst of various criminal investigations into a corrupt ring of businessmen, CIA officers and a congressman (Lam). Her removal from office could well have been an act of obstruction.

Was it three of the Attorneys that got bumped because they refused to hurry up investigations into dubious voter fraud charges, or was it four? In one case, the New Mexico USA, the congressperson and senator that made improper phone calls about it are already lawyering up because they could get charged for what they did. The one in Washington State also has staffers of a congressperson meddling in affairs and there could be criminal charges there.

And don't forget, someone, please put his name in, went around after the firings and made some not-so-discreet threats to the fired USAs to keep their mouths shut.

There's about five things about this fired attorney scandal that I can count right now as involving matters that can be considered criminal, and could lead to charges and arrests. And this isn't even the most damaging DOJ case out there: this is overshadowing a far more serious issue of the illegal FBI usage of NSLs, and this is overshadowing the case of Gonzales getting Bush to shut down an investigation into his involvement with the NSA scandal a few years back (which could be a blatant obstruction of justice right there).