Chalk One Up for The Good Guys

After reading this Bench Conference post last week, Justice Department officials conceded defeat and reinstated traditional hiring policies for baby lawyers and interns. No? Okay, how about this. Bowing to political reality, caught red-handed trying to further politicize the Department of Justice, and unwilling to give further ammunition to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' growing number of critics, partisan loyalists at Justice decided the fight over who gets to pick the summer interns and how just wasn't worth fighting at this time.

Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein over the weekend reported that: "The Justice Department is removing political appointees from the hiring process for rookie lawyers and summer interns, amid allegations that the Bush administration had rigged the programs in favor of candidates with connections to conservative or Republican groups, according to documents and officials.... Justice officials strongly deny that political or partisan factors play any role in who is chosen for the two programs. But they acknowledged yesterday that the involvement of political appointees helped feed suspicions that the process had been tainted. 'The Justice Department does not, nor has it ever, solicited any information from applicants . . . about their political affiliation or orientation,' said Justice spokesman Dean Boyd. But, he added, the changes 'should further improve the process and eliminate even the perception of any political influence.' Ya think? It's rare these days to see public officials quickly rescind an obviously bad decision-- so let's all be grateful that it occurred in this case. Too bad it didn't happen in time to save the Attorney General from getting heckled at his 25th reunion at Harvard Law School.

Speaking of getting heckled, let me for a moment mention Ruben Navarrette, Jr, who as near as I can tell is the only person in America who is still willing to try to argue that Gonzales is a victim not of his own colossal failings but of an media conspiracy. Before the Attorney General's horrible performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago, Navarrette blasted "weak-kneed" conservatives like Newt Gingrich (I am sure Gingrich is as surprised as you are to hear that he is "weak-kneed) for withholding their support for Gonzales and then argued that it was perfectly understandable for the Attorney General to be holed up with Republican officials for a few weeks "practicing his testimony" before the Committee. After the hearing? If Navarrette is still shilling for Gonzales, I haven't seen evidence of it online (help me out if you find anything).

By Andrew Cohen |  April 30, 2007; 8:15 AM ET agag
Previous: Gonzales Offers No "Pleasure for the President" | Next: The Attorney General's Job: Outsourced


Please email us to report offensive comments.

'The Justice Department does not, nor has it ever, solicited any information from applicants . . . about their political affiliation or orientation,' said Justice spokesman Dean Boyd.

Note that Mr. Boyd did not say that the Justice Department did not solicit this information, he merely said that they didn't request it from the applicants. Also, he did not say that they didn't make decisions based on any information of this sort that they might have obtained from outside sources...

Posted by: David | April 30, 2007 10:51 AM

Remarkable. They didn't solicit it, they just researched backgrounds to strike anyone with Democratic sympathies.

Their abuse of language continues. Unfortunately the press has been largely complicit, using vague amorphous words like "misrepresented" rather than clear and steely terms like "lied." It leave the mind filled with clouds-- it is as if they are conducting an autopsy with pillows rather than scalpels.

Maybe more important is how they don't use terms that give accurate shape the the enterprise's overall pattern. The described are separate USA and powerpoint scandals when it has long been clear that we are looking at something much bigger, uglier and more important: a conspiracy to stage a coup d'etat in the United States and replace our democracy with a Soviet-style one-part state.

Posted by: wrb | April 30, 2007 12:55 PM

Read that Navarrete comment, what a joke. Too bad Ruben wasn't there to see the AG's recent appearance in Chicago, before he started cracking the books for his appearance before Congress. Gonzales turned tail about three minutes into the news conference and left Fitzgerald standing there. A real profile in leadership, our Attorney General.

Posted by: ExAUSA | April 30, 2007 02:34 PM

Another egregious usage:

Describing perjury as "lawyerly testimony" as many outlets did.

I suppose this reflects the attitude "of course lawyers are liars,
they've got a license to lie. And perhaps that is
all the respect that is deserved.

Posted by: wrb | April 30, 2007 02:40 PM

Of course, they never 'solicited any information from applicants . . . about their political affiliation or orientation.'
All they had to do was look at resumes for applicants who went to right-wing, religiously-oriented law schools.

Posted by: judgito | April 30, 2007 03:02 PM

If we are to believe Administration officials:
1) Researching DOJ Applicants' political leanings is not inappropriate.
2) Republican Congressional electioneering on government property,revolving around using governmental resources is not inappropriate.
3) Losing or hiding millions of Presidential Records level e-mail is not inappropriate.
4) Critisizing the President Bush is Treason.
Go figure!

Posted by: Shannon Parker | April 30, 2007 03:07 PM

Anyone who*s ever created a a resume or a cv knows that you always list any organizations that you have worked or volunteered for. That is how the qualities of ambition and leadership are judged. What a stupid statement that this information was never solicited of applicants. Of course it was right there in front of their faces!

Posted by: Barbara B | April 30, 2007 03:17 PM

Don't forget....

5) It's OK to fire prosecutors in order to prevent them from indicting members of your political party;

6) It's OK for the Attorney General to repeatedly change his story when asked why those prosecutors were fired;

7) It's OK to cherry-pick and manipulate intelligence data to justify wars, and then to blame the CIA when things go wrong;

8) It's OK to name covert career CIA agents and end their careers (not to mention jeopardize their foreign contacts) if their husbands question your public statements, and then to have your chief of staff commit perjury to a grand jury about it

Posted by: khl | April 30, 2007 03:20 PM


Mr. Navarrette's subsequent piece on Mr. Gonzales was posted on April 25 at the San Diego Union-Tribute site:

You can judge for yourself whether he is still a shill.

Posted by: Pablo | April 30, 2007 03:27 PM

Here is the full text of Navarette's column from the San Diego paper posted above...

After Alberto Gonzales' performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, some of his critics demanded that I admit I was wrong to defend him.

The critics have also been pretty adamant that President Bush - the only person who has a vote on whether Gonzales stays or goes - fire his attorney general. Yet on Monday, Bush described Gonzales as "an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence" and insisted that last week's Senate hearing had reassured him that Gonzales could do the job. That same day, Gonzales said he was staying at the Justice Department as long as he "can continue to serve effectively." Asked about the attorney general at a Monday news conference, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declared: "He's staying."

Now, according to The Associated Press, even some of Gonzales' harshest critics in the Senate are starting to concede that he'll probably weather the storm - thanks to Bush's support.

Looking back on last week's events, I realize I was wrong to fall into the trap of thinking that the Senate hearing provided the AG one last chance to "save his job." That was the media narrative, but it lost sight of one important fact: The legislative branch doesn't have the power to hire and fire personnel in the executive branch.

That point didn't escape the attention of Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor of and a liberal critic of the attorney general, who broke from the herd by suggesting that Gonzales actually had performed brilliantly before the Judiciary Committee. She said the testimony constituted a "home run for the president's overarching theory of the unitary executive . . . in which the president is the big boss of the entire executive branch and has final say over everything that happens within it." According to Lithwick, the purpose of last week's drama on Capitol Hill may not have been to save one man's job but to drive home a larger point: that regardless of what lawmakers think of the attorney general, he serves not at their pleasure but at the president's. As Lithwick notes, we've seen the administration exert executive authority on issues ranging from terrorism detainees to the conduct of the war in Iraq, and this may be just the latest example.

That would mean that what happened in the Senate was just political theater, the kind of huffing and puffing that lawmakers in both parties engage in to convince supporters that they are carrying out their oversight function. But, in this case, were they? Since the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn't have the authority to terminate the attorney general, it's hard to tell how much of the assault on Gonzales was about a show of strength and how much was just for show.

The White House strategy all along appears to have been to put Gonzales front and center as a decoy for White House political adviser Karl Rove, who may have exerted undue influence over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year. As strategies go, it's first-rate. Gonzales gets a little bloodied but Rove gets away. And, in the end, both Rove and Gonzales keep their jobs.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala made a similar point on CNN, insisting that it was better for the administration to keep its critics firing away at Gonzales because, were the attorney general to resign, the congressional inquiry would go "right inside the White House." That was no secret. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said during an earlier round of hearings that more attention needed to be focused on the White House. And Begala himself noted some weeks ago that the problem wasn't Gonzales but the president - "not the monkey but the organ grinder," in Begala parlance.

Once Democrats made the mistake of tipping their hand, Rove and Co. had time to figure out a counter-strategy to contain the ruckus to the Justice Department. It worked. And it's no wonder the attorney general didn't get flustered during the questioning. He was doing exactly what the boss wanted him to do.

How can the left dispute that? They're the ones who have said all along that Gonzales couldn't think for himself and that Bush pulled his strings. Now they've had the chance to see it in action.

Score one for Team Bush. Actually, come to think of it, it was more like a save. And I, for one, am glad the game ended this way.

Posted by: rose | April 30, 2007 04:30 PM

Here the gun, smokin' away.

Monica & Kyle got to do the firings & Gonzalas got deniability.

"An original draft of Gonzales's delegation of authority to Sampson and Goodling was so broad that it did not even require the two aides to obtain the final approval of the attorney general before moving to dismiss other department officials.:

Posted by: bill | April 30, 2007 07:00 PM

Navarrete = total shill.

Hey, does anyone think immunizing Frankie Pantangeli is a good idea, given that she may have been involved in ordering the deletion of e-mails at a time when an investigation was imminent? How do we know that in the run-up to the McNulty testimony, she was not part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice? Leahy ought to have a better handle on those issues before he immunizes.

Posted by: ExAUSA | April 30, 2007 07:41 PM

I just jumped to, and back from, the National Journal article cited by bill. The content of the actual delegation is as interesting as the original rejected language. I hope the Senate has, and asks AGAG about, this order.

Andrew C: Have you heard about this before or seen it? It's worth an inquiry.

Posted by: Alan | April 30, 2007 08:24 PM

"shill" isn'd adequate for Mr. Navarrette's latest. He is cheering on the replacement of US constitutional government with the practices and standards of a criminal enterprise, to wit: "Score one for Team Bush. Actually, come to think of it, it was more like a save. And I, for one, am glad the game ended this way."

Posted by: wrb | April 30, 2007 09:03 PM



Posted by: wrb | April 30, 2007 09:11 PM

Navarrette has actually written several columns in recent weeks singing Gonzales's praises (I can now count 4). None of the defenses has been particularly coherent--including one column where he throws out the race card.

The issues at stake here obviously don't require an expertise in Constitutional law, but in his last column I was surprised that Navarrette doesn't seem to have even a grasp of basic Constitutional issues. Apparently in Navarretteistan political appointees can be appointed and removed based entirely on the whim of the Dear Leader. In Navarretteistan there is no co-equal branch of government; and the power of elected officials does not terminate finally with the Will of the People, but with the Dear Leader. So apparently, the failure is on the part of readers not to realize that Navarrette is engaging in a thought experiment involving a governmental system which we currently do not have, but which in Navarrette's view would be eminently more desirable in this narrow set of circumstances. Of course, in Navarretteistan Gonzales could stay in power indefinitely, which completely obliterates the counter-argument which says, at the end of the day, George W. Bush may for all practical purposes be Gonzales's boss; however, in absolute legal terms it is the People who pay his salary who control his destiny.

Navarette has already seen the light and moved on. Perhaps it is time for us to join his lead; no matter how ill-advised, or tortuously conceived that idea might be.

Navarrette is something of a side show here. He clearly thinks that Gonzales is a good man, and has said that he knows him personally. Few of us here could speak with such authority about the merits of Gonzales the father, friend, and neighbor.

But all of this seems irrelevant to the core issues. Good men can still do incredibly stupid things, and the evidence at this stage weighs overwhelming against Gonzales the public official. I suspect I am not saying anything here that would be considered especially revolutionary--unless that person has been remise in attempting to understand and appreciate the long-term Constitutional and institutional issues at stake here as much as the fleeting ones that effect the political fortunes of a few men and women.

Posted by: JP2 | April 30, 2007 10:42 PM

The Attorney General has another scandal brewing in Washington to which he is attached. His former Whitehouse associate counsel now Judge Brett Kavanaugh stands accused along the two colleagues on the DC Court of Appeals with grossly violating the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges stemming from Judge Kavanaugh's participation in a decision on March 15, 2007 and then his retroactive recusal when it was pointed out by the Appellant to the Court that Judge Kavanaugh was a former partner of Kirkland & Ellis ruled on a case represented by Kirkland & Ellis since his tenure at the firm and from whom he as a partner received monetary consideration from the Appellee. Judges Griffith and Henderson in attempting to cover up Judge Kavanaugh's problem created a process violating the trust of their positions. These three Judges have demonstrated how high court decisions are hardwired with total disregard for the 14th Amendment.

If the editorial pundits are watching Attorney General Gonzales for his resignation, then how he and the DOJ handle this evolving matter will be the watershed. The Attorney General's problems are systemic and beyond partisan considerations since both political spheres operate under and support the Constitution and the rights afforded to any individual. This growing scandal will also give pause to reconsider the secret court system because it includes one of the D.C. District Court Judges disregard for the Constitution as well. Mr. Gonzales' FBI has been conducting an investigation for well over a year on this matter hampered at times by political activities in FBI Headquarters.

Posted by: edp | April 30, 2007 10:53 PM

i was wondering why i didn't get a call from the justice dept after i applied for a summer internship, i guess all that stuff i wrote about vindicating people's civil rights, and protecting the rights of the individual doesn't really work so well in an administration thats hold an American citizen for 5 years without a trial.

Posted by: sean | April 30, 2007 11:04 PM

My frustration knows no bounds. The testimony by Mr. Gonzales was an obvious middle finger to the American people by Mr. Bush. Yet Republicans - both elected and unelected - continue to support this rogue administration. Neither profanity, nor outright lies, not even mass killings, can remove all support for this president. I do not get it.

Posted by: Gardenia | April 30, 2007 11:17 PM

"The Justice Department does not, nor has it ever, solicited" is an award-winner, even by recent standards. Tasia and Brian know full well that DOJ's Honors Program applicants submit resumes that are chock-full of affiliation information. In their office of public affairs they're not only drinking the Kool-aid, they're mixing it in a back room. At what point will it dawn on them (or those on the fifth floor) that their fine parsing actually has become transparently counterproductive?

Posted by: G. Hall | April 30, 2007 11:35 PM

Actually, Sean, you didn't get the interview because your cover letter looked like it was written by e.e. cummings.

Posted by: ExAUSA | May 1, 2007 10:10 AM

Regardless of where you stand on the comments posted above, I have a fundamental problem with both sides of the arguement. HOWEVER, for anyone to imply that somehow the Republicans are the only ones to do this kind of thing is patently absurd. The party in power has ALWAYS used political leanings among qualified candidates for appointed get real! I am actually pretty disillusioned with both parties right now...we can't seem to do ANYTHING without trying to destroy someone across the aisle in the process...not because it is necessary but just because we can. It seems to me that it would be MUCH more usefull to focus all of our efforts on trying to actually work together for the good of the country rather than make ridiculous statements about our armed forces being baby killers or mass murderers (incredible mismanagement for the DOD at many junctures notwithstanding!), etc. For those that still can't let go of the start of the war in Iraq...get over it and move on...whining about faulty intelligence that virtually everyone in the world thought was true at the time just kills your credibility. Again, the task at hand is how to we make the most of the sacrifices already made and actually try to make it worth something. If that is really getting the heck out as soon as possible, then so be it but if you try to convince me that we should get out because "Bush lied", you just demonstrate immaturity at a level that defies logic and certainly doesn't warrant a serious response. Can we move forward from where we are or do we want to just pout and vent and call each other names?

Posted by: Rick | May 2, 2007 06:59 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company