More on a non-scandal

The Washington Post continues to give front-page coverage to what (so far as appears now) is a very slim story — the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, which I discussed here. According to a memo from Attorney General Gonzales’ aide, the goal was to remove “weak U.S. Attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.” The Post points to no evidence (and I’ve seen none) that any of the “gang of eight” didn’t have either performance-related problems or issues relating to failure to pursue administration initiatives. The Post points to no evidence (and I’ve seen none) that the initiatives in question were illegitimate. They appear to consist of prosecuting voter fraud or prosecuting crimes associated with ilegal immigration. Surely, any administration has the right to remove its appointed prosecutors (who serve at the president’s pleasure) if they aren’t aggressive in pursuing types of criminal activity the president considers significant.
In the absence of any real scandal, the Post finds itself talking about how a White House aide used an e-mail account registered to the RNC to communicate about the appointment of a new U.S. attorney in Little Rock. Hold the presses! The Post also notes that Gonzales had a high enough regard for the fired New Mexico U.S. Attorney, a strong performer who apparently lost his job because (allegedly) he wasn’t strong enough on voter fraud crime, that he was willing to serve as a job reference. One can only imagine the Post’s outrage if Gonzales had been so “vindictive” as to refuse to serve as a reference.
The Post is also raising questions about the Attorney General’s failure to know enough about what was going to provide good information to Congress on the subject. This is a legitimate criticism. Gonzales should have been in the loop on any decision-making about firing U.S. Attorneys. But while I’m no big fan of Gonzales, Post columnist Ruth Marcus goes too far in arguing that Gonzales should lose his job over this. Based on what we know so far, the decisions made by the aide to whom Gonzales delegated the task were reasonable ones, so I don’t see how Gonzales can be fired on that basis. As for not getting good information to Congress, Gonzales says his aide didn’t provide complete information. If that’s true, the aide should be removed (and has been), not Gonzales.
UPDATE: Ed Whelan also sees the reaction to the eight dismissals as “curiously overwrought.”
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