Why Call The Fireman? It’s Just Smoke!

I’ve been a little lax on the US Attorney front, figuring the TPM superteam has it covered, but it’s always worth drawing attention to the screwed up dynamics of the American right which, naturally, touch this story as well as all others. As noted in my diavlog with Byron York, many conservatives have hated Alberto Gonzalez for years (he’s insufficiently fanatical about aboriton and affirmative action), which has created some space for rightwingers to agree that, at a minimum, something smells here. Thus, Charles Krauthammer and K-Lo say Alberto should go.

In steps Andy McCarthy to circle the wagons in an impressive tangle of non-sequiteurs and illogic.

On the contention that Gonzalez never should have had the job in the first place, McCarthy replies that his confirmation was necessary in order to serve the higher cause of systematic deployment of torture aggressive interrogation techniques, no matter how inept and unqualified Gonzalez may have been. Fair enough, I guess — McCarthy loves torture. Similarly, under the current circumstances, Gonzalez must stay in office because “Democrats want to press on with their investigation — including subpoenas for the President’s top advisers.” Shudder! “The difference between whether it’s proper or improper for the senate to be issuing such subpoenas,” writes McCarthy, “lies in whether a crime was committed in the dismissal of the U.S. attorneys. The only possibility of that is obstruction of justice — i.e., that the firings were intended to thwart or trump-up particuar investigations. There is zero evidence of that, so what we have is a fishing expedition which grossly violates both separation-of-powers and the good-governance need for principals to be able to confide in their top aides without interference from the other branches.”

This is all, if you’ll pardon my French, crap. Clearly, it can’t be that congress must obtain proof of criminal wrongdoing before issuing subpoenas. Equally clearly, there is, in fact, some evidence that the firings were intended to thwart particular investigations (in San Diego) and, at a minimum, significant evidence that David Iglesias was fired due to his failure to trump up a particular investigation. Evidence that could be used to secure a criminal conviction? No. Evidence that warrants further investigation? In light of the administration’s inability to produce a clear and convincing explanation of what they were up to, yes. What’s more, I see no particular reason to think congress’ oversight responsibilities cease right at the level of criminality. The law — as modified by the PATRIOT Act — did, in fact, give the president very broad discretion in terms of dealing with his US Attorneys.


Determining whether or not that discretion was used in an abusive manner seems well within the scope of legitimate activities for the United States congress to undertake.

Now, it’s true that the Bush administration has grown accustomed to the McCarthy Standard — no congressional oversight whatsoever in the absence of pre-existing ironclad proof of criminality — but that’s not the way the system works. And, yes, the Democrats are motivated in part by a partisan desire to make Bush look bad. That, however, is how the system is supposed to work.