Monday, March 19, 2007

Kudos to Bonnie Erbe

Whenever I try to discuss the US Attorney firings with my Republican friends, I get the "Clinton did it too!" defense, which leaves me having to back up and explain why it's normal for presidents taking office to clean house, but odd when a president kicks out a bunch of people in the middle of a term. And it stinks even more when the firings seem motivated by the desire to kill an investigation into a scandal. The problem is, this usually occurs a few minutes into a contentious conversation and, by then, my dander's up and the trotting out of the Clinton's EEEeeevilll "defense" leaves me sputtering and pissy.

So I want to give U.S. News & World Report's Bonnie Erbe praise for her succinct explanation of the difference between what Clinton did and what the Bushies have done.
Conservative bloggers are trying to portray mainstream media as liberally biased in reporting on this topic for failing to point out that "President Clinton ... fired all the U.S. attorneys upon assuming office." It is routine for an incoming president, whether Democrat or Republican, to clean house, not just in the Justice Department but in all federal agencies upon assuming office. It's even routine when one Republican president takes over from another Republican, as was the case when Bush 41 took over from Reagan. What is not routine is to order large-scale firings in the middle of the same administration.

This is an important clarification that has not received widespread attention. (Emphasis Nitpicker's)
I think I'll write those three sentences down in my Moleskine and the next time this discussion comes up, maybe the script will help me keep the cursing to a minimum.

Erbe's post is also notable for the first traditional media mention of Alberto Gonzales's new nickname, "The Walking Cadaver."

Update: See also this statement from WaPo's Dan Eggen to Deborah Howell.
Bush also got rid of all but one U.S. attorney in 2001, and in both of those cases it was at the beginning of a change in party power, which seems fairly obvious and routine. The issue here is doing a mass firing in the middle of a term, which leads to appearance problems and which is viewed by many as an intrusion on the independence of prosecutors. No one, including the Department of Justice, can cite a time in recent decades when it has happened before.
That's solid, but then Howell goes on to suggest that familial relationships don't have to be disclosed, even when one family member writes an op-ed publicly supporting another. Will they remember that when the most popular president of the last 40 years writes a column supporting some lady named Hillary Clinton?


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