It's Hard to Find Good People These Days

The federal prosecutor scandal isn't just some theoretical fight over ideology and power. It has real consequences and here are just two of the latest examples that have come to our attention thanks to good reporting by good journalists.

The excellent reporters at McClatchy tell us that the controversy seems to be dragging down the pace of applicants for the position of U.S. Attorney. And, really, can you blame anyone? If you were a good and seasoned attorney with political connections-- or, more likely a political hack who wanted to pad your resume for future public office-- would you want to go through the ringer these days to get to the Justice Department so that Alberto R. Gonzales could be your boss? Didn't think so.

Nor should you be surprised that the administration's practices toward the hiring of immigration judges has generated a cadre of.... unprepared and unworthy judges! As Richard B. Schmitt wrote in Saturday's Los Angeles Times: "Over the last two years, U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales has appointed more than two dozen individuals as federal immigration judges. The new jurists include a former treasurer of the Louisiana Republican Party, who was a legal advisor to the Bush Florida recount team after the 2000 presidential election. There is also a former GOP congressional aide who had tracked voter fraud issues for the Justice Department, and a Texan appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush to a seat on the state library commission. One thing missing on many of their resumes: a background in immigration law. These lawyers are among a growing number of the nation's more than 200 immigration judges who have little or no experience in the law they were appointed to enforce."

A scandal, no? No, according to two former Justice Department officials. Sensing the end is near for Gonzales' tenure as Attorney General, and perhaps thinking they deserve a look-see when the White House trawls for replacements, these two otherwise bright lawyers jumped into the public debate over the U.S. Attorney scandal with a bang. They wrote an op-ed saying all the "right" things about the controversy, the role of Justice Department officials, and the broad nature of presidential power. The scandal is no scandal, wrote Lee A. Casey and David B. Rivkin, Jr., and the Congressional investigations are pointless. And never mind the turmoil at the Department or Gonzales' horrible perfomances before and after his appearances on Capitol Hill.

The public job application offered by Rivkin and Casey was only one of several interesting reads over the holiday weekend. Newsweek's heavy hitters, Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas, weighed in with a piece that tried (and failed if you ask me) to compare the environment surrounding the Attorney General with the environment that surrounded the Justice Department during the Watergate scandal. And the Washington Post's Dan Eggen had another great piece about how the Justice Department may have skirted the law when it came to hiring decisions long before Monica Goodling fouled the nest.

Welcome back to work. And buckle up for what figures to be an interesting few days in the life of this story.

By Andrew Cohen |  May 29, 2007; 8:05 AM ET agag
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It's after Memorial Day and the Attorney General is still named Gonzalzes. The man has "staying power."

Casey and Rivkin don't see a scandal because it doesn't suit their purposes to see a scandal. 80% of their piece was thoroughly hashed out publicly in this matter two months ago. What they want to do is frame this exposition of ineptitude at the highest levels of government as an attack on the Presidency.

Maybe it is for some, but that doesn't eliminate the fact that political appointees with a public trust abused that trust and may have taken possible criminal actions to cover their tracks in warping what is normally a legitimate political process.

This is Jimmy Breslin's The Gang That Couln't Shoot Straight. Except, this gang doesn't just affect a small area of Brooklyn, they affect everybody in the entire United States and its teritorries.

Casey and Rivkind are just engaged in a political ploy to divert attention from and subvert legitimate inquiry. There's a scandal here, and they are now "conspirators" by intentionally trying to draw attention away from it!

Posted by: DC | May 29, 2007 11:24 AM

I'm still of the mind that Gonzales is going to be with us for a long time. I'm mindful of Mr. Bush's comment after winning reelection: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and I intend to spend it." Political capital = political power, including the power to ignore your critics. Bush continues to hold all the constitutional and statutory powers of the presidency and is unemcumbered by any thoughts of running for reelection. Why would he can Gonzales or ask Gonzales to can himself? All the thoughts expressed in earlier posts on this blog still hold true. A confirmation fight would be bloody, a new AG would never be as 'reliable' as Gonzales, new scandals may well be unearthed, and on and on. The Goodling heaaring before the Houses Committee only strengthened Bush and Gonzales, notwithstanding the attack on McNulty and the statements that Gonzales' public statements were inconsistent with fact. What Gonzales did with the help of the White House political people stinks, but he did it with Bush's direct or indirect approval. The only thing that might drive Gonzales out would be some sense of public duty or personal pride, but I suspect he has little of either.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | May 29, 2007 11:38 AM

I've thinking about a way organizing these events that is disturbingly neat.
As Americans we tend to think that, whatever our differences, we all share deep down a fundamental respect for
the democratic constitutional foundation of things that are America-- rule of law, representative democracy fairness. Further, we don't want to go too
crazy breaking down the restraints on power, because we know that eventually the other guys will have their turn at it.
Thus scandals will turn out to small-scale and disorganized, localized eruptions of venality of immorality.
Imagine, however, if the people with whom we are dealing imagine themselves to be Nietzcheian (or Randian) Übermensch (Supermen)
discarding the mushy thinking of the lesser people and exercising, purely "Der Wille zur Macht" (the Will to Power)?
Suddenly seemingly unrelated things snap into place-- become simply logical to the clear-thinking Übermensch:
Embargo presidential records? That is no longer evidence of a paranoid personality, but just planning, since you fully intend to do things that lesser people will think illegal.
Worry about the precedents when the other guys take power? No worries, you just have to be absolutely sure that they will never take power. Half-measures are illogical and fatal to the plan. Take over the DOJ, and hold on regardless of appearances: essential. Infiltrate all other government agencies: obvious. The judiciary: essential. Control electronic voting machines: worth a hell of a try. Establish a captive state media that shamelessly distorts fact and emphasis: step 1. The list goes on and on of things that are just logical to one who has Der Wille zur Mach, and which we have seen in the news lately.

I've always been highly suspicious of conspiracy theories, but I think this a working hypothesis that deserves testing. It neatly renders a lot of events that were unlikely or bizarre,
reasonable and predictable

Posted by: wrb | May 29, 2007 12:56 PM

Article in the Tampa Tribune this week-- only ONE applicant for the Middle District of Florida USA job. So they have extended the time for applications.....

Who would want to disrupt a practice for less than two years, face a possibly hostile confirmation hearing, and be certain of high scrutiny in the process?

Maybe they ought to consider a Democrat who could stay longer....

Posted by: Pogo | May 29, 2007 02:30 PM

I think much of wrb says above is what I also have been, if not to the point of total planned conspiracy (too narcississtically whimsical for that; and I think the Nietzschean-Rand connection is most apt; and although Rand far from endorsed uebermensch, that is how her idea of the worth of individualism was perverted, I am not explicitly going to say in what circles).

Your allusions to a different culture are easy to ignore by most if they wish,though, their entrenched (socially and politically) lobbyists themselves endorse much of the picture you have made (have been from the Clinton years alone), and most importantly, most Americans have too many distractions/have the entitlement to all their whims too catered to at all levels to care in any real way.
This America is here to stay, and I frankly don't know what to do about it. Many in the US don't seem to care if they are brainwashed as long as their comforts of various sorts are gratified. (Ah yes, someone remind me in what context our president spoke of cynicism and negativity today, and why he did so!)

Posted by: James P. | May 29, 2007 03:13 PM

Sorry, it was a note in the St. Pete Times at: http://www.sptimes.com/2007/05/19/State/Dateline_Florida.shtml

It's down in the article, which is a series of other topics, as well.

Posted by: Pogo | May 29, 2007 03:14 PM

The points Andrew makes about how judges have got through comes as no surprise. I am sure this is true of many who are called judges in other areas of American life. Many of the, to me, quite strange things that now seem to be assumed as social norms to get through would have required the complicity of judges, who make decisions according to the ends they assume are desirable. If the law is the final resort in the country, and even that is frequently not only not immune to legislating one's opinions/hopes, but actively shaped even determined by them, what real protection of fairness can one trust in?

Posted by: Stan | May 29, 2007 03:23 PM

Maybe fairness can only be striven for? Maybe a few thousand years of history ("history" is a tyranny in its own right), exemplifies the state of being fair as more an aberration than a long-standing value.

Posted by: Dave | May 29, 2007 09:42 PM

I'm reminded of Groucho Marx's comment, which I hope I fairly paraphrase:

"Any Justice Department that wants me as a USA is one which I do not wish to serve."

Oh, maybe that's not generally true, but here, in contrast, at this time and in this place, it is?

Chiaramente . . . ?

Posted by: Alan | May 29, 2007 11:41 PM

wrb:

I think you are on the mark. It also ties in with the "Permanent Republican Majority" that Delay and Rove were striving for. The reason they (the GOP leaders) were not afraid to consider disposing of checks on power, such as the fillibuster rule on judicial appointments, was because they were sure that they were going to be in charge forever. Let's face it, the GOP strategy going as far back as at least 2000 has been to use the entire machinery of the government to their political advantage. It is too bad they abandoned any attempt at effective governance for their power lust.

I hope they will soon learn their lesson and return to the GOP characterized by fiscal responsibility and moderate social policies. We will be better off as a Nation if both major parties forego personal greed in favor of the public interest.

Posted by: Nellie | May 30, 2007 08:38 AM

I work for a small federal agency -- we just received a resume from an otherwise very qualified attorney. The funny thing is this person will not get a call or hearing just because s/he is a graduate of the same law school as Monica Goodling. That school is now radioactive.

Very weird. It looks -- from the resume -- that this person is no ideologue.

weird, weird, weird.

Posted by: rathernotsay... | May 30, 2007 08:41 AM

"Any Justice Department that wants me as a USA is one which I do not wish to serve.

"Oh, maybe that's not generally true, but here, in contrast, at this time and in this place, it is?"

Alan, there is always somebody who will take the position, if only for resume purposes. Unless they do something egregious themselves, there's no baggage to follow them when they leave. That particular item on a resume goes a long way when looking to hire onto a law firm or run for office.

Besides, if there are no nominees by the Administration, the local District Court steps in and makes a judicial appointment until the Administration submits a nominee. The District Court Judges won't have any trouble finding willing attorneys.

Posted by: DC | May 30, 2007 10:08 AM

Seale being tried for decades old crimes: Gonzolez hangs on to his job; McCain reaches out to the Fallwell folks; Bush ignores the Constitution in the intelligence gathering mess; Delay, Rove and others subvert democracy in gerrymandering schemes; the influence of Rush Limbaugh among "conservatives". All these are related to one (clear to me, anyway) development. The growth of the religious right and its claim on the GOP. To these folks it doesn't matter what the law or the Constitution says. It doesn't matter if more American's have died in Iraq than at the World Trade Center. Their goal is to reshape American government in their interests and they have subverted the Republican Party for that purpose.

Posted by: Frank S. | May 30, 2007 01:43 PM

Dave, that has become conventional wisdom, but quite frankly from whatever historical facts I have seen, this seems to me to be a myth/opportunistic pretext that suddenly showed up in the 60's, and seemed to be assumed as obvious truth after that.
All the facts in their proper perspective I have seen indicate something else entirely (and was shocked at the impression I found): that past generations and other places and times have actually been far more fair (with the obvious exceptions), that standards in the last 20-30 years have become ever more lazy and self-serving (explicitly so), and in no previous time and place I know of (other than the telling parallels of regimes such as Russia and China) was there a whole unregulated institutionalized class , academic and otherwise, wholly dedicated and subsidized to making theory for justifying whatever hypocrisy was convenient or aggrandizing.

I'd be open and interested in representive, contextualized facts which show otherwise, but this is my impression from what history I know.

Posted by: Henry L | May 30, 2007 02:24 PM

Henry, women have had property rights for about 150 years. If we begin our timeline from when the Egyptians had the Jews as slaves, that's 5,000 minus 150; or 4,850 years that half the population had no claim on property--it was either owned by the father or husband. Not very fair.
Let's look at the Native Americans of the New World--not very fair what happened to them.
How about the European serfs, best typified by the starving peasants of 1780's France, whose desperation caused them to overthrow the monarchy. Not very fair to live a life of starvation, especially when your rulers are taxing you to death and living the high life.
How about "The recorded acts of Cromwell's savagery are there for all to assess as he sowed a trail of death and horror from Dublin to Dundalk , down to Wexford and New Ross massacring and looting, raping as his crusading butchers continued on to Youghal and then to Clonmel. Finally the rag tag band of thugs made it to Kilkenny, the most beautiful medieval city in Ireland perhaps and the crushing of the last organized resistance of a desperate people, victims of the world's most vicious colonial power (http://www.ichblog.eu/content/view/1523/58/).
Let's look at the colonizing of Africa. Isn't it interesting that Nigerians live in one of the mineral richest countries of the world, yet the population survives on a average income of $390/year. Not very fair.
Let's look at Australia--oops, we already looked at the native peoples of this country--ditto on the fairness thing. Here's a question for you: When did they stop offering cash for Indian scalps in California? Hey! Was that fair?
Throughout history, Henry, whenever superior technology met native peoples, the native peoples lost out. Unfair.
I would be interested to learn when you think this great time of fairness prevailed, Henry. I imagine you are looking at the 10 years that span the 1950s--you know that period after the Great Depression (so unfair) and the also unfair WWII and leading up to the 1960s, when American youth started questioning the unfairness of CIA coup d'états in Iran, Africa and South America.

Posted by: Dave | May 30, 2007 06:18 PM

The royalists wrote this history. The memnants founded the US, and wrote the US constitution.

>>How about "The recorded acts of Cromwell's savagery are there for all to assess as he sowed a trail of death and horror from Dublin to Dundalk , down to Wexford and New Ross massacring and looting, raping as his crusading butchers continued on to Youghal and then to Clonmel. Finally the rag tag band of thugs made it to Kilkenny, the most beautiful medieval city in Ireland perhaps and the crushing of the last organized resistance of a desperate people, victims of the world's most vicious colonial power <<

Posted by: wrb | May 30, 2007 07:40 PM

Definition of memnants :. (mĕm'nənts). 1. (n.) Any chipped or broken m&m's at the bottom of the bag. Submitted by: Anonymous, Topics: Food & Drink ...

Posted by: | May 30, 2007 07:52 PM

Dave:

The subject is too wide for this particular forum.

But:
when above you say the word "history" is a tyranny (unless somehow you mean the act of recording events in writing is oppressive ), I assume this refers to gender. I believe the word derives from "histoire" or "historia", not meant to have anything to do with avoiding women's experiences .

As far as having no claim to property, is this known to be a uniform characteristic, true of all societies, and to what extent reflected in actual practice ? I thought the rationale of the Anglo-Norman system was that married women and men were considered one person "before God", and so had to decide and own mutually (I'm not sure to what extent the husband had to get his wife's agreement if he wanted something, though). Daughters also could get money set aside given by their parents , as dowry to protect against unscrupulous husbands, and a preagreed trust fund, both of which I believe were not subject to the husband's control. Unmarried women had control of their own property, and could dispose as they wished, as could widows who could prevent property and businesses they established from being taken by new husbands. Widows could also convey property to female heirs. Of course there were especial legal problems when married women left their husbands before the husband's death.I believe these laws for single and married women existed in Britain alone for a long time (Welsh law had requirements for payments a husband was required to make to his wife, at the beginning of marriage, physical mistreatment in certain cases, the first few times he was unfaithful etc after which he could be divorced) until legal changes in 1857 and 1882 (not mentioning social realities to get around legal constraints), and this was in England alone .

There were certainly princesses etc.. who commanded plenty of wealth and influence(Catherine the Great ?).

Cromwell's acts in a Puritan military revolution as typical of all the actions of the "world's most vicious colonial power" (the Spanish Empire seems to me a much better candidate)? "The last resistance of a desperate people"? Please, and proud Irishmen as Wilde, Yeats, Shaw didn't seem to mind much going to and from the oppressor.

I thought the heavy tax on French land came was from the Catholic church, not for Louis' conspicuous consumption, nor that the starvation was deliberate exploitation by the monarchy, but the high cost of food for various reasons and weak transportation infrastructure where food was available. Nor that the peasants decided to revolt, but were directed by prosperous merchant and business classes, disaffected nobles, and Louis' administrative unconcern and lack of competence, among many reasons. The French peasants didn't, as is stated above, generally typify peasants in Europe at the time , as there weren't comparable events elsewhere.

The deaths of many Native Americans (as well as the aborigines mentioned) had a large cause in lack of immunity to diseases Europeans were resistant to (not always settlers' direct fault, although sometimes was, as with deliberately distributing diseased blankets). The U.S. government (including the framers of the government and the Constitution, whose statements and intentions of fairness are the main subject of my point and this discussion ) initially gained tribal land through buying in treaties; it was individual settlers and states who often disliked this policy. These settlers, of course with a increasing belief in their divine destiny of settling the continent (after the Louisiana PURCHASE-Lewis and Clark didn't encourage removing the tribes, to my knowledge), kept pushing westward on their own, as in Texas, where the Mexican war was started after settlers moved on their own (I believe the US government at one point actually tried to prevent this )conflicted with the Mexican government, and then wouldn't leave. It wasn't the government's deliberate policy. Jackson's policy of making treaties to exchanging land with the Indians WAS a deliberate government one, and in principle supposed to be voluntary. I don't believe Jefferson (who made the Louisiana Purchase) and the other framers would have endorsed the change in policy forcing Indians away, or the later killings in the Plains battles (though, as sometimes in Australia, the natives attacked first). Also, I don't know who "they" are in offering cash for scalps in California; is that supposed to be typical of government intentions and the letter of the law, particularly as originally written?

Don't know too much about Australian history; disease, Western movement, sometimes hostile natives (to Japanese tourists also)also factors in the loss of indigenous life (birthrates rose as got better resistance to disease). I do know of at least one instance where white settlers were hanged for their massacring natives.

Not that familiar with some of African history.
How was the British adopting Nigeria as a protectorate from 1900-1963 solely the direct cause of its low income today, and its miltary governments and overthrows?

"whenever technolgy met native people, the natives lost" Sometimes the natives attacked first, for various reasons settlers moved into native areas, and yes the settlers did have the superior technology if there was a conflict. don't think the statement is true, for instance, in India where technologically superior forces time and again stayed and assimilated, Japan (where the natives politely bought the guns and then used them to evict the missionaries)(nor in China with Italian traders)etc..

If the technologically superior powers were monolithically oppressive as you imply, there would have been constant resistance of some sort; frequently there wasn't, and sometimes the presiding governments were actually beneficial in some ways.
Don't know either what was so criminal/unfair about the Depression; natural circumstances sometimes occur, don't believe there is an obligated right to some end socioeconomic status.

The issue isn't that less than optimal things happen, or that crime of various sorts occurs (to my mind calling something a war or battle doesn't automatically legitimize criminal acts)-of course crime always has taken place- but whether the society and law have deliberately promoted and explicitly protected criminal acts, as statements that the protection of "the law is only to be hoped/striven for", and that in Western history and civilization such fairness is only an "aberration", seem to imply.
There have been loud and widespread dissent and protests throughout American history at abuses (eg the reaction to attempted US imperialism in the Spanish-American War), and the principles and values stated in the laws and the Constitution remained endorsed by at least a significant segment of the society and are supposed to guide the government.

Yes, CIA coups d'etat abroad too were "unfair" , but I don't think they change constitutional principles and the purpose/intention of the laws-which after all, are the principles of government Americans have- , nor would I expect those who framed and elaborated the principles in writing to have endorsed such violations.

Posted by: Henry | June 1, 2007 04:31 PM

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