Friday, March 30, 2007

U.S. Attorney Firings Not Politically Smart in the Long Term

John Podhoretz has be pretty good description of this "scandal" that most Americans could care less about.
In pursuit of a short-term political benefit, Democrats are in danger of establishing a ruinous new standard in American politics - one they'll come to regret and rue when they take the White House again.

They're contending, in effect, that the president and his staff should not have untrammeled authority to fire political appointees.

By inflating the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys into a major political scandal with the suggestion that the act of dismissing them is a scandal demanding congressional oversight, they're creating a new political reality.

The American people - or whatever fragment of them is paying attention to the matter - surely now thinks that the president had no right to fire these attorneys and that he probably acted in an illegitimate way by doing so.

The longer this goes on, the easier it will be for pseudoscandals to be ginned up in the future whenever a certain type of official working in the executive branch is removed from his job.

That's just wrong - as a matter of law, of policy and of the proper functioning of our constitutional system.

What is a "political appointee"? The term refers to the tiny number of employees in the federal government. There were 2,876 political appointees in 2005; they comprise a tenth of one percent of the 2.72 million federal-government employees. They range in power from the secretary of State to a secretary working in the West Wing.
Thus the danger of political witchhunts. This includes the GOP when they do the same thing. If Congress is going to make a big deal out of the inner workings of the executive branch, they need to make sure that there is a real reason for it and not "politics." And the firing of political appointees, however ineptly handled is not an issue to be pursued for short term political gain.

Could Congress reform the manner in which U.S. Attorney's are nomiated and hired? Sure, and a term limit or for cause dimissal clause might not be a bad idea. But this investigation is going to be remembered and woe unto the Democratic president who does something similar.

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