Smoke the Salmon, Hold the Shame

Your Justice Department held a swank party yesterday, during working hours, to honor the successes of the Corporate Fraud Task Force, the unit that brought to heel criminal masterminds like Martha Stewart. "The celebration," reports the Post's Carrie Johnson, "came a day after a federal judge in New York threw out indictments against 13 former KPMG executives because he said government tactics were overzealous and out of bounds."

If that doesn't bug you about the party, how about this? As reported first by super CBS producer Stephanie Lambidakis, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales presented his outgoing Deputy Attorney General, Paul J. McNulty, with a medal -- a real medal -- for leading the task force through its various white-collar achievements over the years. The former has brought nothing but shame and disgrace to the Justice Department through his lack of leadership, independence and integrity. The latter essentially ruined his career as a public servant by involving himself in the U.S. attorney scandal. Makes you wonder what you have to do at the Justice Department to not get a medal.

Still think your leaders at Justice comprehend the magnitude of their failings? Still think they have any sense of shame or propriety or just plain common class? Here's how Lambidakis put it (and I couldn't have said it any better myself):

"It was the kind of event that a Bernie Ebbers or Martha Stewart would instantly feel at home attending. McNulty''s office spent several thousand dollars on the reception -- this in addition to the costs incurred with flying United States Attorneys to Washington to bask in the glow of the five year anniversary. This comes at a time when US Attorneys all across the country are begging for more resources and are being told money is too tight. Sure, this wasn't a $2-million dollar toga party thrown by now-imprisoned Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski, but in a department that has cracked down on corporate excess, the sight of officials holding china piled high with hors d'oeuvres during the middle of a workday seemed excessive in its own way."

Gonzales and McNulty party while the department burns. And no one on Capitol Hill or the White House seems to notice or care. Pass the shrimp. Hold the accountability.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 18, 2007; 7:56 AM ET agag
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Comments

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Ha! Ha! Paul McNulty's "medal" should have been for lying and incompetence, and getting away with it-but, I guess Gonzales has to do something to gin up corporate law firm interest in his DAG, one of the best concealers and deceivers to ever hit the hallowed halls of Main DOJ!

Posted by: | July 18, 2007 09:58 AM

Hubris.

I can only hope that the scales of Justice start tipping toward the people in the near future.

Posted by: Nellie | July 18, 2007 11:34 AM

Hubris? Let's not give them too much credit. Shamelessness, I'd say.

Posted by: | July 18, 2007 11:43 AM

What "US attorney scandal"? The US attorneys serve at the president's pleasure and may be removed for any reason. No one has been charged with anything despite the Democrats' dreams! There is no scandal. NO SCANDAL. If only the idiotic, turgid Harry Reid and grandma babushka for the Syrians Nancy Pelosi would resign the USA would be much better off.

Posted by: Paul Rubinstein | July 18, 2007 12:19 PM

What "US attorney scandal"? The US attorneys serve at the president's pleasure and may be removed for any reason. No one has been charged with anything despite the Democrats' dreams! There is no scandal. NO SCANDAL. If only the idiotic, turgid Harry Reid and grandma babushka for the Syrians Nancy Pelosi would resign the USA would be much better off.

Posted by: Paul Rubinstein | July 18, 2007 12:19 PM

What "US attorney scandal"? The US attorneys serve at the president's pleasure and may be removed for any reason. No one has been charged with anything despite the Democrats' dreams! There is no scandal. NO SCANDAL. If only the idiotic, turgid Harry Reid and grandma babushka for the Syrians Nancy Pelosi would resign the USA would be much better off.

Posted by: Paul Rubinstein | July 18, 2007 12:19 PM

Mr. Rubinstein:

You are absolutely correct that the President may legally fire any or all US Attorneys at any time for any reason.

But there IS a scandal, and here's why (I'll say this just once, but consider it a reply to all 3 of your postings):

The President has a moral obligation to be honest with the American people (except where palpable national security is concerned, which doesn't concern us here). If he fires a US Attorney, or any prominent official, for political reasons - or doesn't like the color of his tie, or just drew a name at random - fine, as long as he says so. Any critical reaction is then within the normal bounds of politics.

But to deliberately conceal the reason - or lie about it - for his own political ends, breaks faith with the people he is supposed to serve, and this should outrage ALL of his constituents, of whatever political stripe.

Posted by: Judgito | July 18, 2007 01:10 PM

Judgito:

Thanks, but I often wonder whether it is worth the effort to correct the right-wing noise machine one misguided, cave-dwelling mouth-breather at a time. Can't we just ship them to Guantanamo and let the "humane" interrogations change their minds?

Posted by: Nellie | July 18, 2007 01:20 PM

Judgito, well stated.

The "any reason" standard for firing is open to debate as well.

Just as obviously here: Why is the White House hiding its justifications if the firings were in fact above board?

If the justifications were in fact reasonably sound, then there wouldn't be any need to throw up a smoke screen (e.g. "it doesn't matter because he can do this anyways").

The idea that a leader should be able to act arbitrarily without any apparent justification under a veil of secrecy is a base and servile idea -- no free people have ever swallowed that line of thinking.

Posted by: JP2 | July 18, 2007 01:34 PM

Paul Rubenstein repeats the Republican mantra that there is no US attorney scandal because 'US attorneys serve at the president's pleasure and can be removed for any purpose." This is true Bushian reasoning. Under this 'the president can do no wrong' reasoning

If Bush removes all USAs who are not evangelical Christians, NO SCANDAL.

If Bush removes all USAs who are African Americans, NO SCANDAL.

If Bush removes all USAs who fail to contribute large sums to the Republican National Committee, NO SCANDAL.

If Bush removes all USAs who get divorced during their tenure, NO SCANDAL.

If Bush removes all USAs who refuse to answer a questionnaire inquiring as to who they voted for in the last local, state, and national elections and who they intend to vote for in the next election, NO SCANDAL.

If Bush removes all USAs who are left-handed ("No lefties in a Bush Administration!"), NO SCANDAL.

And of course --

If Bush removes all USAs who investigate or prosecute any Republican office holder or mogul for any reason, NO SCANDAL, and

If Bush removes all USAs who decline to investigate or prosecute any Democrat office holder or mogul when there is any colorable reason or pretext to do so (like WMDs providing a pretext for the Iraq invasion, NO SCANDAL.

As Mr. Rubinstein says: "There is no scandal, NO SCANDAL!" Only in a world in which Bushthink has become so commonplace could 'arguments' [sic] like this have any traction.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | July 18, 2007 01:37 PM

Mr. Rubenstein: Put down the crack pipe. Step away from the crack pipe.

Posted by: South Loudounian | July 18, 2007 02:10 PM

President El jefe,Caesar Bush has remained constant in his handling of all matters since taking office.Why tell the truth when a lie will suffice?Plus,he is never at fault,made a wrong move or decision in his terms as "The Great Decision Maker".He is after all the boss and everyone knows the boss is never wrong.His minions are to blame for not putting enough energy or commitment into the assignments they have been given.They could not "Stay the course" as it were so the blame and therefore the axe falls on their heads and their heads alone. "Link1"

Posted by: Link1 | July 18, 2007 03:11 PM

President El jefe,Caesar Bush has remained constant in his handling of all matters since taking office.Why tell the truth when a lie will suffice?Plus,he is never at fault,made a wrong move or decision in his terms as "The Great Decision Maker".He is after all the boss and everyone knows the boss is never wrong.His minions are to blame for not putting enough energy or commitment into the assignments they have been given.They could not "Stay the course" as it were so the blame and therefore the axe falls on their heads and their heads alone. "Link1"

Posted by: Link1 | July 18, 2007 03:11 PM

Gee, you mean if a President were to fire all but one U.S. Attorney in order to put his guys in office, that would be a scandal too? And if the travel office flunkies in the White House travel office were fired and replaced loyal flunkies, that would be a scandal? OK, now that Rubenstein has put down his crack pipe, feel free to pick it up and take a drag or two; no rules apply to you leftoids. Now, nice and wrecked? Go out and vote for Madam Clinton; no scandal.

Posted by: Ciudadeno | July 18, 2007 03:17 PM

Cuidadeno,

If the president has also removed the Senate's consent as part of the deal, then yeah, I might be a little worried about that one too. If the president's political advisor was involved in an ongoing evaluation of the U.S. attorneys and he selectively removed attorneys because they were not succifiently loyal to a man, I would be even more disturbed.

As a side note, is there a single Bush apologist out there who has taken one basic course on "reasoning by analogy". On some level, I don't have a problem with "Clinton did it, Clinton did it" formulations, but the 93 formulation (which conveniently omits the firings by G.W. in 2001, those of George H.W.; those of Reagan, and those of Carter) and the White House travel office matters aren't really that smart. These analogies are kind of low-level smoke and mirror tricks. They evaporate on any sort of second level scutiny.

Posted by: JP2 | July 18, 2007 04:19 PM

Mr. Rubenstein,

I agree with you whole-heartedly; in fact, I've been trying to tell G. W. Bush for ages that he should fire all the Jews in the US attorney's offices. No replies so far, though. what do you think???

Posted by: Rex Johnson, Jr. | July 18, 2007 04:54 PM

Woof! Woof!

Posted by: M. Vick | July 18, 2007 05:05 PM

Ho! Ho! No more PAUL MCNULTY! DOJ has just named the new Deputy AG, career prosecutor CRAIG MORFORD.

Now, I want to know, what fool law office took on the lyin' Paul McNulty? Anybody know?

Posted by: | July 18, 2007 05:20 PM

JP2: Bushtardos like Cuidadeno have a very limited repertoire.

Posted by: South Loudounian | July 18, 2007 05:47 PM

Are you sure it was "smoked salmon" on the platters? It was probably marinated in the GOP coolaid. Just another way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

"Clinton did it..." doesn't hold water. The GOP tried to make a case of it.

The war is over. We won. No more Saddam. No WMDs. Bring our troops home!

Posted by: Barnacle Bill | July 18, 2007 05:54 PM

The Nazi Justice system of Adolph Hitler adopted a phenomenological approach that included the "sound feelings of the people". Which translates to the feelings of the Party. If you are in and associated with the party--anything goes.

Posted by: ghostcommander | July 18, 2007 06:34 PM

"Makes you wonder what you have to do at the Justice Department to not get a medal."

Tell the truth, maybe?

Posted by: Bukko In Australia | July 19, 2007 08:05 AM

not disclosing any reasons for firing is politicising the justice dept . hurting institutions of government is callous , short sighted and simply unforgivable .

i was willing to accept all kinds of lame excuses for other blatant failures of this administration but this one is just too much. there can never be any reason to damage the capability of our own institutions to do their job by opaque and hence likly politically motivated strategy.

impeach those bastards while we still can,

Posted by: rg | July 19, 2007 02:47 PM

Bukko, awards given to underlings prove management is successful.

Otherwise, how would the underlings qualify for awards?

Incompetent managers learn that early. The military is especially good at it, but it's an art form in the other bureaucracies as well.

Telling the truth is almost guaranteed to get the subordinate to an incompetent in trouble. That's a universal rule applicable to any bureauracy anywhere in the world.

Posted by: Bureaucrat | July 19, 2007 05:50 PM

Apparently Paul Rubinstein is confused in the same way the White House and the DOJ are confused. Yes, US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. HOWEVER, they do not work for the President. They work for the people (that's you and me), and are the Country's top lawyers. Their job, once appointed, is to enforce the law, not to advance whatever the White House wants them to.

Posted by: jss | July 21, 2007 10:03 AM

Apparently Paul Rubinstein is confused in the same way the White House and the DOJ are confused. Yes, US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. HOWEVER, they do not work for the President. They work for the people (that's you and me), and are the Country's top lawyers. Their job, once appointed, is to enforce the law, not to advance whatever the White House wants them to.

Posted by: jss | July 21, 2007 10:07 AM

Aye, yii, yii, yiiii,
I am the Fredo Bandito.
I like Arbusto's Oil Ships,
I love them I do.
I want the Democrats business,
I'll get them from you.
Aye, yii, yii, yiiii,
Oh, I am the Fredo Bandito.
Give me crony appointments
And I'll be your friend.
The Fredo Bandito
You must not offend.

Posted by: Fredo "Kenny Boy" Lay | July 21, 2007 05:48 PM

DOJ employees just doing their best at being Banana Republicans.

Posted by: jhbyer | July 21, 2007 11:52 PM

jss, that makes sense and couldn't be simpler. Why doesn't that occur to the loud unscrupulous ones?

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