Those decisions are essentially political. And they are decided by elections in which both parties spell out very clearly their law enforcement priorities. Are you going to allocate prosecutorial resources more to drug dealing or tax cheating? To street crime or corporate malfeasance? To illegal immigration or illegal pollution? If you're a Democrat today, you call the choice "political" to confer a sense of illegitimacy. If you're a neutral observer, you call the choice a set of law enforcement priorities reflecting the policy preferences of the winner of the last presidential election.
For example, both voter intimidation and voter fraud are illegal. The Democrats have a particular interest in the former because they see it diminishing their turnout, while Republicans are particularly interested in the latter because they see it as inflating the Democratic tally. The Bush administration apparently was dismayed that some of these fired attorneys were not vigorous enough in pursuing voter fraud.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Pursuing voter fraud is not, as The New York Times pretends, a euphemism for suppressing the vote of minorities and poor people. It is a mechanism for suppressing the vote of (among other phantoms) dead people. Conservatives have a healthy respect for the opinion of dead people -- conservatives revere tradition, which Chesterton once defined as "the democracy of the dead" -- but they draw the line at posthumous voting.
If the White House decides that a U.S. attorney is showing insufficient zeal in pursuing voter fraud--or the death penalty or illegal immigration or drug dealing-- it has the perfect right to fire him. There is only one impermissible reason for presidential intervention: to sabotage an active investigation. That is obstruction of justice. Until the Democrats come up with any real evidence of that--and they have not--this affair remains a pseudo-scandal. Which would never have developed had Gonzales made the easy and obvious case from day one.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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