Alberto Gonzales after becoming the
U.S. Attorney General.
Blawgletter doesn’t pretend to know the ins and outs of relations between U.S. Attorneys and the Attorney General, but we’ve always assumed a high degree of independence. Practically every U.S. Attorney, in Blawgletter’s experience, has distinguished himself or herself in criminal matters, preferably as a trial lawyer or judge. So one must take Blawgletter’s thoughts — coming as they do from a source largely ignorant of prosecuting criminal cases — with a big grain of salt.
We learned in law school that tremendous power lay in the hands of government prosecutors. They enjoy wide discretion in which cases to pursue, what charges to bring, and how much punishment to request. Their credibility within the legal profession ranks at the top among lawyers, judges, and civilians, including jurors — not least because their job requires them to seek justice.
So what should we make of the ongoing flap about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys? Blawgletter doesn’t share the naivete of those who charge the octet’s cashierings as a purely political maneuver. Presidential appointments of U.S. Attorneys always involve an element of politics. Scratch just about any U.S. Attorney, and you will find a lawyer whose previous behavior suggests political compatibility with the appointing president. The political dimension should surprise no one.
Yet the timing and circumstances of the late sackings do raise red flags. Why now? Why these specific eight? Why these particular replacements? Why the end-run around Senate approval?
Blawgletter will leave the task of illuminating us with answers to others. But the elevation of one political loyalist, Tim Griffin, to the U.S. Attorney post in Little Rock, Arkansas, may deserve special attention. Didn’t the Clintons live in Arkansas for a number of years, and didn’t the Whitewater investigation focus (at first) on their activities in the state? Didn’t Griffin work for Karl Rove, the political strategist, and the Republican National Committee? And hasn’t ex-Little Rocker Hillary Clinton announced a bid for the presidency in 2008?
Perhaps nothing overtly political will come of Mr. Griffin’s appointment, without the Senate’s consent, to a powerful position in Mrs. Clinton’s former adoptive state. For the sake of the high regard we have for U.S. Attorneys as a group, dare we hope?