Steve Chapman

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., accused him of mangling the truth. An old ally, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said his handing of the matter was "deplorable." Their attitude was that of parents whose wayward teen had broken curfew and wrecked the car -- they couldn't quite disown him, but they weren't about to condone his behavior.

The president, however, has pronounced himself pleased. Each stumble and embarrassment involving the attorney general may sap public confidence, but it has the opposite effect on Bush's sentiments. Under this president, failure is always an option -- and often a guarantee of longevity.

Considered in the most flattering light, the firings showed a process that was sloppy, amateurish and poorly informed, with no one in charge and no one responsible for the ultimate decisions. At worst, it revealed a highly politicized atmosphere that elevated partisan goals above fuddy-duddy concerns like honest law enforcement.

In case after case, a U.S. attorney got the gate after failing to pursue investigations that would have hurt Democrats and helped Republicans. Goodling said she considered politics even for jobs that are supposed to be exempt from such considerations. Where do you think she got the idea that was appropriate? From the back of a cereal box?

When he testified on Capitol Hill, former Deputy Atty. Gen. James Comey -- no flaming liberal but a John Ashcroft protege -- said this last revelation was the worst thing he had heard. "You just cannot do that," he said. "It deprives the department of its lifeblood, which is the ability to stand up and have juries of all stripes believe what you say, and have sheriffs and judges and jailers -- the people we deal with -- trust the Department of Justice."

But rest assured, you should trust this Department of Justice. And if you can't, lower your standards until you can.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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