Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brooks on the U.S. attorney firings today

Do I find myself in partial agreement with David Brooks today? Strangely, yes. In "A Proper Distinction", Brooks points out a key aspect of this political controversy:
But the word “political” in this context has two meanings, one philosophic, one partisan. The prosecutors are properly political when their choices are influenced by the policy priorities of elected officeholders. If the president thinks prosecutors should spend more time going after terrorists, prosecutors should follow his lead.

But prosecutors are improperly political if they bow to pressure to protect members of the president’s party or team. Most would agree that Harry Truman was being improperly political when he tried to block the reappointment of Maurice Milligan, a U.S. attorney investigating the Pendergast political machine in Missouri.
Just as, Brooks points out later in his column, it was improper for Bush to have fired David Iglesias, who was clearly the object of partisan efforts to influence his prosecutions. Brooks thinks Carol Lam was properly removed, however. I will respectfully disagree for now pending the investigation and based on my inability at this stage of the Bush administration to continue to give these people the benefit of the doubt.

Brooks takes a shot at Gonzales:
But what’s striking in reading through the Justice Department e-mail messages is that senior people in that agency seem never to have thought about the proper role of politics in their decision-making. They reacted like chickens with their heads cut off when this scandal broke because they could not articulate the differences between a proper political firing and an improper one.

Moreover, they had no coherent sense of honor. Alberto Gonzales apparently never communicated a code of conduct to guide them as they wrestled with various political pressures. That’s a grievous failure of leadership.
And he takes a shot at Bush as well:
And the White House, instead of trying to restore some proportion, has picked a fight over a transcript. The president says he will allow White House staff to appear before Congress, but not in public, not under oath and not with a transcript. The president apparently expects his supporters to rally behind the sacred cause of No Transcript. In time of war, he’s decided to expend political capital so that his staffers can lie to Congress without legal consequences.
My, my. Brooks is presuming Bush staffers will lie? That's pretty amazing. Do you have some special insight here, Dave?

Where I disagree...Brooks goes on to engage in his typical Democrat slagging. He writes of Gonzales' spectacular failure of leadership and admits, at the very least, that Iglesias was improperly fired...yet the Democrats are engaging in "bad behavior" for investigating...!