“Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”
Let’s be clear about one thing right from the get-go: President Bush was entirely within his authority to fire eight US Attorneys. They are political appointees and serve “at the pleasure of the President.” He hired them; he can fire them. You could make a decent argument that US Attorneys should be appointed for fixed terms, to remove the temptation of Presidents to meddle in politically-sensitive cases (which is exactly what happened here), but that’s not what the law currently provides. He can even fire them for not being “loyal Bushies,” to quote one of the many inane, embarassingly juvenile e-mails that document this farce. It wouldn’t be the first time politics overrode justice in this Administration; you may recall when veteran voting rights lawyers in the Justice Department determined that Tom DeLay’s redistricting scam, implemented by his sock puppet Tom Craddick, violated the civil rights of black and Hispanic Texans, only to be overridden by political appointees. But here’s why all of this is a scandal: first, hypocrisy. When Bill Clinton asked for the resignation of all but one of the US Attorneys upon taking office, Republicans in Congress had a wall-eyed conniption fit, even though Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter had both done precisely the same thing when they took office (as would George W. Bush). Senator Bob Dole compared the scandal to Watergate, inaugurating a trend throughout the Clinton years of Republicans frantically damning anything and everything Bill Clinton did as “worse than Watergate.” Second, Democrats are in charge of Congress now, not the pack of snivelling, lily-livered trained poodles that the modern Republic Party has degenerated into. As Senator Barbara Boxer pointed out to Senator James Inhofe recently as he tried to hijack her hearing on global warming, “Elections have consequences.” Or, to put it more succinctly, payback’s a female dog. Third, it smells bad. These US Attorneys were singled out for firing because they were either successfully prosecuting corrupt Republican Congressmen (as in the case of Carol Lam) or for refusing to engage in political witchhunts against Democrats to preserve the GOP majority in Congress (as in the case of David Iglesias). Moreover, as with most political scandals, the cover-up is worse than the actual “crime,” with a variety of assinine, ludicrous and false excuses being tossed out by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales like so much ballast from a rapidly sinking zepellin. In fact, by the time you read this, Gonzales (who will arguably rank with John Mitchell and Edwin Meese as one of the worst attorneys general in US history) may have already been thrown to the wolves by the Bush White House. Now, the Administration is trying to block the power of Congress to make White House officials testify without lying through their teeth, or at the very least, make it so they get in trouble if they do. Bush argues this with a straight face, even though his own press flunky denounced it when Bill Clinton tried it. This is, of course, Bush’s long-sought after Battle of Armageddon with Congress, wherein he rides into the fray defended only by the tin-foil armor of his bizarre belief that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Founding Fathers intended the president to have powers like unto a Pharoah. I predict this “President as God-Emperor” notion will come back to haunt the GOP when they have to deal with a President Clinton or a President Obama. Unlike that delusional notion, however, the US Attorney scandal is not yet another example of the Bush Administration’s visceral contempt for the rule of law, like running secret prisons, secret courts, unconstitutional signing statements, the fetishization of torture and so forth. No, this is precisely how Bush Republicans think the law is supposed to work; a tool for the wealthy and powerful.
Similarly, back here in Texas, the TYC Disgrace (it’s beyond scandal now) has nothing to do with the fact that a Texas government agency was run incompetently. That’s not news; that’s Tuesday. Texas is, after all, in the words of the late, great Molly Ivins, the national laboratory for bad government. No, what makes this one particularly egregious is that our alleged governor, self-proclaimed warrior for family values, knew as early as June of 2005 that children were being raped and abused in detention centers and did nothing! Our alleged Attorney General, Greg Abbott, knew about children being beaten and abused in detention centers in 2004 and did nothing! That’s not incompetence; that’s criminal negligence. Both of these empty suits are trying to shift blame to a local District Attorney for not prosecuting some of these abuses and I’ll stipulate that Randall W. Reynolds is, at best, a lazy nitwit, and at worst a defender of child abusers, but these are State of Texas facilities. And they were being investigated by the Texas Rangers, part of the State Department of Public Safety. These children were abandoned to their fate because of Rick Perry and Greg Abbott (and Tom Craddick, who recently killed a provision to create a standing special prosecutor to investigate TYC abuses) and a political philosophy that only cares about children from conception to birth (and even then, not enough to provide decent pre-natal care); once they’re out, they’re on their own. In a perfect world, both Perry and Abbott would resign in disgrace over this, or be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. But that’s not going to happen; there were likely never be any justice for the children who are scarred for life because these jacklegs were asleep at the switch. The best we can hope for is that some reform comes from it all and, more importantly, that the voters learn at long last about the dangers of letting the inmates run the asylum of state government.