Serves at the pleasure of...

Posted: Mar 16, 2007 10:33 AM
Serves at the pleasure of...

As part of the "New Era of Cooperation in Washington" which was promised by the Democrats in the run-up to the elections last November, we are now embroiled in one of the sillier offenses against Democracy.

There are about 93 US Attorneys. As you know, eight of them were fired. Why they were fired is a matter for discussion. Whether they could be fired is not.

U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the President. Like most Presidential appointments they serve - in the vernacular of the Federal government - at the pleasure of the President.

The Los Angeles Times' "Primer on US Attorneys" quotes the US Code as saying: "Each United States attorney is subject to removal by the President."

Really? Hmmm. Someone should tell Senators Patrick Leahy (Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee), Chuck Schumer (Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee - DSCC) and Barbara Boxer (Deputy Chair of the DSCC).

Just to make clear just how MUCH partisan politics is involved in this: Chuck Schumer (chair of the DSCC) is seventh in seniority of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He asked for, and was granted permission to, chair a hearing involving Senator Pete Domenici (about which, more later).

Barbara Boxer, in addition to being the deputy chair of the DSCC is also the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee and wants to open an investigation.

Partisan politics? Never heard of it.

The current theory among Senate Democrats and their allies in the popular press is that U.S. Attorneys should be above, beyond, and away from partisan politics.

Notwithstanding, again referring to the LA Times

Senators have traditionally played the key role in selecting U.S. attorneys for their states, especially when their party controls the White House … Senators recommend candidates to serve as the U.S. attorney, and the president usually accepts those suggestions.

Wait. What? "When their party controls the White House?" Isn't that what someone might call partisan politics?

Not only that, but the LAT reminds us that Federal District Judges - Judges - are similarly recommended by U.S. Senators who are generally attuned to the partisan POLITICS in their home States.

Donna Brazile and I were on Wolf Blitzer's CNN program Wednesday discussing this and Wolf was in full projectile sweat about it. When I pointed out (as others had before me) that Bill Clinton fired ALL 93 U.S. Attorneys when he took office, Wolf said that was different.

I reminded Mr. Blitzer and Ms. Brazile that whenever there is a close Supreme Court decision every major news organization - including CNN - will point out which Justice was appointed by which President. The implication being, I said, that POLITICS might be involved in their decision.

In the case of the US Attorney for New Mexico, there was supposed to be an ongoing investigation into voter registration fraud; a complaint brought by Republicans.

One of the plaintiffs in the case brought to the US Attorney was the father of a 13-year-old boy whose name mysteriously showed up on the voter registration rolls.

According to a time line put together by US & World Report, US Senator Pete Domenici (whom no one - Republican or Democrat - has ever accused of being a strong arm type of guy) called the US Attorney in October last year - more than two years on - to inquire as to the status of another case, as elections in New Mexico tend to be (a) very close and (b) very suspicious.

According to US News:

[The US Attorney] has a brief telephone conversation with Republican Sen. Pete Domenici in which he tells the senator that indictments against Democrats in a corruption case regarding courthouse construction projects would not be handed down before the November election. The conversation ends abruptly when Domenici hangs up.

Ok. Let's take that as read: Pete Domenici asks a question; gets and answer; and hangs up. The "abruptly" part must mean that the US Attorney has not had many telephone conversations with many US Senators.

If there had been charges of irregularities in voter registration brought by Democrats in New Mexico, and the US Attorney had dithered for more than two years, the Dems would be screaming that it's nothing more than … POLITICS!

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the LA Times summary and the US News timeline; as well as a section of the US Code which discusses appointments to United Nations-related posts and uses the phrase "at the pleasure of the President" in each one. Also a Mullfoto involving the Mullmobile and a Catchy Caption of the Day.