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Commentary Last Updated: Mar 30th, 2007 - 00:59:45

Politics or performance: the firings that backfired
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Mar 30, 2007, 00:57

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Once you suspend the right of habeas corpus, the Geneva Conventions and most of our civil liberties, call the Constitution just a piece of paper, and start a war based on false and illegal claims as the Bush administration did, it becomes just a hop, skip and a jump to fire eight U.S. attorneys for their �politics� not �performance.�

Of course Karl Rove will tell you Bill Clinton fired all 93 federal attorneys at once in 1993, when he entered office. Rove�s lie is that Clinton didn�t fire them. He nominated new federal attorneys when he took office, just as Bush did. Under normal circumstances, these U.S. attorneys serve until the next president is sworn in. The difference with the current backfire is major.

Bush & Company singled out eight US attorneys for apparently political reasons. This is unprecedented. To say Clinton�s routine replacements for George H.W. Bush�s US attorneys is any way similar is deeply dishonest. Rove knows better. He also knows that much of the audience is too uninformed to know the difference.

But then Bush & Company encouraged the NSA to spy on average Americans� telephone calls and emails, not bothering in most cases to get warrants to do so, as the law requires. Holding to law does not seem to be their strong point.

The March 27, Washington Post points out in Ordinary Customers Flagged as Terrorists, that a list of Bush-purported terrorists more than 250 pages long, including 3,300 groups and individuals, including some Americans citizens, is riddled with errors, and prohibits business persons, from a mortgage lender to a sandwich seller, to deal with anyone on said list, at the risk of penalties up to $10 million and 10 to 30 years in prison.

Tom Hassan Kubbany found himself denied a mortgage because his middle name was flagged as an alias for Ali Saddam Hussein, a purported son of Saddam Hussein, who is listed as being born in 1980 or 1983. In fact, Mr. Tom Hassan Kubbany was born in 1949 in Detroit, and is still looking for a mortgage. So it goes with neocon law.

The administration has been progressing like a bull in a china shop, smashing civil liberties and legal precedents, even outing the identity of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, in retaliation for her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, reporting, after a fact-finding mission to Niger, that Iraq had never received yellowcake uranium.

There seems to be no bottom to the Bush bull, including stealing the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections via a variety of illegal means. Fortunately, this and the Iraq war debacle were responsible for Bush�s stunning loss of Congress in the 2006 election. And with this latest �purifying� process of U.S. attorneys, the bull has finally hit the wall.

The Bush administration woke up to the Senate overwhelmingly voting on Tuesday, March 20, to end the Justice Department�s ability to unilaterally fill U.S. attorney vacancies, a provision written by the department and slipped into the USAPATRIOT Act, allowing the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation.

Another giant step backwards for the administration, but forward for America was that the Senate returned the law concerning appointments of U.S. attorneys to where it was before Congress shoed in the USAPATRIOT Act. Congress also swept away the unilateral appointment authority the administration had yearned for in the wake of the 9/11 attack, which millions of Americans think was more of their handiwork. Consider this a turning point for the better.

The usually restrained New York Times called the reasons for the firings Phony Fraud Charges in a March 16 editorial. Referring to the attorneys, the article said, � . . . there is no evidence that any of them ignored real instances of voter fraud. But more than that, it is a window on what may be a major reason for some of the firings.

�In partisan Republican circles, the pursuit of voter fraud is code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people. By resisting pressure to crack down on �fraud,� the fired United States attorneys actually appear to have been standing up for the integrity of the election system.� These attorneys included John McKay of Washington and David Igelsias of New Mexico, who wrote his personal account of Why I Was Fired in the New York Times.

By March 2005, even U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked during the Plame leak case, according to the Washington Post. �The ranking placed Fitzgerald below �strong U.S. attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty� but above those who �chafed against administration initiatives.� Well, good for Fitzgerald, who was actually ranked as �non-distinguished� by Gonzales� now former top aide, D. Kyle Sampson.

Also, was the thinking to nail Fitzgerald for nailing Libby (so close to Cheney) and bringing a corruption indictment in Illinois against former Republican Governor George H. Ryan?

In the aftermath of all this, the New York Times reports Bush relented to send some 3,000 pages of internal e-mail to Congress. They reveal the White House was deeply involved in the dismissals as well as damage control, and not �tangentially involved� as William Moschella, the principal associate deputy attorney general said. Bush also offered up �private interviews� with Rove, his senior adviser and deputy chief of staff; Harriet E. Miers, former White House counsel; and two other officials. Democrats vociferously turned down the offer of �interviews� which specified the four honchos would not testify under oath.

In the Times� New E-Mail Gives Details on Attorney Dismissals, among other gaffs, two senior officials joked �caustically� about U.S. attorney Carol Lam in San Diego, who prosecuted the corruption case of former Congressman Randy �Duke� Cunningham (R.-Calif.), saying she was �sad,� her record �hideous.� Lam also notified the Justice Department on May 10, 2006, that she planned to serve search warrants on Kyle Dustin �Dusty� Foggo, who resigned two days earlier as the No. 3 official at the CIA. She doesn�t sound sad or hideous, but pretty smart to me.

Also, in the same article, the Times reported, �Mr. Gonzales believed that the prosecutor, H. E. Cummins III, the United States Attorney for Arkansas, was dismissed for performance reasons, the e-mail suggested. But his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, testified that Mr. Cummins had been replaced to create a vacancy for J. Timothy Griffin, a political ally of the White House political adviser, Karl Rove.� Gonzales was also terribly upset to hear that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are children�s fictions.

The bottom line of all this corruption and confusion concerning eight seemingly upright, hardworking U.S. attorneys comes from a Washington Post report that a House Panel Authorizes Subpoenas Of Officials, including White House counselor Karl Rove, to testify under oath. This is the bell that should bring Congress and Bush out swinging. How many rounds this goes is anybody�s guess. Bush will fight so Rove won�t fall. Congress� sluggers John Conyers, Henry Waxman and Patrick Leahy are lined up to take him on. My bets are on a TKO by the Dems.

If not, you can count America out cold still one more time.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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