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Clinton chutzpah, continued

Posted by Richard on March 15, 2007

Today, Rush Limbaugh echoed practically everything I said in Clinton chutzpah, including the suggestion that Sen. Clinton pledge not to fire any U.S. Attorneys if elected President. He quoted extensively from today's excellent Wall Street Journal editorial, which argued that any inquiry into "the politicization of our prosecutorial system" should call Hillary and her good friend Web Hubbell as the star witnesses:

As everyone once knew but has tried to forget, Mr. Hubbell was a former partner of Mrs. Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who later went to jail for mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also Bill and Hillary Clinton's choice as Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department when Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno–or Mr. Hubbell–gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.

At the time, President Clinton presented the move as something perfectly ordinary: "All those people are routinely replaced," he told reporters, "and I have not done anything differently." In fact, the dismissals were unprecedented: Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.

The Journal noted the troubling connection to the Rostenkowski investigation that I mentioned, but they remembered another potential motive that I'd forgotten:

Also at the time, allegations concerning some of the Clintons' Whitewater dealings were coming to a head. By dismissing all 93 U.S. Attorneys at once, the Clintons conveniently cleared the decks to appoint "Friend of Bill" Paula Casey as the U.S. Attorney for Little Rock. Ms. Casey never did bring any big Whitewater indictments, and she rejected information from another FOB, David Hale, on the business practices of the Arkansas elite including Mr. Clinton. When it comes to "politicizing" Justice, in short, the Bush White House is full of amateurs compared to the Clintons.

And it may be this very amateurism that explains how the current Administration has managed to turn this routine issue of replacing Presidential appointees into a political fiasco. There was nothing wrong with replacing the eight Attorneys, all of whom serve at the President's pleasure. Prosecutors deserve supervision like any other executive branch appointees.

It's not just amateurism and ineptness. I saw Attorney General Gonzales being grilled by George Stephanopoulos, and I heard clips of him being hammered by Matt Lauer. Inept certainly describes his performance in both interviews, but there's a deeper problem, and it's endemic throughout the Republican leadership. When they're attacked by Democrats or especially the media, no matter how unfair or nasty or easily refuted the attack is, the Republicans' first impulse seems to be to cower and grovel. "Please don't hate me! I'm not a bad person, really I'm not!"

Today's Democrats are perpetually outraged. Today's Republicans are perpetually apologetic. 

The Journal went on to describe some of the background to the firings. It sounds like McKay of Washington state and Iglesias of New Mexico should have been sacked long ago. The less clear-cut cases — policy differences over the death penalty, disputed managerial skills, and the like — rate a shrug, followed by "It's the President's call."

When Democrats and the media started trying to make a fuss about these firings, Republicans should have been falling all over each other to call press conferences and get in front of microphones. They should have expressed outrage that Democrats would try to interfere with the President's prerogatives regarding these appointments. They should have been contemptuous of these absurd calls for investigations. They should have cried, "How dare you, Sen. Clinton!"

The current GOP leadership consists primarily of spineless wusses with a Rodney King approach to politics: "Can't we all just get along?" No, we can't. And nobody's going to stand by you if you won't stand up for yourselves.

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