Monday, April 09, 2007


The coming Justice Department disaster

by Kagro X

How deep are we in it over the politicization of the Justice Department (and probably others) under the Bush "administration?"

Way deep.

This is a planned disaster. A burning of all bridges and a scorching of all escape routes. In other words, the routine Republican m.o.: destroy all paths back to the status quo, so that even if our theories don't pan out, nobody can pull them out by the roots -- they can only tinker with the ruins.

The invaluable Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe (he of the "signing statements" reportage) has a new blockbuster on the role played by Pat Robertson's Regent University in the politicization of the federal government bureaucracy, and specifically the Department of Justice.

Josh Marshall David Kurtz gives us the key paragraph and what it means:

Sadly, I think the politicization of the Department of Justice is going to turn out to be even worse than we may have thought initially. The Boston Globe has a long piece today on Regent University, alma mater of Monica Goodling and scores of other Bush Administration appointees. Here's the part that indicates how long the politicization has been going on and how deeply ingrained it may now be in the department:

Their path to employment was further eased in late 2002, when John Ashcroft, then attorney general, changed longstanding rules for hiring lawyers to fill vacancies in the career ranks.

Previously, veteran civil servants screened applicants and recommended whom to hire, usually picking top students from elite schools.

Emptywheel draws a bead on Regent U. grad Monica Goodling's activities:

I hate to keep harping on this point. But it seems pretty damn likely that Monica Goodling was right at the center of the inappropriate politicization of career DOJ employees.

You see, I think it highly likely that one of the reasons Goodling is pleading the Fifth is because she caused Paul McNulty to commit perjury. But another reason--a much bigger one, given the centrality of the politicization of DOJ hiring to the scandal surrounding the USA purge, is because she committed regular violations of the laws in place to prevent the politicization of our career employees.

And to complete the tag-team, Atrios:

[The next] president is not only going to have to deal with this disaster in Iraq, but also a federal government which has been staffed from top to bottom with career ideological Bushies who will fully understand that their job in a Democratic administration is to take it down.

I wrote earlier about this unfolding scandal that Bush, Rove and Gonzales have now done for the prosecution of public corruption what they've done for impeachment. That is, just as they've made it conventional wisdom to immediately reject the idea of impeachment out of hand as "partisan revenge for Clinton," or "political tit for tat," now so too will the investigation of public corruption cases be subject to such summary dismissal.

The long term effects of this scandal are incalculable. At a time when Republicans are accused of engaging in rampant and systematic public corruption, Rove, Bush and Gonzales have succeeded in making corruption investigations into the same sort of partisan joke that Republicans made impeachment. And as their crimes come to light in the closing days of their "administration" and into the next, they may well have made it impossible for a Democratic successor to actually pursue justice on behalf of the American people, since any such effort will undoubtedly -- and with a lack of shame that shocks the conscience -- be labeled as "partisan revenge."

It now seems that the Monica Goodlings of this "administration" have been planting partisan "sleeper cells" among the career civil service ranks -- the very positions that are supposed to be non-partisan and are therefore protected in their tenure by law. What this means is that the DoJ and other agencies of the executive branch are filled with people who understand that their role in the next Democratic administration -- which will be prohibited by law from rooting them out and firing them for political reasons -- is, as Atrios says, to take that administration down from the inside.

The only way to rid ourselves of them now may be... to conduct what the false-equivalency merchants of conservative media will compare to exactly the type of politically-motivated purge that the Republicans have been conducting, and for which we now condemn them. And if it happens, expect more "pox on both their houses!" spin -- after all, conservatives want Americans to believe that government is the source of all their problems.

What message does this send to current career civil service employees hired during the Bush years? That the thoroughgoing corruption of this "administration" has made them suspect, even though they may still be overwhelmingly non-partisan and unconnected with the Bush cabal. Could otherwise well-meaning and innocent civil servants go down for the Bush Gang's crimes? It seems certain that at least some will come under scrutiny, and of course, nothing would please the Bush junta more than to see innocent bystanders pay for their transgressions in their stead.

What's the best way to avoid such a fate? One way that comes to mind is this: If you're a career civil servant and you have evidence of Bush "administration" wrongdoing in your department, start getting ready to offer it up to Congressional investigators. And if you don't have it in hand yet, start looking for it.

And Congress? You're going to need to step up with more and better whistle blower protections for these folks if you expect to ever be able to put this right.

Absent some overt declaration now that things have gone completely haywire within the executive branch -- and impeachment comes to mind here -- the next Democrat to win the White House will be unable to reestablish control over the executive without falling into this trap.

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