« Still More Lobbyists ... | Main | "Unless A Soldier Has A Personal Fortune ..." »

June 24, 2008

Comments

Criminalization of politics! Criminalization of politics! Criminalization of politics!

To really understand the significance of all of this, some comparison is in order. I would like to see some description of the credentials of the persons selected instead of these tope graduates. I wonder if anything like that is included in the report.

Apparently, there was also some convenient document destruction.

sophie brown: go here, and scroll down to the second chart. The IG applied criteria for "highly qualified" candidates across the board, and then checked to see how many identifiably liberal, identifiably conservative, and not identifiably anything candidates got approved. There's quite a pattern.

There's a similar chart for 2006 on p. 60 of the report (link above, in post.) Of 31 liberal candidates rated 'highly qualified', 6 were given interviews, and 25 were not (81% rejected.) Of 7 highly qualified conservatives, 6 was given an interview and 1 was not (17% rejected.) Of people whose affiliation couldn't be ascertained, 154 were given interviews, 77 were not (33% rejected.)

"Highly qualified", here, means: candidates attended a top 20 law school, were in the top 20 percent of their respective classes, or were at a school that did not rank students, unless they had a C on their transcripts.

Cue some guy explaining that he "can't see what all the fuss is about" and "you guys are making a mountain out of a mole hill" and also, my personal favorite "bet you guys did that stuff too, all the time" or "clenis!" followed by "and Obama is going to do it too, but in reverse, so there!" in 5...4...3...2...

aimai

Cue some guy explaining that he "can't see what all the fuss is about" and "you guys are making a mountain out of a mole hill" and also, my personal favorite "bet you guys did that stuff too, all the time" or "clenis!" followed by "and Obama is going to do it too, but in reverse, so there!" in 5...4...3...2...

aimai

This was widely assumed to be going on when I graduated from law school & applied in 2005. I deliberately left the most obvious red flags ("Law students for Howard Dean," the title of my thesis, etc.) off my application, did my best not to say anything revealing during my interview, etc. But I'd had all kinds of non profit experience, was on the human rights journal, & did the asylum clinic in law school; I figured it was pretty obvious that I was liberal. And if they'd run a Google search on me they would've found an article on torture outsourcing calling Alberto Gonzales a liar. I was surprised to get an interview, entertained the idea that they were just screwing with me (the interview was scheduled the day after election day 2004), and was downright shocked to get hired.

Later on, I figured this was because I worked for the immigration courts, which does one year hires only & is less prestigious and worlds apart from Main Justice. Also, a large majority of people who have immigration experience in law school get it by working in a clinic representing asylum seekers so if you screen them out you're really going to have a hard time finding qualified candidates. But I see from this report that this isn't true--it says in a footnote that half of the immigration courts' applicants were deselected in 2006. So if I'd graduated one year later there's basically no possible way I would have slipped past Elston.

Katherine: the report also says that there was a lot of political interference in 2002 and (especially) 2006, but not much in 2003-5.

What's weird is that this got started in 2002, basically stopped in 2003-2005, and then started back up in 2006. I can see how things got going in 2006 with Gonzo in charge, but what was up in 2002? Anyone have any thoughts?

There was some early bad press on this in January 2003; maybe they cut it out for the next few years as a result, until Gonzales took over & it was full speed ahead.

I can see how things got going in 2006 with Gonzo in charge, but what was up in 2002? Anyone have any thoughts?

The administration was at the peak of its powers and popularity then, looking expand its majorities in congress, lay the foundation for a war, and set the stage for a "permanent Republican majority." I imagine that's when many of what we'll discover were the worst excesses took place.

When I was going to law school in the late 1990s I was told that the Federalist Society on my resume would mean I could not get hired by a Democratic DOJ. That may have been a rumor (I certainly have no basis beyond rumor on that), but does anyone have comparable statistics from say 1996?

This is (or was) an insanely prestigious program, not some glorified resume-building exercise. I was Top 1/3 but not top 20% (and no law review) from a top 5 law school and was told there was absolutely no way I'd get hired and not to even bother applying. That was during the Clinton Administration when, apparently, merit was more of a concern.

One of my law school profs did the honors program at OLC under Clinton & said that most of his fellow hires were liberals & there was a lot of turnover between administration; that it probably wasn't a total coincidence or a bad thing in an office whose work was so important for policy, but that he thought it was pretty different in other divisions. There's also a certain amount of self selection--I had no desire to work in the environmental division on not enforcing environmental laws; I had no desire to work in the civil rights division based on what it had become; I had no desire to work in the office that argues for deportation on appeal.

Both years where this investigation found the biggest effect, political appointees had a newly enhanced role in selection, which they'd never had under Clinton. I doubt there are statistics in the absence of an investigation; the DOJ hiring office would not normally be formally categorizing resumes by partisan or ideological affiliation.

Aimai: Cue some guy explaining that he "can't see what all the fuss is about" and "you guys are making a mountain out of a mole hill" and also, my personal favorite "bet you guys did that stuff too, all the time" or "clenis!" followed by "and Obama is going to do it too, but in reverse, so there!" in 5...4...3...2...

If substantiated, this is awful and the folks involved should be canned up and down the line. This is wrong. And then, it’s pretty wrong. Then, it sucks, and it’s stupid and self defeating. Then, it is just plain wrong. And dumb. And really really wrong.

Oh yeah, Clenis!

Sebastian - As you note, you have no way of knowing whether you'd be hired by a Democratic Administration - assuming your qualifications were otherwise impeccable.

However, I don't think there can be any doubt that rejecting Rhodes Scholars and the top 10% law school graduates in favor of graduates from third-rate schools like Liberty University resulted in a qualitative as well as ideological degradation of expertise at DoJ.

Two hours in, Sebastian is the first to raise the "Democrats do this too" objection, although at least in the form of a question.

Just more Republican lawbreaking.

The underlying lesson is that when lawbreaking does not result in significant consequences, then there is no law. These guys measure what they can get away with in relation to the printed rules, and if they can get away with it, the printed rules has no particular relevance.

This is "criminalization of politics" only because so many are willing to break the laws that govern their conduct. This is not strictly a right-left thing, but then again, no Democratic President ever said "but if the President does it, then it is not illegal."

@Sebastian: As Katherine said, the biggest difference between this administration's behavior wrt these programs and and previous admins is that previously it was career people making the hires. The role of political appointees in the process under this administration is unprecedented, period, and flatly illegal.

They didn't just make politicized decisions on the basis of the resumes, either; they went hunting for ideological deviation.

Now cue the screaming from the right should anyone suggest that any of these civil service employees, who were hired illegaly (for their political views rather than their professional qualifications), ought to be removed.

Seb: I don't think there are comparable figures, but the report claims that the hiring was done by career people prior to 2002. And since in 1996, you'd have 4 years of hiring under a Democratic administration, but an awful lot of career people hired during the previous 12 years of Republicans, I imagine it couldn't have been that skewed.

That said, I also take Katherine's point: there are some bits of DoJ that would just seem more likely to appeal to liberals. Environmental law would be one; I suspect civil rights might be another. If you were a lawyer interested in a conservative approach to either, you might go elsewhere.

crossposted with Nell. ;)

Another key difference between the current regime of GOP apparatchik accumulation and the hiring by selection committees in past administrations, D and R: The records of previous years are still there to look at, should someone want to investigate.

Under Gonzales, the primary documents were destroyed:

The [Screening] Committee used paper copies of the applications on which Fridman and McDonald made handwritten notations about the applicants, but those documents were destroyed prior to the initiation of our investigation.

So the IG's investigation had to depend on percentages of identifiable liberals and conservatives rejected and after-the-fact interviews with the likes of Elston. (Pointed out in a comment earlier by Ugh).

OT: line of the day from Matt Y:

"Under George W. Bush the United States of America is regressing to an understanding of humane treatment of people that doesn't reflect the enlightened views of Genghis Khan."

And the sad thing is, it seems to be true.

Now cue the screaming from the right should anyone suggest that any of these civil service employees, who were hired illegaly (for their political views rather than their professional qualifications), ought to be removed.

The civil service throughout the government has been tainted by this and other similar means, as well as by driving out existing employees who were of the incorrect ideology. The de-Bushification process is going to be long and painful, with plenty of Republican fake outrage.

How possible is it to do anything about this? It isn't, so far as I know, legal to fire civil service employees because the process that hired them was flawed (even badly flawed.)

Mike, that's true, but I have a suspicion that there was more than the fair share of resume padding, which is a legal reason to fire them. I think that all of those hired should have their applications gone over with a fine tooth comb and any irregularities should have them out on their ear. I realize that this sounds like post hoc justice, but given how flawed the original process was, I think it is necessary.

LJ, I think that, given the relevant Civil Service protections afforded "career" government hires (rules initiated, ironically, back in the 19th Century to avoid the wholesale partisan turnovers in Federal positions common at the time), it may not be that easy to weed out Bush-era hacks or ideologues, regardless of the "flaws" in their selection process. Especially as said process has now been rendered even more opaque than ever, thanks to the destruction of the original documentation.

Of course, the hackiest and/or least competent will probably either leave of their own volition under a Democratic Administration, or get axed for blatant non-performance; but the most able* "Bush hires" may stay around for a long time to come.


*surely some of the "screened" DoJ hires have to be smart and good at their jobs - just on the odds.

*surely some of the "screened" DoJ hires have to be smart and good at their jobs - just on the odds.

Well, those aren't the problems...

What's weird is that this got started in 2002, basically stopped in 2003-2005, and then started back up in 2006. I can see how things got going in 2006 with Gonzo in charge, but what was up in 2002?

I would be interested to know how much of a hand Ashcroft had in this. The pdf says that Ashcroft took an interest in the program and after his departure, the program was run by career employees, so the two bumps might correspond to the tenures of Ashcroft and Gonzo.

Nell: Two hours in, Sebastian is the first to raise the "Democrats do this too" objection, although at least in the form of a question.

If you had had to be in the top of the top of the top of law students to be hired by this program under previous administrations, then a conservative law student under Clinton could well have been told he wouldn't get hired, and left the memory "with your politics" rather than "because you're in the top 20%, not the top 5%". (Which is far from being an unusual distortion.)

Regarding Sebastian's comment on the Federalist Society: I heard the same thing as well when I graduated from law school in the late 90s. Most likely there has always been a degree of political bias in hiring. But "everybody does it" is not, and should not be, a defense.

First off, someone said "More Republican lawbreaking..." but really the Republican part is redundant. It's just lawbreaking. Certainly democrats break the law. Certainly democratic government officials break the law. It's just lawbreaking, let's leave it at that.

Secondly, so if this is breaking the law, who prosecutes? Can the DoJ prosecute itself? Even a new administration with new people at the top, isn't it a conflict of interest to prosecute people from your own "firm?"

This post from Orin Kerr pretty much sums up my thoughts:

(1) The basic picture is just disgraceful. The Honors Program is a jewel of the Justice Department, and I think it's very troubling that some within the Bush Justice Department would see it as a way to screen candidates for ideology.

(2) I was glad but not surprised to read in the report about political officials within DOJ (such as Peter Keisler) who didn't play along or otherwise tried to limit the political emphasis in hiring.

(3) Although I'm not aware of anything like this happening during the Clinton years, I doubt politics was entirely irrelevant to hiring at the time. When I applied to the Honors Program in the fall of 1997 (and was accepted), it was generally understood among conservative/libertarian applicants that being conservative/libertarian was a negative on a DOJ Honors Program application. It wasn't necessarily an automatic ding, except of course at the Civil Rights Division. But it was a negative in an intensely competitive process. As a result, it was common not to list extracurricular activities that signaled conservative/libertarian viewpoints and that were the kind of thing that an applicant might or might not list on a resume depending on the job. I followed that practice in my case. I remember thinking at the time that I wouldn't have gotten the job otherwise.

(4) The Bush DOJ officials presumably saw themselves as trying to balance out Main Justice. When I was at Main Justice in the Clinton years, it was heavily Democratic among career lawyers: even in the Criminal Division, which you might think leans more conservative than other sections, most lawyers were Democrats. Still, none of that excuses the kind of political hiring that apparently went on. The goal should have been to even the playing field, if it needed evening, not to engage in affirmative action for conservatives.

I caution against the last sentence however. Affirmative action always hides under the pretext of levelling the playing field. It isn't a good policy.

I also would like comment Kerr's aside on the Civil Rights Division. Part of the hiring process for that division includes a "demonstrated commitment to civil rights" which is almost always fulfilled by demonstrating active membership in the ACLU or NAACP. You all ok with that?

I don't think it makes any sense to waste man hours looking at people's resumes to try to fire them. Try to think about it the way Republicans would if positions were reversed.

I would hope Obama's administration simply points out that since all the original documentation was destroyed, there is no evidence these right wing hacks were ever really hired. Stop their paychecks. Revoke their entrance badges, and put their office junk out on the street. Don't fire them, just point out that they were never hired. Personally I'd also want to demand their back pay back, but thats probably to much to hope for.

"I also would like comment Kerr's aside on the Civil Rights Division. Part of the hiring process for that division includes a "demonstrated commitment to civil rights" which is almost always fulfilled by demonstrating active membership in the ACLU or NAACP. You all ok with that?"

I frankly don't buy that that's the only way to demonstrate a commitment to civil rights. If someone I'm not going to be all broken up about it if the environmental division hires a disproportionate # of people who work for environmental groups or gov't agencies, or the immigration courts hiring a disproportionate # of clerks who represented asylum seekers (especially given that a huge % of immigration judges are former INS/DHS lawyers--if their clerks are liberal, great). Relevant experience is relevant experience, & ideological opposition to enforcing the laws you're supposed to be enforcing is a problem.

So would NRA membership count?

You all ok with that?

Sebastian, yes I am. The Civil Rights Division is supposed to enforce laws that those organizations helped create and (through private litigation) enforce. That particular set of laws has the same bias as those particular organizations. It may be liberal, but that is what that Division is for. If the Executive as a whole has opposite biases, too bad, it's supposed to carry out the laws. Let them lobby Congress like everyone else to change the laws or defund the Division, but as long as the Division is there and funded, it should hire people who are committed to accomplishing its aims.

Similarly, if the Court affirms an individual gun owner right, and Congress creates a Gun Rights Division to enforce federal laws enforcing those rights, it would be reasonable to make NRA membership a big plus factor in hiring for that Division.

Less hypothetically, I imagine that a family military background is a plus factor in appointments to West Point? And that foreign travel is a plus for internships at State? Again, no problem.

I see Katherine and I overlapped, in timing and in substance.

So would NRA membership count?

Maybe after tomorrow :)

Even then, NRA membership would be, no pun intended, a rather narrow-gauge approach to civil rights.

"Similarly, if the Court affirms an individual gun owner right, and Congress creates a Gun Rights Division to enforce federal laws enforcing those rights, it would be reasonable to make NRA membership a big plus factor in hiring for that Division."

I asked if an interest in protecting the civil rights of the 2nd amendment count for the Civil Rights Division. ACLU membership isn't closely related to most the actual operations of the Civil Rights Division (though in some cases the NAACP might be) which is why I suggested that the NRA would be a good counterpart to the ACLU in such applications. I'm relatively certain that in actual practice they are not considered equivalent, which is precisely my point.

So many NRA members appear to feel that the Bill of Rights begins and ends with the Second Amendment.

Whereas the ACLU has routinely and pro-actively defended the all civil rights of all Americans - and, to my gratitude, the civil rights of Britons and others. Membership of the ACLU indicates a strong committment to civil rights for all: why should a government department which is supposed to defend civil rights for all restrict itself to hiring people who care only and exclusively about one civil right?

I also would like comment Kerr's aside on the Civil Rights Division. Part of the hiring process for that division includes a "demonstrated commitment to civil rights" which is almost always fulfilled by demonstrating active membership in the ACLU or NAACP. You all ok with that?

Considering that most Civil Rights cases are brought by the ACLU or the NAACP, I don't. The government's interest should be with those who have their rights violated, not with those doing the violating (although under our corporacy, it seems the other way around for the past 20 years or so). The ACLU does take a very few "reverse discrimination" cases, so I'd look for participation with them over the NAACP.

I suppose one could make an argument for membership in the NRA, but those are very different rights from the ones supported by the ACLU.

I asked if an interest in protecting the civil rights of the 2nd amendment count for the Civil Rights Division.

Your initial question didn't mention the 2nd Amendment. The ACLU doesn't deal with it much, probably because the NRA does so. There are no other large organizattions that deal with other Civil Rights in a broad way.

"The ACLU doesn't deal with it much, probably because the NRA does so. There are no other large organizattions that deal with other Civil Rights in a broad way."

Right, the three major organizations dealing with civil rights of individuals are the NAACP, NRA, and ACLU.

I don't actually buy the "probably because the NRA does so" part.

You can see the effect of ideological entrenchment in the lack-of-defense typically exhibited in the police shooting cases that Balko regularly documents. They seem like cases that the NAACP or ACLU would normally be interested in, but I suspect that gun rights side-note in many of them is off-putting to the liberal organizations. Similarly the association with the bad side of the drug war puts off the NRA. That happens, I suspect, because the association with the drug war makes the whole thing problematic for conservatives. (I'm not sure why ideologically. I appears to be more force of old habit, heh.) Since it doesn't fit neatly in either narrative, none of the large partisan groups pick it up, and the media is confused by the whole story and doesn't report much.

Which by the way is a good argument against idealogical hirings in the Civil Rights Division or any other division of the DOJ.

Sebastian, first we have to agree that there IS a significant individual civil right to gun ownership that is infringed by particular state laws. Only then can we consider membership in the NRA relevant to show concern for civil liberties. Even then, it would not be incredibly relevant to the Civil Rights Division, until and unless some federal law is passed to enforce that right, and assigned to the CRD. For now, none of that is true. Even after tomorrow, most of it won't be.

"first we have to agree that there IS a significant individual civil right to gun ownership that is infringed by particular state laws."

No we don't.

The ACLU regularly argues for rights that do not currently exist in the formulation they argue for or did not exist at the time of argument.

"Even then, it would not be incredibly relevant to the Civil Rights Division, until and unless some federal law is passed to enforce that right, and assigned to the CRD."

The ACLU deals largely with constitutional rights involving the First Amendment whether or not separate federal laws are passed to enforce such a right. Often they are involved in attempting to fight against federal laws, not enforce them. This is much like the positioning of the NRA vis-a-vis the federal government.

So it would appear that ACLU membership isn't relevant to the things you think are important experience for potential hires in the Civil Rights Division, at least not more so than the NRA.

It is however a rather reliable (though of course not perfect) indicator that you are liberal. But you seem to be saying that it isn't proper to let which ideological side you are sway the decision. If that is the case, what is ACLU signalling that makes its inclusion acceptable to you, while the NRA is not.

"ACLU membership isn't closely related to most the actual operations of the Civil Rights Division (though in some cases the NAACP might be"

Sure it is, though ACLU & NAACP membership hardly exhausts the means by which one could prove commitment to civil rights & if I believed it was actually a de facto requirement that would be wrong. For one thing, the ACLU has a racial justice division. For another, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights division at DOJ deals with "Allegations of official misconduct constitute the majority of all complaints reviewed by the Criminal Section. The officials who have been defendants include state and local police officers, prison superintendents and correctional officers, federal law enforcement officers, and state and county judges. These officials have been charged with using their positions to deprive individuals of constitutional rights, such as the right to be free from unwarranted assaults, coerced sexual contact, illegal arrests and searches, and the deprivation of property without due process of law." See also this division. This is not remotely comparable to the NRA as far as overlap. You can characterize relevant experience & NOT ideologically opposing the enforcement of the laws you're charged with enforcing as irrelevant & try to pretend it's comparable to the IG report if you like but it's not the same thing. (Similarly: I would guess that employment by the Office of Immigration Litigation or employment as a DHS trial lawyer correlates poorly with bleeding heart support for immigrants' rights. Of course, it would be wrong to assume that anyone who clerked for a conservative judge or belonged to the Federalist Society was so opposed to the civil rights laws they couldn't do their jobs professionally, and wrong to assume that anyone who worked for a human rights org. couldn't do their job for DHS properly--but I would be a lousy, lousy fit for OIL, & specific federalist society members I've met who thought the Civil & Voting Rights Acts were unconstitutional & the greatest threat was "reverse discrimination" would be a lousy fit for the Civil Rights division. Would you consider screening out segregationists from that division in the 1960s a similarly unacceptable ideological litmus test?)

(Someone who worked on the sorts of cases Radley Balko focuses on & was a card carrying NRA member WOULD have demonstrated relevant commitment, of course, though in real life I don't think the NRA as an institution does a thing about cases like that. Balko certainly has demonstrated more commitment to civil rights than many an ACLU member--if membership in particular liberal organizations is actually a requirement, that's of course wrong. But I suspect you're simply full of it on that point. I would hope that interning for an environmental organization helps get hired by the environmental department, but that doesn't mean it's a litmus test. I bet working for the EPA or interior dep't helps too; I would think the same would be true of civil rights.).

Katherine, I don't think Sebastian said membership was a requirement, he said (quoting Kerr) that membership could fulfill the requirement of demonstrated commitment to civil rights.

The ACLU regularly argues for rights that do not currently exist in the formulation they argue for or did not exist at the time of argument.

Disagreeing about the exact scope of a right is not the same as disagreeing whether a right exists at all. NRA membership indicates only that you are concerned with a "right" that the government doesn't even think exists. Why would that be relevant?

I think Seb's point is well taken in that we always sort of assumed it was easier for a lib to get a job in a dem Admin and vice versa. However, as has been pointed out, when you start dinging Rhodes Scholars and the like, you have gone too far.

"Disagreeing about the exact scope of a right is not the same as disagreeing whether a right exists at all."

And the NRA disagrees about the scope of the 2nd amendment right. Which definitely exists. Exactly like the ACLU disagrees about the scope of 1st amendment rights.

No, Sebastian. The NRA believes there is an enforceable individual right to own and carry guns. The courts -- at least until tomorrow -- do not. The Supreme Court has been silent on this issue until now, but most courts to address it came down the other way. Congress has passed, and Presidents (of both parties) have signed into law legislation inconsistent with the notion that there is a very broad individual right, and have made no attempt to accomodate to the concept that there is any individual right at all. That's 3 out of 3 branches of the Government that do not just disagree about the scope, but disagree that the right exists. In particular, the Division does not institutionally act as though the right exists, and has no power to do so. That being so, that an applicant cares a lot about the "right" does not make him any more useful to the Division than a person who strongly believes he has a right to eat cheesecake. He may in some sense be right, but it's irrelevant.

The ACLU may disagree w/ the government about whether the right to free speech encompasses certain sorts of speech or conduct, but not whether the right exists.

This seems to me not a difference in degree, but a difference in kind that is relevant to the issue here. If I disagree with you about the scope of a right, we at least both care about it, or we would not have generated our opinions. If you think the right does not exist at all, we have much less in common.

Are we talking about just being a member or actually working for an organization as a lawyer? This discussion seems to be conflating the two. Does the NRA offer internship possibilities where people can help with lawsuits? Can people approach the NRA and ask for legal (and financial) help when they have a court case? How many suits does the NRA initiate versus the ACLU? Perhaps I am wrong, but I am left with the impression that this is apples and oranges.

Of course, one distinctive feature of the Federalist Society is that it's been on (to the best of my knowledge) the wrong side of every major issue of our time and is very much active in aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes, not to mention many impeachable offenses. An evaluator might well decide that champions of lawless thuggery as long as it's the right thugs are not as desirable candidates for employment, looking at the group's history of expressed commitments.

bakum: really the Republican part is redundant. It's just lawbreaking. Certainly democrats break the law. Certainly democratic government officials break the law. It's just lawbreaking, let's leave it at that.

'Redundant' isn't what you mean here, if the following sentences accurately convey your point. It would be redundant to say 'Republican lawbreaking' if only Republicans broke the law.

Do you mean adding 'Republican' is unduly partisan or inappropriate?

If so, you're not grasping the nature of this crime. The specific use of the party term here is completely appropriate, because this is a massively partisan, ideological abuse of civil service hiring. It's unprecedented on its own, and it's of a piece with a systematic effort to politicize the Justice Department, including the use of selective prosecution as a political weapon.

So, no, it isn't "just lawbreaking" and we shouldn't leave it at that.

Agreed, Nell. It is too easy to say, well, there are lawbreakers in both parties. There are different kinds of lawbreakers in the two parties. Both parties have their share of sex scandals and corruption (my impression from headline news is that Democrats more often get busted in the last 20 years or so for sex, Republicans a bit more for taking bribes or breaking campaign financing laws, but I'm not going to try to quantify or argue that, it's a side issue). But throughout my lifetime, Republicans MUCH more often get busted for breaking the law to further the President's political goals. This comes in two flavors: abusing the institutions of government, and, shall we say, overzealousness in the pursuit of foreign policy goals. You can set your watch on it. If we vote in a Republican administration, we WILL end up with long turgid hearings about how some officials, with at least the tacit sanction of the White House, broke the law, deliberately and with malice aforethought, to further the President's interests.

Nixon - bill of impeachment for using government resources to spy on the other party and bully campaign contributors. Carter - no serious scandals.
Reagan - Iran/Contra.
Bush I - ditto.
Clinton - impeachment for lying about sex. Should have been impeached for taking Chinese campaign contributions.
Bush II - lying about war, adopting torture policy, and politicization of DoJ personnel and practice.

Do you see a pattern here? I sure do.

In short, Democratic lawbreakers, by and large, break the law for petty personal reasons. Republican lawbreakers do that, but also do it on a grander scale for "moral" reasons. The latter is more dangerous to the Republic.

On a smaller but more widespread scale, I see the same sort of blatant disregard for the law, the Constitution, and the truth in the Christianist agenda exemplified by the Dover School Board and Judge Roy Moore -- both Republicans. The Republican Party has not, in my lifetime, been the party of rule of law. Instead, it seems to be represented at all levels by people who think the law is much less important than their own moral vision. And this seems to go over well with their voter base.

If you just call it "lawbreaking," and omit the party qualifier, you conceal an important truth about how the Republican Party works.

On a smaller but more widespread scale, I see the same sort of blatant disregard for the law, the Constitution, and the truth in the Christianist agenda exemplified by the Dover School Board and Judge Roy Moore -- both Republicans. The Republican Party has not, in my lifetime, been the party of rule of law. Instead, it seems to be represented at all levels by people who think the law is much less important than their own moral vision.

Apparently lying for Jesus is not lying, and therefore is OK.

"Of course, one distinctive feature of the Federalist Society is that it's been on (to the best of my knowledge) the wrong side of every major issue of our time and is very much active in aiding and abetting the commission of war crimes, not to mention many impeachable offenses."

Really? That is fascinating. Would you mind pointing me to the reference you use to determine the offical Federalist Society position on such things. My interactions with the Federalist Society make me suspect you are just making stuff up. But maybe the Federalist Society has changed a lot since my exposure to it, so I'm open to evidence.

My take:

A Conservative kid says "I want to help people and serve my country" and they say "Its nice to see people who want to help people and serve their country. You are in"

A liberal says "I want to help people and serve my country" and they say "Its not the job of DOJ employees to personally decide which people they want to 'help' or decide for themselves how they feel like serving their country. Rejected for being an activist."

The sad thing is that I think MacDonald et al. probably believed what they said. I think they actually thought "people with liberal views = activists who can't be trusted to do their jobs objectively"

"LJ, I think that, given the relevant Civil Service protections afforded 'career' government hires (rules initiated, ironically, back in the 19th Century to avoid the wholesale partisan turnovers in Federal positions common at the time), it may not be that easy to weed out Bush-era hacks or ideologues, regardless of the
'flaws' in their selection process."

I'd like to point out, because it's relevant and ironic, that although the U.S. Civil Service was created by the Pendleton Act in 1883, after President Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau, allegedly over his grievances in not getting a patronage job, it wasn't until Theodore Roosevelt was appointed U.S. Civil Service Commissioner in 1889 that most of the modern Civil Service concepts and protections as we know them today were created; it was all thoroughly Republican, back when being a Republican meant being a "progressive," and a reformer, and in believing in the power of the government to do good, and to help all Americans.

Republicans could do far worse than to look back at, and emulate, much of the work and thought of Teddy Roosevelt, a great former Republican leader (until he felt forced to break away and form the Bull Moose Party, which is when the decline and fall of the Republican Party truly began).

For that matter, let me speak for a moment of a President nobody but us history nuts remembers, Chester A. Arthur, who created the Civil Service. Arthur was a stout Republican, and also someone current Republicans might want to look into, to see what it was like when fair-minded progressivism was the Republican way, against a backdrop of considerable Democratic corruption.

[...] Arthur was aware of the factions and rivalries of the Republican Party, as well as the controversies of cronyism versus civil service reform. Entering the presidency, Arthur believed that the only way to garner the nation's approval was to be independent from both factions. Arthur determined to go his own way once in the White House. He wound up replacing every member of Garfield's Cabinet except for Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln.

He became a man of fashion in his manner of dress and in his associates; he was often seen with the elite of Washington, D.C., New York city and Newport. To the indignation of the Stalwarts, the onetime Collector of the Port of New York became, as President, a champion of civil service reform. In 1883, Congress passed the Pendleton Act, which established a bipartisan Civil Service Commission which stopped big businesses from giving out rebates and pooling with other companies, forbade levying political assessments against officeholders, and provided for a "classified system" that made certain government positions obtainable only through competitive written examinations. The system protected employees against removal for political reasons.
Chester A. Arthur official White House portrait
Chester A. Arthur official White House portrait

Acting independently of party dogma, Arthur also tried to lower tariff rates so the government would not be embarrassed by annual surpluses of revenue.

[...]

In 1884, when the International Meridian Conference was held in Washington D.C. at President Arthur's behest. This established the Greenwich Meridian and international standardized time, both in use today.

Nobody remembers Chet Arthur, but they should, once in a great while; he wasn't a great President, or one in a time of great crisis, but he was a good president, and that's more than we can say for many others, of any Party. (Yes, let's try to overlook the Chinese Exclusion Act just now, appallingly horrible piece of racist trash that it was; nobody is perfect.)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad