Political patronage in the Justice Department? Who'da thunk?
Believe it or not, this does not overly concern me. In an administration as overtly partisan and hostile to Democrats and moderates (they call them "liberals" to boot!) as the Bush administration, there are bigger fish to fry than whether a few summer interns were passed over for less qualified candidates because Daddy gave to the wrong party.
WASHINGTON - Scores of highly credentialed young lawyers and law students were denied interviews for coveted positions at the Justice Department because of an illegal screening process that took political and ideological views and affiliations into account rather than merit, Justice Department investigators concluded in a report released Tuesday.
In 2006, some applicants for sought-after jobs in the department's honors program and summer intern program were rejected because they were members of the American Constitution Society or Planned Parenthood or because they expressed concern about gender discrimination in the military, the report found.
Other students or graduates who were brushed aside included a University of Alabama law graduate, ranked sixth in the class, who had written a paper on the detention of aliens under the USA Patriot Act, a Yale Law School graduate who was fluent in Arabic and a Georgetown law student who had worked for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign.
In another case, a Harvard Law student was passed over after criticizing the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
What we SHOULD be focusing on is that party ideology became so blatant as to create an atmosphere that forced even Republicans already working for the DoJ to deny their own sense of equity and equanimity and tow a biased and unfair politicized agenda.
It's one thing to seek out an agenda-driven department, Presidents do that all the time, even with "nonpartisan" panels, it is another thing entirely to treat a department of professionals like it was just another commando unit in a far greater army of oppression and injustice.
When your own partisans, in other words, think something is a bad idea, rather than dispose of them, it might make sense to keep even their timid and modest objections in mind when fomenting policies and executing same. Just a thought, altho this administration is long on tales of people forced out, Colin Powell and John O'Neill being the marquee names, for moderation in anything.
You get bad apples in all administration and the truth is, Alberto Gonzalez was an unabashed failure as Attorney General of the United States. This is just another example of his fraudulent oversight of the department.
But keep in mind, as Joe Conason points out, that Gonzalez used the tool made available to him by someone who ought to know better, Arlen Specter:
Specter, by dint of his politically moderate (in Republican perspective, dangerously liberal) positions, was forced to accept a situation whereby he had to genuflect to the more adamantine hearts of his oberfuhren.
But that wholesome safeguard was breached in December 2005, when the Senate renewed the Patriot Act. At the behest of the Justice Department, an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter slipped a provision into the bill that permitted the White House to place its own appointees in vacant U.S. attorney positions permanently and without Senate confirmation. So silently was this sleight of hand performed that Specter himself now claims, many months later, to have been completely unaware of the amendment's passage. (Of course, it would be nice if the senators actually read the legislation before they voted, particularly when they claim to be the authors.)
The staffer who reportedly performed this bit of dirty work is Michael O'Neill, a law professor at George Mason University and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As the Washington Times explained when O'Neill was appointed as the Senate Judiciary Committee's chief counsel, many observers believed that Specter had hired him to reassure conservatives of his loyalty to the Bush White House. Right-wing distrust had almost ousted the Pennsylvania moderate from the Judiciary chairmanship, and appointing O'Neill was apparently the price for keeping that post.
Evidently O'Neill rewarded Specter by sneaking through legislation to deprive him and his fellow senators of one of their most important powers, at the behest of an attorney general intent on aggrandizing executive power. The results of this backstage betrayal -- now playing out in a wave of politicized dismissals and hirings -- were perfectly predictable and utterly poisonous.
(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)
Labels: Alberto Gonzales, Bush Administration, Congress, U.S. Justice Department