Firing U.S. attorneys is president’s job

“God is a Republican, and Santa Claus is a Democrat.” – H. L. Mencken

Should White House or U.S. Supreme Court staffers be immune from congressional subpoenas?

Yes 24.59 % (60)

No 75.41 % (184)

Total votes: 244

So sayeth a Reno Gazette-Journal online poll as of March 22. It proves the appalling lack of constitutional knowledge among the general populace for those who answered the poll in the negative.

For the uninitiated, the poll was no doubt in response to Congressional wrangling to get the White House to testify before Congress about the recent firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Administration documents released by the House Judiciary Committee showed that the White House and the Justice Department began planning the dismissals some two years ago. The initial proposal called for firing all 93 U.S. attorneys, but that was replaced with a scaled-back plan to target eight prosecutors who’d apparently fallen out of favor for various reasons. As of this writing, the committee has authorized but not issued subpoenas.

According to the LA Times: “Justice Department officials hoped that documenting specific reasons for terminating the prosecutors would satisfy demands for more information after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, described the dismissals as vaguely performance-related.”

First, let’s start with a premise. Namely that the Attorney General and an assortment of other appointments are made by the President of the United States in his role as “the man in charge” of the executive branch.

So while ding-a-ling Democrats in charge of Congress trip all over themselves ginning up the next “big” scandal amongst the otherwise evil and corrupt Bush & Company, let’s try to remember a few things. First, with the exception of judges, who enjoy lifetime appointments, everyone serves at the pleasure of the President as a political appointment. A corollary to that is that an appointee can be fired or asked to step down for any reason or no reason at all.

Second. Both the executive branch (the President) and the legislative branch (Congress) have certain rights and powers relative to the “checks and balances” between the branches as provided for in the Constitution. For example, the President is the commander-in-chief of the military. So whether Congress likes the events surrounding Iraq or not, about their only say in the matter is to legislatively defund the military in Iraq—to the extent they really wish to stop it. (Of course that would require something resembling a backbone amongst Democrats—but that’s a subject for another column.)

The point is that while Congress may have oversight, that does not mean they get to second guess or oversee the President’s day-to-day handling of things. Firing eight political appointments does not a scandal make. I mean, you’d think Bush & Company fired them all. Oh wait a minute. That’s where myopic Democrats should perhaps remind themselves of a little history. You see, on his watch, former President Bill Clinton (Democrat) fired all 93 U. S. attorneys out of the gate when he first took office in 1992.

You will note, however, that Republicans then didn’t get their undies all in a bunch over it, either, unlike, say, the Democrats carping over the sainted eight now.

Although let’s also recall that Democrats—led by Henry Waxman (D-CA) —also got their undies in a bunch and held Congressional hearings over alleged uses of steroids by major league baseball players, too. The point and purpose then, however, doesn’t seem unlike what they’re doing now, to-wit: making a lot of noise but not a whole lot of substance.