Trivial pursuit

The Washington Post helps the Democratic party open its latest front in the U.S. attorney non-scandal by shifting focus from who was fired to who was hired. This is even less promising territory — it’s conceivable (though there’s no evidence of this) that a firing might be intended to derail a legitimate investigation and hence to impede justice. It’s more difficult to conjure up an illicit motive in the selection of a new U.S. attorney.
So what’s the Post’s beef? It’s that the Bush administration’s selections have shown “less preference for locals [and] Senators’ choices.” Now that might be a legitimate beef if you’re a Senator. Otherwise, it’s difficult to understand what would be wrong with appointing fewer cronies of Senators and more Justice Department officials who are known to be on board with the administration’s thinking about criminal law enforcement.
Senator Durbin posits that “if the administration rewards you with [a U.S. attorney] position and you come straight from Washington, it’s hard not be grateful, and that gratitude can translate into loyalty to Washington rather than loyalty to the job.” But by Durbin’s reasoning, the gratitude of a U.S. attorney appointed by the president upon the request of the home state Senator might translate into loyalty both to Washington and to the home state Senator. Only “Washington,” though, has responsibility for charting federal law enforcement policy.
The Post also tries to convey the impression that the administration has sacrificed quality for loyalty, stating in the second paragraph that some of the recently appointed ustice Department insiders selected to be U.S. attorneys lack experience as prosecutors. But deeper into the story, one learns that a larger share of Bush appointees have experience as federal prosecutors than those appointed by Bill Clinton.
Does the Post really think that its daily servings of U.S. attorney trivia represent true front page material, or is this just an effort to tout Democratic talking points? I don’t recall anything approaching this sort of drumbeat when Clinton fired virtually all U.S. attorneys after Janet Reno had promised that prosecutors involved in significant investigations (such as the investigation of powerful democrat Dan Rostenkowski) would be allowed to complete them. Nor was much note made of the fact that Clinton’s selection for the Little Rock post was one of his former law students.
Accordingly, I vote for the “Democratic talking points” explanation.
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