Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dog Bites Man! Again!

So the Bush Justice Department was a rigged game? Who could have possibly known? Newspaper versions available here and here.

Difference between Justice, justice more than just a letter
East Valley Tribune, Jun. 29, 2008

Stories about the Bush administration making everything political and trashing whatever they touch have a “dog bites man” quality by now, but it’s still worth considering last week’s report by the Justice Department Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility.

The IG looked at a very, very narrow slice of Bush’s Justice Department activities, the recruiting of recent law school graduates and summer interns -- called the Department of Justice Honors Program (for new graduates) and the Summer Law Intern Program (for students). The report concludes that senior political Justice Department officials illegally used political and ideological factors in choosing which students and graduates got these plum positions.

Bush Justice would use Internet search engines and check out MySpace pages for evidence of “leftists” and “wackos” and “whackjobs” applying for these jobs. Better-qualified applicants were rejected by political screeners if resumes or Google searches showed affiliations with such “far-left” organizations as The Nature Conservancy and Human Rights Watch.

Starting in 2006, political employees Esther McDonald and Michael Elston did the partisan screening. Both are no longer with the Justice Department, of course, but Elston also was involved in the Bush administration’s firing of U.S. Attorneys including Arizona’s Paul Charlton. You may recall how GOP partisans first claimed that nothing was going on, then that it was all perfectly reasonable, and then that it perhaps was a mistake but the people who did it are gone, so move along, please, nothing to see here.

Stories about the Bush Justice Department using political hiring tests started circulating and by 2007, Bush Justice made a big show of changing the hiring process by removing political appointees from the screening. Of course, it was their own “innovation” that put political types in control in the first place, but Bush Justice wanted to make sure that they fixed the “perception” that their own actions created.

Bush Justice spokesman Dean Boyd strongly denied the 2007 stories, saying that political or partisan factors did not play any role in who got picked for the once-prestigious programs. “The Justice Department does not, nor has it ever, solicited any information from applicants . . . about their political affiliation or orientation,” he claimed. Instead, according to a Washington Post report, the changes were designed to “further improve the process and eliminate even the perception of any political influence.”

But thanks to the IG report, we now know that political affiliations and orientation did help determine who got hired. It wasn’t perception, it was fact. Boyd, however, apparently avoided lying outright by artful phrasing. Bush Justice didn’t “solicit” political information; instead, they just used what they got -- and if that wasn’t enough, they used the Internet to find more. It’s the off-the-record quote, the denial “that political or partisan factors play any role in who is chosen” that was an out-and-out lie.

The stories were right, and the 2007 denial was wrong. Anybody taking a Bush administration spokesperson at face value gets what they deserve. (We’re long past “fool me once,” aren’t we?) And it’s not just Justice, but justice, that suffers.

It’s amazing that people who worried, loudly, about the “politicization” of travel agents in the White House Travel Office have nothing to say about the Bush administration turning the Department of Justice into a partisan quagmire. Career employees are leaving in droves, to be replaced by political hacks with an ideological agenda. Prosecutors and law enforcement used to be considered careers, not political spoils.

It’s not just Bush Justice, because it’s here in Arizona, too. Does anybody really think that GOP Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has any valid public purpose behind his demands to copy thousands of Phoenix City Hall emails? Does anybody really believe that GOP Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas wouldn’t use his office to harass and intimidate political and media opponents? Just ask state Attorney General Terry Goddard and Phoenix New Times if you have any doubts.

So it’s not just Bush. Our local Republicans are more than willing to use the criminal justice system for their political benefit. There’s justice, and there’s Republican Justice -- and they’re not the same thing.

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