Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Bush's Arrogance Continues

There is no humility in George W. Bush. He can feign humility for the cameras but the politics of closed door, behind-the-scenes arrogance is his natural milieu. It makes perfect sense that he wants some of his top aides to testify to Congress behind closed doors, without transcripts and without taking an oath to tell the truth. Bush's comments about fishing expeditions against 'honorable public servants' rings rather hollow if one of the people he is referring to is Karl Rove.

The media shouldn't forget that part of the issue here was a backdoor attempt by the White House to avoid scrutiny by changing the way US Attorneys are appointed. Bush wanted to bypass the Senate so he could fire people who were not political enough for his taste while at the same time making it possible to get administration cronies into US Attorney without being vetted by Congress, a co-equal branch of government if the president would care to remember. Today, the Senate changed that rule back to its original form by a vote of 94-2.

Dan Froomkin of White House Watch had a post this morning well before Bush's defensive press conference and explains why the president is, after all, so defensive:
Last night's 3,000-page Justice Department document dump, still dribbling out into the public domain, appears to be a much more carefully screened release than the smaller but newsier one last week.

In barely acknowledging the White House role in the highly controversial, possibly politically-motivated firing of eight U.S. attorneys, these new documents may best be described as a lot of chaff, intended to deflect attention from evidence in the previous dump that the purge originated at the White House, was executed by the White House, and was extensively discussed with White House aides.

Froomkin is probably right that Monday night's document dump was much more screened than the first one. And yet, more issues keep getting raised. Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly points out two problems:
...DOJ hasn't released any documents from prior to the purge showing how they judged the performance of the folks they were firing. All we have is a summary document from after the purge, where DOJ apparatchiks are tripping over themselves trying to figure out just what those reasons were. But of course, that doesn't make sense. If they had really had firm, irreproachable reasons for firing the "USA-8," they would have just dug up the old memos that spelled out those reasons and transferred them to the summary sheet. Or maybe just released the original memos themselves. Instead they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off.


...the five firings with the weakest official explanations are the same five prosecutors who have been suspected of being either too tough on Republican corruption cases or too weak on Democratic ones. You can't very well put that on your summary sheet, though, which probably explains why the DOJies had trouble coming up with good reasons for firing them. The dots are practically begging to be connected here.

So where are the original memos explaining beforehand why the eight were fired, including the five with the weakest case for firing? I'm sure we can expect some classic stonewalling by an administration that didn't count on being caught redhanded.

Finally, Truthout has an article by Robert L. Borosage that bluntly lays out the case against the Bush Administration and their conservatives friends:
...conservatives are acutely aware that they represent a minority, not a majority, position in America. From Nixon to Lee Atwater to Karl Rove, they play politics and exploit America's divides with back-alley brass knuckles-from Reagan's welfare queen to Bush's impugning the patriotism of Georgia Senator Max Cleland, a Vietnam War hero who literally sacrificed his limbs in the service of his country. They excel in the politics of personal destruction, as Democratic presidential candidates Michael Dukakis and John Kerry discovered. And in the grand tradition of the establishment in American politics, they are relentless in seeking to suppress the vote, particularly of the poor and minorities who would vote against them in large numbers.

Gonzales' imbroglio is a direct expression of this. At its core is the run-up to the 2006 elections with the Republicans under siege for the most corrupt Congress ever. The White House and Republican politicians grew exercised at Republican prosecutors who they considered too lax in exposing potential Democratic corruption, too avid in pursuing Republican crimes or too slow in prosecuting reports of "voter fraud," the GOP code for using investigations to disrupt minority registration and get out the vote programs, and to intimidate wary black and Latino voters. Justice was ranking U.S. attorneys based on whether they were "loyal Bushies."

The axing of David C. Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, is the archetype. With New Mexico up for grabs, Iglesias was being pressured directly and shamelessly by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and Mickey Barnett, the attorney representing the Bush campaign in New Mexico to hustle up indictments on alleged incidents of voter fraud. (Iglesias found no evidence of any program designed to influence an election.) Vulnerable Rep. Heather Wilson lobbied him to bring indictments against state Democratic officials before the election to help make the point that when it comes to corruption, everyone does it. When Iglesias refused to respond, he was targeted despite glowing performance reviews. The firings took place as an object lesson for U.S .attorneys headed into the donnybrook that will be the 2008 election. As Iglesias put it , "main Justice was up to its eyeballs in partisan political maneuvers."

Everyone does it. That was Nixon's excuse but, as John Dean has pointed out, the current abuses emanating from the White House are worse than Watergate. Perhaps Borosage puts things more bluntly than some people would prefer. Nevertheless, we have never seen anything quite like the Bush Administration.

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