Monday, March 05, 2007

The Servant Must Eat The Master's Cooking

Oversight, it's a beautiful thing, and here's the Arizona angle as a die-hard Republican gets the slimed-by-the-Bushies treatment. I'm happy to hold each side's coat.

I also got to hear David Iglesias speak at an American Jewish Committee event here in Phoenix, at the AJC Learned Hand Award luncheon (a/k/a the Longest Three Hours of My Life). At the time he spoke, several years ago, it was a much more positive thing to have Tom Cruise play you in a movie. The bits in brackets is the stuff my editor deleted.

East Valley Tribune, Mar. 4, 2007

A quick "attaboy" to The Tribune for last week’s editorial calling for repeal of the little-noticed USA Patriot Act reauthorization provision granting the administration authority to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys indefinitely without Senate confirmation. The editorial noted that the recent purge by the Bush administration -- of its own appointees, for gosh sakes -- could lead to a politicized and "badly-flawed" system of federal law enforcement.

It would have been nice if the editorial noted that it’s Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) blocking a bill to repeal the provision, [rather than the more passive "being held up in a procedural wrangle,"] but hey, it’s a start.

The purge started when the U.S. Department of Justice removed H. E. "Bud" Cummins, the U.S. Attorney for Arkansas, to give the job to J. Timothy Griffin, a former Karl Rove aide and Republican National Committee staffer. Griffin since removed his name from consideration for a permanent appointment, but still serves on an "interim" basis. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty would not dispute that Cummins was let go to appoint a political ally of the administration, but said that the others -- including former U.S. attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton -- were fired for "performance-related" reasons.

The Department of Justice is sticking to the "performance-related" claim even though the fired attorneys received many positive evaluations and glowing recommendations. One fired U.S. Attorney even produced a letter from Director Michael A. Battle, who fired him, commending his "exemplary leadership in the department’s priority programs."

Until last week, the highest-profile firing was of Carol S. Lam, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, who oversaw the prosecution in San Diego of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham for taking $2.4 million in bribes. The Cunningham investigation is continuing -- or, at least it was continuing before the Justice Department fired the prosecutor overseeing it.

But last Thursday, another fired U.S. Attorney, David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, told reporters that he was let go because he refused to be a "team player." Iglesias told the Albuquerque Journal that two members of the New Mexico congressional delegation pressured him to issue indictments of a former Democratic state legislator before this past November’s elections; Iglesias refused to rush the investigation, and the following month, he got canned by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Iglesias is an interesting character, and a compelling speaker. A Navy JAG officer, his work as defense counsel in a prominent military hazing case became the inspiration for the Tom Cruise character in the movie, A Few Good Men. He still serves 40 days annually in the Navy Reserve. Iglesias refused to name the elected officials who pressured him, but the New Mexico congressional delegation has only five members, and three have gone on record that they didn’t call him. The other two, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Rep. Heather Wilson R-N.M., have refused any comment, so draw your own conclusions. (UPDATE: Domenici issued a statement over the weekend confirming that he did call, which he "regrets." Nothing official from Wilson yet, though.)

Iglesias, Lam, Cummins, and a fourth former U.S. Attorney (John McKay, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle) have been issued subpoenas by the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law to testify this Thursday, so expect the plot to continue to thicken.

But whatever comes from that investigation and Iglesias’s incendiary charges, if you want to know exactly how little loyalty to George W. Bush gets you, look at Paul Charlton. Charlton is a strong Republican, serves on Sen. John McCain’s finance committee, and by all accounts was a faithful soldier for the Bush administration. Charlton told reporters that he was let go over disputes about whether all death-penalty case decisions should be made in D.C. or in Arizona, but the Justice Department and Gonzales are sticking with their "performance-related" claim. Thus, Charlton’s reward for his years of public service and his loyalty is having Attorney General Gonzales and his deputies belittle his abilities.

Democrats are now pretty much used to being slimed by Karl Rove, but I wonder if Paul Charlton knew that it could happen to him, too.

No comments: