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May 23, 2007


but I didn't hear anyone ask the follow-up question

Congressfolk are *terrible* questioners. They should be able, and encouraged, to delegate the function to a lawyer who knows what the hell he's doing.

But of course, that would cut into their screen time.

Your question "how did a 33 year old with no qualifications other than tidiness end up with hiring and firing power over important career prosecutors?" reminds me of this insight which I will give you freely.

When I was at (very big name university) 25 years ago there were some very plum student internships and awards for people that were being given out by some (very big name) people. As it turned out, much to my shock, one of those awards went to a not very bright but extremely agressive young woman I knew who simply slept with the guy giving out the awards. I was shocked--not in an anti woman kind of way, since I am a woman, but in a "but..but...but the award was so prestigious, so significant, so meaningful..." kind of way. I remember saying to a good friend how shocked I was that something so important had been given away for something so trivial (sex) and my friend looked at me pityingly and said "but the award is only important in your eyes. The sex is important to the guy giving out the award."

Ditto here. YOu and I might think that the whole idea of an indendent justice department, of career justice people who have served their time and know the ropes, of the organic unity of the DOJ, of non partisanship, etc...etc...is important--more important than offering hack jobs to hacks and letting them hack their way through the bureaucracy to make more jobs for hacks like them. But you'd be wrong. From the point of view of the monica goodlings of the world and their employers there is nothing more important than patronage appointments and screwing around with the department of justice. That's not a flaw, thats a feature. And while you don't *have* to put a 33 year old jumped up secretary in there to do it, there's no reason not to.


Sometimes it appears to me that stupidity in Bush or Gonzales is just a convenient cover for ignoring crimes after they have been committed. No one in the United States could reasonably believe that Gonzales really forgot everything when brought to testify. No one could sensibly believe that no one had anything to do with Karl Rove's war against fake voting fraud problems.

So far, it appears that Goodling has conned Congress. She got her get-out-of-jail-free card but hasn't paid off the way she implied she would. Was Congress so willing to get her on the stand that they never found out in advance what she was going to say? Have they learned nothing from Iran-Contra?

Let us hope that the House regroups or the Senate actually asks serious questions. From what we have seen so far, it would be preferable to have Ms. Goodling looking at criminal prosecution rather than give her immunity while she prattles on about little.

So far, it appears that Goodling has conned Congress.

yep. and she's going to become a welcome distraction for Bush and AbuGonzo.

Re: Goodling conned Congress--As I understand it, her offer of immunity only applies to stuff she's already done; if she lies under oath during the hearings, she can still be punished for that. Of course, that would depend on catching her in a lie, which would require better questioning...

i agree with this re big picture. i had the hearing on this morning too,a nd i have to say i was fairly impressed with her. she was calm, collected, and most critically, likeable. i think she was smarter and better prepared than most of the people asking her questions.

i think some of that is house/senate differences. senate staffs often have better people, and get better prepared.

but, it's also clear that her strategy was to shift everything away from her and onto mcnulty and sampson

I think she's been a pretty effective witness, clearly coming off a lot better than her former boss.

She may be holding back a little, but she certainly comes off as being honest. I suspect that the truth is that she doesn't actually know who put the names on the list.

And knowing how to give questions that are not fully responsive

A nitpick, I think you mean "answers" instead of "questions" above.

When I worked for IBM, we called this "wordsmithing". Say you get an RFP (or RFQ or RFB) that has some requirements that your stuff doesn't do. If you are honest and admit your failing, you don't get the bid. So you parse the requirement and your solution very carefully, and make it sound as though you are (a) answering the question and (b) your stuff just might fulfill the requirement.

For anyone who has spent some time in technical marketing, it becomes second nature to look carefully at what was asked and what was answered, and not just at work. English is surprisingly difficult to use unambiguously, and politicians are famous for their use of that quality.

I'm a bit surprised that our congressmen haven't figured out how that game works when they are on the receiving end of it, assuming they really want to.

CW explains how IBM got its evil reputation. Thanks for sharing!

(I'm a lawyer, so trust me, no snark intended.)

I'm sorry, but she just batted her eyes at the men on that committee and the Repubs just melted. It's very hard to be stern with such a pretty lil gal--the questioner comes off as a jerk for the most part. They should have given the examination responsibilities to someone, such as one of the fired US Attys, who knows how to conduct cross examination and let them go on w/o time limits and w/ no grandstanding. Iglesias or McKay could have done a great number on her w/o coming down hard at all. Just sayin'

I think Dalia Lithwick, in a surprisingly positive review on "Talk of the Nation," described Goodling as "everybody's daughter." A good persona, if you can get it.

Putting her in any such position seems to me to be roughly on a par with putting me on an NBA team: it would draw on few of her strengths and expose all of her weaknesses.

If your team played zone, it might mitigate some of those weaknesses.

One word about specialized ideological schools like Regent. They might not be very selective on the whole (Regent is fourth tier in the US News rankings), but they will also attract a disproportionate number of people who have the pure talent to get into better schools but turn them down for the opportunity to support an ideologically like-minded institution.

Interesting that so many of you commented on how likable Goodling is. I didn't see that. I saw a perky young woman who irritated me so much I wanted to slap her silly.

And where did she get her law degree, out of a Crackerjack box? In talking about rejecting potential career attorneys because they were Democrats, she said, "I believe I crossed the line, but I didn’t mean to." Right. Sure. Those fingers just accidentally started Googling the potential hires. She just accidentally asked them who were their favorite Supreme Court justices; she meant to ask them what their favorite ice cream flavor was.

JP: You don't know the weaknesses in question.

Fact: I went out for basketball in high school, having always loved sports, even though I was miserable at all of them. My senior year, the coach pulled me aside a few days before he announced who would make the team, and said: we never cut seniors, but I should tell you that if you decide to stay on the team, we won't be able to play you in any game, or in any practice scrimmage, and practice scrimmages will take up about 45 minutes out of every hour.

This made me mad -- this was high school, for heavens' sake, and not a very athletic high school at that. So of course I stayed on the team. The coach was as good as his word, and I spent most of every practice sitting on the bench, reading.

And -- this is the kicker -- there were 11 girls on the team. So the scrimmages were 5 on one side, 5 on the other, and me. All season long.

There is no defense not involving extra people that could compensate for me.

"Sometimes, by dint of doing all their previous jobs well, people do work their way out of all the jobs that draw on their strengths, and find themselves promoted to a level for which they are completely unsuited, and at which their weaknesses suddenly stand exposed."

This used to be known as the Peter Principle.

Anderson: "Congressfolk are *terrible* questioners. They should be able, and encouraged, to delegate the function to a lawyer who knows what the hell he's doing."

They are able to so delegate to committee counsel. Look back on the work Bobby Kennedy did on the Senate Labor Rackets Committee investigations into Jimmy Hoffa, interrogating witnesses on camera, or how Fred Thompson first came to public attention.

Interesting story. I suppose it could be used to explain a few things...

Sadly, it looks like you are still sitting on the bench. Alteast with respect to the "Culture of Corruption"

Then again, maybe you have been promoted from benchwarmer to cheerleader.


It wouldn't take long with someone like Monica to gauge her strengths and weaknesses. I believe the head of USG hiring at the time had been a senior administrator at Regent University and may have known her from her four years there. Barbara Comstock and Tim Griffin also had direct experience supervising her.

It seems clear Monica was a known commodity and picked precisely because of her weaknesses by those who wanted to use them to achieve ends without being seen to do that. Her religious zealotry and idiosyncratic version of what to be loyal to suggested that she wouldn't reveal who those people were, even if she connected the dots.

She was careful to say she would pay her own legal costs, which given Akin Gump's billing practices, will be astronomical. She would establish a legal defense fund in future, from which we are to assume that i) she accepted no illegal gifts while still at the DOJ, and ii) Akin Gump hasn't yet sent her a bill. I wonder if Dowd's partner, Ken Mehlman, knows who might contribute to Monica's "help pay my lawyers" fund?

My read of Ms. Monica is that she's the bureaucrat from hell. Smiles up, defecates down, remembers every favor or slight since she was three. A subspecies many of us have worked with or around.

Her mini-me-mouse voice seems geared to taming the testosterone of Washington Congress Critters, an effect I suspect she's honed to perfection over many years. It's not that one shouldn't use all the talents God or chance have given one, it's the purposes she puts them to that rankles.

The written record on her suggests a woefully inexperienced, modestly bright, ambitious zealot to whom someone knowingly and secretly gave responsibility light years beyond her ability to use it wisely.

I suspect that all that perky efficiency hides an irrationality that could bring an otherwise well functioning office to its knees. And has. The secrecy intentionally violated the rules about how to make bureaucracies run efficiently. It blindsided every staff member who worked with her. Now they know it, and are wondering what else they don't know. They're also working with fewer qualified managers, fewer leaders and lawyers whose example they could learn from. Consequently, and almost certainly by design, the House of Justice is dispensing a lot less justice.

(1) Don't mince words. Goodling was a fantastic witness today. She was believable and earnest without being overly-eager to plant the knife in the backs of people that would likely do the same to her, given the chance.

(2) Her honesty will probably put the breaks on the inquisition about "improper questioning of career" attorneys, and will be used as capital to go after Iglesias et al. Her credibility will work to the disadvantage of the higher-ups.

(3) Also don't kid yourself, Artur Davis got to her at the end. What a fantastic prosecutor that guy must have been. In the last 4:30 he got her to admit, more or less, that it looks like AGAG lied when he said he didn't speak with other fact witnesses about the contested events. That is going to hurt him, bad.

Moe read my mind. I saw Iglesias, McKay and one of the other fired guys on cspan last weekend doing a q&a panel at a college out west. I wouldn't want Iglesias coming after me. He's one tough cookie. He would have done a shred job on her.

So far, it appears that Goodling has conned Congress. She got her get-out-of-jail-free card but hasn't paid off the way she implied she would.

As if the DoJ would prosecute her for anything prior to 1/2009.

If anything, the Bush DoJ would love to make noises about prosecuting her so that she would think twice about spilling the beans. They did mutter somewhat before deciding not to oppose the Congressional immunity request.

I don't think she was advertised in any way as to what she would say.

I have no opinion on the truthfulness or sincerity of her testimony, but giving her use immunity was the way to go. She is trivial anyway in the grand scheme of bad behavior, and she is the sort of person to whom you provide immunity in order to learn more.

She is only making Gonzalez et al look worse. That is the whole political point behind the investigation -- to show the full stink in how they have been running the DoJ.

The questioning by House and Senate committees is called oversight, as anyone who could vote before Mr. Bush came to office might remember. It is less of an inquisition than, say, what happens when you say, "No" to Mr. Cheney or disagree with an outrageous legal position proposed by Mr. Yoo or Mr. Addington.

Monica was effective, but hardly hesitant about sticking a shiv into McNulty, which she did in her opening statement and in her testimony, in case it didn't draw blood the first time.

The admissions she did make, such as the one about her conversation with 'Fredo, were damning, as was her pert & perky version of how she helped politicize the DOJ.

Last time you had a speeding ticket or paid a penalty for making a late payment on your credit card bill or your real estate taxes, I bet they just smiled when you said you tried to follow the law, but just stepped over the line 'cause you didn't know where it was. Just because Monica wants pretty please to get away with it, and says it with a Breck smile and squeaky girlish voice, doesn't mean she should.

I think Dalia Lithwick, in a surprisingly positive review on "Talk of the Nation," described Goodling as "everybody's daughter." A good persona, if you can get it.
Posted by: Jackmormon | May 23, 2007 at 05:31 PM

I heard the same show…I think Dalia Lithwick embarrassed herself by focusing that analysis on the aesthetics of the event instead of the content. The Professor from Pepperdine was happy to focus on Goodling’s “sweet suburban demeanor,” as well.

Thank God Murray Waas and Richard Ugelow stopped the beauty show analysis.

Monica Goodling Testifies

I hadn't noticed this">http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/23/AR2007052301446_pf.html">this detail until now:

Asked about her previous experience making personnel decisions, Goodling began her answer by noting that she was student body president in college.
Milbank puts the shiv in.

Good summary here:

[...] How many job applicants did she block because of political leanings? "I wouldn't be able to give you a number." Did she ask aspiring civil servants whom they voted for? "I may have." Did she screen applicants for career prosecutor jobs so that Republicans landed in those positions? "I think that I probably did." How many times? "I don't think that I could have done it more than 50 times, but I don't know." She further admitted that she "occasionally" researched career applicants' political affiliations and checked their political donations.
Remember, this is all perfectly normal, so if President Hillary Clinton were to do it, that would be fine.

I think Dalia Lithwick embarrassed herself by focusing that analysis on the aesthetics of the event instead of the content.

I enjoy reading Lithwick, but that's pretty much her modus operandi ...

It was a surprise to me. Dalia Lithwick usually has a sharp eye...she was swept up in the drama, I guess.

Remember, this is all perfectly normal, so if President Hillary Clinton were to do it, that would be fine.

President Bill Clinton did do some of this, and it was fine. As the ObWi gang have pointed out, the Prez is SUPPOSED to create agencies that reflect his policy views. So hiring mostly from your own party is not so bad, and it's likely to result from policy-specific screening for some jobs, including prosecutor, even if you never ask people what their party is. The real point is, a) not to do patronage (e.g., hiring people because they contributed to campaigns), and b) not to have the agencies carry out PARTISAN missions. It's a subtle difference, but I suspect most actual voters can understand it if it's repeated often enough.

trilobite: one crucial distinction is that while it's OK to consider politics when you're making political appointments, it's not OK when you're making appointments to the career civil service. That was the very bright line that Monica Goodling crossed.

Maybe Lithwick meant they were too easy on her.

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