Sunday, March 18, 2007

Scandal? What Scandal?

All reports seem to indicate that things are improving in Iraq. The on the ground reports and many of the media seem to think there are initial victories. A poll released in the Times UK on the 18th says that most Iraqis now believe that life is better in Iraq under Prime Minister al-Maliki than under Saddam. While a lasting victory is probably still a long ways away, these early signs show every reason to hope for success.

However, the Democrats have placed their party on the side of failure in Iraq. If we win the war, they will be the party that has fought tooth and nail against any sort of victory in Iraq. They will be on the record fighting every suggestion the President has made in the war. They demanded the President change course in Iraq. President Bush outlined a new way forward. It wasn’t withdrawal, so the Democratic Party wasn’t happy with it.

As things improve in Iraq, the Democrats will become more and more desperate for political cover. They know that any victory in Iraq doesn’t look good for their party. They will do anything in their power to divert voter attention away from victories in Iraq, even if it means manufacturing scandals.

The latest attempt to fool the voters has come with the “US Attorney Scandal”. The Democrats claim to be mystified that the President would fire any US Attorney. As Newsweek and many other news sources have reported, every US Attorney serves at the pleasure of the President. Politicians have traditionally cleaned house when they come to office. In the President’s case, he didn’t do that with the US Attorneys. However, it looks like he decided it might be worth considering at some point after he was in office.

What the Democrats don’t want the average citizen to know is that President Bush can fire any US Attorney at any time for any reason. President Clinton fired every US Attorney out there when he was President. All 93 were given a pink slip and sent packing. In this case, the Democrats were angry that President Bush fired less than ten US Attorneys.

President Clinton’s had the ability to fire any US Attorney he saw fit to, and as President, President Bush has the same ability. Our new President may fire some, all, or none of the US Attorneys when he or she comes into office in January of 2009. The President gets to decide who works for him or her. The President may decide to fire the Attorney’s for poor job performance or just to get some political allies in office. Regardless, it’s the Presidents decision to make. Anything else is simply an attempt to trick the public.


familyman said...

Andy, you say, "Politicians have traditionally cleaned house when they come to office. In the President’s case, he didn’t do that with the US Attorneys."

But he did in fact fire all 93 U.S. Attorneys within a year of being inaugurated in 2001.

The issue isn't that they are letting go some U.S. Attorneys. The issue is that it seems they were firing U.S. attorneys who were performing well. And that the firing seem to be politically motivated.

A few examples -

Fired San Diego U.S. attorney Carol Lam notified the Justice Department that she intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired...

Fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said that shortly before being fired, he received calls from republican senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson. He said they both asked inappropriate questions about pending investigations and complained about the pace of his public corruption investigations.

Former U.S. attorney John McKay said that Rep. Doc Hastings’s (R-WA) office contacted him and attempted to pressure him in an ongoing investigation.


Another thing that points to these firings being politically motivated is the fact that when this issue was brought to light, the Justice department initially gave poor job performance as the reason for the firings of John McKay, Daniel Bogden, Carol Lam, Paul Charlton, and David Iglesias. But the fact is that these all five of these people received positive performance evaluations.


So, considering all that information, this does not look like a made up scandal. I think it is exactly the kind of questionable behavior that I would expect congress to look into.

It's been a long time since we've had a congress willing to investigate the administration.

If anyone is trying to trick the public, it is the administration doing it's usual thing of trying to deflect the issue.

familyman said...

One more thing. U.S. Attorneys should be above politics. Although put in place by the president, theyre performance should be based on the rule of law, not partisan concerns.

That being said, here is an excerpt from an e-mail sent to then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch from Justice Department official Kyle Sampson, discussing the option of getting rid of some U.S. Attorneys.

"...As an operational matter, we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. Attorneys... The vast majority of U.S. Attorneys, 80 - 85 percent, I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc...."

"Loyal Bushies" I wonder if that's something those U.S. Attorneys are proud to put on their resumes.

Brandon said...

I hope that the reports of early success are true, and not just the Shia militias and death squads laying low until the surge ends.

One thing to keep in mind is that there isn't a Democratic consensus to withdraw, liberal and some moderate members of the House and Senate are leading the drive along with some Republicans to withdraw.

I agree with you that it doesn't make sense that some Democrats are calling for withdrawal from Iraq only a month or so after confirming the new commander of our forces in Iraq. I think that Gen. Petraeus should be given at least six months to a year to show progress before any discussion of withdrawal should/could begin.

Unfortunately, time isn't something that the military has much of and sooner or later we'll have to begin lowering the number of troops in Iraq to lessen the strain on the Army and Marines. It would be naive for us to completely withdraw from Iraq now, the fight there has become a proxy war between Iran and the U.S. for control of the Middle East, we cannot simply leave. I think what we'll see over the next year or so is a compromise measure, we'll withdraw all but about 60,000 troops and their mission will be solely to fight al Qaeda in Anbar and to secure the borders with Syria and Iran.

Brandon said...

One difference between Clinton and Bush is when they fired the USAs. Clinton chose to (wrongly in my opinion) to fire all 93 USAs at one time, most presidents chose to ease out the previous administrations appointees to lessen the impact on law enforcement. Bush chose to fire eight of his own appointees, which although unusual, is his prerogative.

The problem is that some of the USAs were fired because they weren't loyal enough to Bush and that the Justice Dept. initially falsely said that all were fired for performance reasons. I have no problem with any USA being asked to resign or being fired for poor performance, but I do have a problem with one being fired solely because they weren't loyal enough to the administration.

Andy D said...

Brandon and Familyman, I appreciate the debate…

If I understand the Democratic position on this, they believe that the President may have broken the law and his top advisors must be forced to testify in front of Congress. As I have said before, these Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. If at any point, he isn’t happy with their opinion on key issues or their job performance, he can ask for their resignation. Familyman, I haven’t been able to find where Bush fired all of the attorneys when he came into office, but for the time being, let’s assume that is accurate. It doesn’t change my primary point. There has been speculation in the media that these may have been politically motivated. That is an acceptable reason for firing a US Attorney if you are the President. Clinton fired all 93 for what appeared to be the desire to avoid indictments of his associates by two US Attorney’s. While I don’t like it, it is politics. And let’s not step around that issue.

Sen. Schumer has been pressuring the independent council with regards to the Plame leak investigation. On top of that, he has now gotten himself on both the committee that is investigating this incident, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He is providing Senators running for reelection up to the minute breaking news on the Senates investigation into this. If that isn’t a conflict of interest, and despicable to boot, then nothing the President or the Attorney General are even accused of is worth looking into.

My final thought before I sit back and await your responses:

From all media accounts, it appears the sequence of events that caused the firing of these Attorneys took around two years. If these were truly motivated with the desire to prevent or impact what the Attorneys were or were not prosecuting, shouldn’t the Presidents staff have dismissed the Attorneys in a time period closer to two weeks and not two years?

Matthew Smith said...

The US Attorneys thing is another story all together, but I want to go back to the biggest foreign policy cluster**** of the last 30 years.

"The Democrats have placed their party on the side of failure in Iraq". No, the Democrats have placed themselves on the side of the PRESIDENT'S failure in Iraq. Leaving out that critical word does an incredible injustice to American democracy.

"Any victory in Iraq doesn't look good for their [Democrats'] party." I say the opposite is true; any victory in Iraq can be traced back directly to the Democrats winning back Congress and having a voice in American foreign policy. Any victory -- and, to be fair, I'm not as optimistic as you allege to be -- reflects well upon the party that was able to exert power and put an end to unilateral aggression. Any victory reflects well upon the American government, which gives its legislative brach a check over the executive branch to ensure oversight and legality. Any victory, and I mean ANY VICTORY, will be in spite of, not because of, Dubya's administration of cronies and personal agendas.

As for the US Attorneys, Gonzalez et al were dishing out the "serve at the pleasure of the president" talking point last week (in a side note, the thing I am continually impressed with Republicans about is their dedication to talking points. Democrats' egos seem to get in the way and prevent them from presenting a unified voice; we all want to sound like the smartest guy in the room and can't let anyone else tell us what to say...even if they make a powerful point. Not so Repeublicans, who realize that the best way to be persuasive is to rinse, lather, repeat. But I digress...), but they didn't realize the irony. "Serving at the pleasure" of the president does not mean at his whim, it does not mean pursuing his agenda, it does not mean unrelenting loyalty.

Key Justice Department jobs are appointed by the president, but after Day One on the job, their roles are to be impartial. They are to be on the side of the American people, not its elected officals. In the case of US Attorneys, they serve at the pleasure of the president -- a pleasure that is to uphold the letter of the law without undue influence from the executive in chief. Democrats' problems with the Bush firings stems from his decision to turn US Attorneys into politicans rather than lawyers, and therefore severely hinder our criminal justice system.

Brandon said...

Andy: Traditionally presidents usually try to gradually replace the holdover Attorneys to get their own people in the offices unless the previous president was from the same party and this is usually done within the first year of the term. Historically, presidents have only fired Attorneys that they've appointed very rarely and usually for incompetence, although Carter did fire a USA for investigating a Democratic Congressman at the Congressman's request.

It's true that members of the Bush administration have considered removing all 93 Attorneys since 2004, but at least two were allegedly removed for events that took place before the 2006 elections. David Iglesias, from New Mexico, believes that he was fired for failing to indict Democrats for voter fraud. Carol Lam, from Southern California, believes that she was fired for prosecuting Duke Cunningham and indicting Dusty Foggo and Brent Wilkes. John McKay, from Washington state, believes that he was fired for not indicting Democrats for voter fraud after the 2004 gubernatorial election. Bud Cummins, from Arkansas, believes that he was fired for investigating GOP Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri and was replaced by a Karl Rove aide. Maryland's former USA has recently come out saying that he believes that he was fired for investigating the former GOP governor of Maryland.

Several lawmakers from both parties are concerned and calling for AG Gonzales' resignation because they feel that DOJ officials were told to lie to Congress about why the Attorneys were fired and because the official explanation for why the eight were fired has changed several times.

Maybe these attorneys were removed for legitimate performance reasons, but if they were removed solely for investigating too many Republicans and not enough Democrats or not being though of as loyal Bushies (Kyle Sampson's words, not mine) then that is a cause for concern and that is an issue of bipartisan concern.

Matthew Smith said...

I found something about the alleged indications that "things are improving in Iraq".

Here's the link. And here are a few choice observations:

The White House attributes the [poll] to something called the Denver Daily News. We'd never heard of the Denver Daily News before -- the two big papers in Denver being the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post -- so we did a little digging: It turns out the Denver Daily News is a small daily distributed free on the streets of the Mile High City. Among journalism junkies, it may be best known for a 2005 typo in which it referred to New Jersey as "Jew Jersey."

The Denver Daily News piece... was written by reporter Peter Marcus, who relies on a poll from Opinion Research Business, a British outfit that describes itself as "one of the UK's leading bespoke corporate and issues-led market research companies."

ORB's findings on Iraq:

"One in four (26 percent) Iraqi adults have had a family relative murdered in the last three years, while 23 percent of those living in Baghdad have had a family/relative kidnapped in the last three years. ... [T]he poll shows that despite the horrendous personal security problems only 26% of the country preferred life under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein, with 49% preferring life under the current political regime of Noori al-Maliki. As one may expect, it is the Sunnis who are most likely to back the previous regime (51%) with the Shias (66%) preferring the current administration."

26% have had a relative killed and 23% have had one kidnapped? That's mind-boggling! And still al-Maliki couldn't get better than a 49% rating? Call me a Defeatocrat if you must, but that doesn't exactly sound like such good news...does it?

Andy D said...

Wow, so many thoughts, so little space. I will try to address a few things directly. Matthew, I really am glad you are back commenting on here, but I really don’t understand your take on the Democrats and the Iraq war. Perhaps this would be an excellent separate post, but I just don’t see your point of view on this one. In my opinion, the Democrats have done everything in their power to undercut the President whenever they could. In many (not all, but many) Democrat’s eyes, it is more important to attack Bush and try to get him out of office, than winning in Iraq. Any change the President has made, the Democrats have been against even if they were the ones screaming for change.

Back to the US Attorneys: My understanding of the role of a Federal Attorney is that he or she is a manager of many lawyers. They may try a case in court, but most of them are assigning different lawyers to investigate and coordinate different prosecutions. If I am wrong or misinformed on this, please correct me.

President’s have always had the power to move political appointments as they see fit. Clinton fired all 93 to avoid having a few friends prosecuted. I don’t like it, but it is his decision. He then fired 30 of the ones he replaced the first 93 with.

Bush replaced 8 attorneys after a two year review. Many of them had, at a minimum, question marks by their performance. One of them had previously announced that he would not be serving out his time in hopes of pursuing a private job.

When was the last time you met someone who believed they were fired for the right reasons? Does anyone ever get canned and said, “Yeah, I guess I understand that, maybe I will have better luck next time.”

I think these numbers sound like good news if you compare them to the same stats a few years ago or even 10 or 15 years ago. The casualty rate is going down in Iraq, it isn’t going away, it is going down. I am not trying to convince anyone that we will be finished in Iraq in the next 3 months. We will still be there whenever the new President is sworn in. Clinton has even gone on the record as saying we will probably have an Iraq military presence for a long, long time. I think she is correct.

My contention is that the Democrats don’t really want things to improve in Iraq. They have banked on things staying bad and are hoping to use that as a campaign issue through the 2008 race.