How Goodling's testimony illuminates the partisan follies in Gonzales' DOJ

The first section of this column by Howard Kurtz elucidates precisely why what’s gone on at the Alberto Gonzales DOJ is illegal (emphases are mine):

This 33-year-old woman who had previously worked at the RNC was the senior counsel to Alberto Gonzales. She had a strong role in deciding who got hired, fired, promoted or passed over. When she deemed attorneys not suitable, they were said to have a “Monica problem.” And she shared her views with the White House.

“Normally if I found out something negative about something, we wouldn’t hire them,” Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee.

What did negative mean? Just yesterday, The Post reported that she tried to block the U.S. attorney’s office here from hiring an EPA lawyer and Howard University law graduate as “too liberal.” She regretted that too, Goodling testified.

Sometimes, she said, she “crossed the line.” Sometimes she checked on political contributions. She couldn’t recall whether she did this with U.S. attorneys. Was it illegal? Goodling offered no opinion, but, of course, she had refused to testify without immunity.

As an old Justice Department reporter, I find this sort of thing more disturbing in a way that the uproar over the fired U.S. attorneys. They are political appointees who can be dismissed by the president for any reason; the administration’s problem was in insisting they were ousted for performance reasons when in most instances that was not the case.

But to be making decisions about career prosecutors based on political affiliations strikes at the heart of a nonpartisan law-enforcement system. At that level, there should be no Republican or Democratic hires, and if someone like Goodling inquired about who an applicant voted for in the past, that amounts to putting a thumb on the scales of justice.

At the hearing, the Democrats pressed her for specifics, while many of the Republicans made speeches praising her and said it was no big deal if government appointments involved politics. Some of them seemed unaware of the existence of civil service rules.

I worked for a political appointee but I was a civil service worker when I was at the DOJ in the 80s.. Everyone knew that there were tiers, that there are tiers. That hasn’t changed.

What’s changed is that under the current DOJ administration, disregard for those tiers, and routine confusing of the rules for hiring and firing to those tiers to benefit the causes of the current administration is treated as normal and acceptable. Much like confusing the terrorism of 9/11 by Al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – which had no Al Qaeda presence until we made space for them.

The ploy of confusion succeeds because people don’t take the time to look deeply enough or care enough, because people get lazy, because people want to believe, because people are in denial and because people still practice blind faith.

The Republicans talk about the loss of traditional values ripping at the fabric of our life? Last I knew, honesty was one of those values. Think about how you feel when a significant other lies to you – you could withstand what it is they did that they lied about, right? But it’s the lying – the dishonesty, that angers and saddens you.

The failure of this administration to practice honesty and follow the rules and expectations that everyone else is expected to follow is killing our society by undermining our faith in everything we’ve come to expect from our government and one another. And it’s far more dangerous than disagreement on any other issue I can imagine.

2 thoughts on “How Goodling's testimony illuminates the partisan follies in Gonzales' DOJ

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:You expect politics in the Executive branch.You expect politics in the Legislative branch.The very last place you want politics is in your Judicial branch. I’ve never had cause for concern re: Republicans as US attorneys or any other kind of attorney. And that is how it should be.Enough is enough. The line has been crossed. How long are we going to put up with them tap dancing on our laws and our Constitution?Jill – we’ve been talking about this since January. I fear there is much more to come. I hope it comes to light soon. The malfeasance of this administration makes Watergate look like a day at the fair.I’m disgusted, appalled, and infuriated.No Quarter.

  2. I was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in a Department of Justice run by Ed Meese for Ronald Reagan. It was understood that political considerations were kept out of hiring (as opposed to appointing, which took place at the upper levels of the organization) and that rule was universally applied. Goodling’s testimony about acting otherwise in the face of tradition, regulations, sound policy, and perhaps the Hatch Act itself is outrageous and personally appalling. I agree with the reporter that this seems for worse on the merits than the firing of the U.S. Attorneys, which affair is a scandal as much for the aftermath as for the underlying act. The political machinations revealed by Goodling deserve to be the subject of a separate and equally thorough investigation.

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