Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tidbits from the Gonzales Eight Documents

I'd like some help in refreshing my memory.

Isn't it true that sometime in the not-too-distant past, the presidential practice was to nominate both district judges and US Attorneys following consultation and recommendation with home state senators, even if both senators were members of a political party different from the president? In New York for example, Moynihan and D'Amato had a 3:1 deal, which was that the senator who was not from the president's party would get the call on 1/4 of the vacancies. And if my memory is correct, when did that practice end?

Tidbit #1: (Advise and consent is a joke.) I asked the intro question because I noticed an additional slap at the Senate revealed in the April 13 G8 document production. In the Kyle Sampson list of possible replacements for the G8, all of the names were current employees of main Justice or the White House, intended to be moved out to the districts. That, combined with the Patriot Act provision that allowed interims to be appointed by the AG, rather than by the Chief Judge of the district, exidenced a desire to sidestep even the senators of the president's own party, and to move the political patronage from the senators (who would make their recommendations to the president) to the president alone. In other words, a "loyal Bushie" (from the earlier document production) is someone who comes out of the national Bush political machine, and then gets pushed out into a district, regardless of whether he's got any ties to or experience in the local legal community. And with an interim appointment, there's not even the risk of a senatorial hold on a nomination, because there is no nomination to hold. In the talking points prepared for discussion of the Griffin appointment, the administration argues that while they always consult with home-state senators, and therefore asked Senator Pryor whether he would oppose the nomination, and Pryor told them that he would oppose it. (Arkansas has two Democratic senators -- Pryor and Blanche Lincoln). So, Griffin withdraws his nomination and the Administration wants to appoint him to the interim position. So, as I read it, the Senate's role is, if the Administration's candidate will be confirmed, then they'll submit the nomination. If it won't be confirmed, then they'll appoint the same guy as an interim without Senate confirmation.

Tidbit #2: (Another reason to be a legislative history skeptic). The drafts of the talking points scattered throughout the April 13 dump offer a series of explanations as to why Congress enacted the aforesaid Patriot Act amendment. The entertaining part was that the Justice Department had an explanation for why Congress amended a statute, even though I have yet to hear of a single senator or representative who has owned up to even knowing that the provision was in the bill that he voted for.

Tidbit #3: (Be careful whose school you diss.) Here's a word to the wise. When you're going to do something like, say, fire the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and replace him with one of Karl Rove's guys, don't diss the existing US Attorney or the state that he's going to serve by saying something like, "Mr. Replacement has very strong academic credentials (Hendrix College and Tulane Law School; 'attended' Pembroke College)" while "Mr. Incumbent did not attend top-rated universities (University of Arkansas, Univ of Arkansas Law School)". You see, many of the people of Arkansas attended the University of Arkansas, and are perfectly happy -- indeed proud of -- that school's output. You also shouldn't make that argument when your most recent nominee for the Western District of Arkansas has the Arkansas State/Arkansas Law School credentials.

Tidbit #4: (Don't these people have work to do?) There is a huge number of incompetent DOJ employees engaged in reviewing and re-reviewing their own incomprehensible actions and reactions; to make matters worse, the pointless emails and even more pointless meetings would drive any sane person nuts. This is the Peter Principle in practice.

Tidbit #5: (Truest thing I read.) From Tasia Scolinos' email: "I am concerned we look a little goofy . . . ." Amen to that, brother.

8 comments:

Michael C. Dorf said...

Just a thought about Craig's point 4: This strikes me as much worse than the Peter Principle. Although there are some very talented people in the Bush Administration (albeit ones with whom I disagree on many policy issues) there are also a fair number of people who got their jobs as simple political payoffs. Those people have not been promoted for good performance until they reach a job at which they're incompetent, where they stay (the definition of the Peter Principle). They were selected without regard to competence. I realize that this occurs to some extent in every administration, but my unscientific read of this administration is that it uses political appointments as sinecures for the well-connected to a greater extent than any other (Democratic or Republican) administration in recent years.

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