Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Home to Roost

Who can resist the late-summer sound of Republican scandals finally becoming official? Yes, we've actually known for months or years that Monica Goodling and others politicized career hiring at the Justice Department and that something was fishy about Senator Ted Stevens's relationship with an oil service company, but we didn't know all the juicy details, like the exact search string Goodling's predecessor used to screen out liberal job candidates, or just what renovations got made to Stevens's home.

The Goodling and Stevens scandals are philosophically linked. They show that when a party gets too much power, its people start to run amok. They start to accept power as their due. After a while they think they can do anything -- as though there's no accountability, no tomorrow. Would the Democrats be better? We can at least hope so.

Politicizing career hiring at the Justice Department is a true disgrace. I'm sure there's always some slight bias in favor of the incumbent party, but I know from my own days there that there was nothing like the systematic, heavy-handed litmus testing that went on under the current President. It's outrageous, and unnecessary too -- the career staff takes direction from the political leadership of the Department and defends the official line, regardless of their own political leanings. I sure hope the next Attorney General sends round a very public memo to everyone in the Department that states clearly and simply that career hiring is to be apolitical and meritocratic, period.

As to Senator Stevens, he has proclaimed his innocence, and of course we presume it until the contrary is proven. But the really sad thing is how small the bribes are said to be. The news reports say they are "more than $250,000," which I suppose is technically an unlimited amount, but which suggests that we're not talking about millions. Can you really buy a U.S. Senator with some drywall and a Land rover? Of course I'd most like to think that Senators aren't for sale, but if they are I'd hope they'd at least be more expensive than that.

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