Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bad Goodling!

Monica Goodling didn't provide all that much new information on the U.S. Attorney scandal in her testimony yesterday, but she did say that she crossed the line by considering the political affiliations of applicants for career Department jobs, including prosecutors and immigration judges. She was unable to say whether this happened more or fewer than 50 times. She even looked up political donations made by job applicants.

The U.S. Attorney firing scandal has been a tangled web of ambiguity, but this point is crystal clear: it's outrageous. I put in four years at the Justice Department as a career attorney, and we had a proud tradition of nonpolitical hiring. The career staff was majority Democrat, because Democrats are more drawn toward public service whereas Republicans tend to prefer private sector work, but we didn't think about political affiliation when it came to hiring and the office reflected a wide variety of ideological views.

Political hiring is not only outrageous, it's unnecessary. The career staff did what the political staff wanted. Oh, I suppose most of us wouldn't have lied or committed other professional misconduct for the bosses, but they told us what the legal position of the government was, and we deployed our talents defending it. Sometimes we would tell them their position was a loser, but then it was up to them to decide whether to go with it anyway. (You're allowed to argue a likely losing position so long as it's not so outrageous that no reasonable person could believe it.)

Sadly, the political staff never fully trusted us, whether they were Republicans or Democrats. I started in the Administration of Bush the Elder and continued into the Clinton Administration, and there was always some tension between the political and the career people. But the political people never tried to force us to hire only Republicans or only Democrats, until the current Bush came to office. It's disgraceful.

As if that weren't bad enough, it seems that there was also a strong bias in favor of hiring attorney's from Regent Law School, a fourth-tier, Christian school founded by Pat Robertson. So they were discriminating not only by ideology, but by religion too.

So there's less and less doubt that scandal was rife at the once-proud Justice Department. And we still don't know how the fired U.S. Attorneys were selected for firing. As I've said before, it's high time to draw a negative inference. If there were an appropriate, non-scandalous reason these attorneys were fired, we'd have heard it by now. But no one can tell us the reason, other than that it was the "consensus of the senior leadership." Apparently the list just dropped from Heaven, one might say. Obviously, the implication is that the list was prepared for improper reasons -- it now seems most likely that the fired attorneys were fired for refusing to prosecute Democrats without cause.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All I could think when I read the coverage of Monica Goodling's testimony was, she must have great counsel. She got herself immunity, protecting herself from charges that could have been brought for hiring career prosecutors based on political affiliation, while giving the committtee none of what they actually wanted. Crappy law school or not, kudos to her for getting herself out of trouble, I guess?