Sunday, March 25, 2007

Gonzalez: The Big Question

For anyone who still doesn't get it, New York Times columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. articulated yesterday the unanswered questions in the Alberto Gonzales affair as concisely as can be done at the moment:
  • Were "any of the eight fired U.S. attorneys ... asked to step down for political reasons"?
  • Have "political aides in the White House played an important role in the firings"?
  • Was "replacing independent-minded prosecutors ... a way of influencing ongoing or future investigations"?
  • Has "the Bush administration ... illegitimately politicized the justice system?"
Kevin Drum explains with more questions why we should remain skeptical as long as those questions remain unanswered, concluding:
DOJ has now had weeks to come up with a plausible story for the firings and they still haven't. This is truly remarkable. Why not just tell the truth? That doesn't take weeks to concoct.
One reason it might be taking so long to "concoct" a story, of course, is that the truth would reveal that the Bush administration really is 'politicizing the justice system' by appointing political partisans. But that only leads to another, even larger question.

To what end? Why would the Bush administration want to politicize the Justice Department at what is essentially the lowest, most local administrative level? Why does it want to be sure that every one of its U.S. attorneys is a loyal "Bushie"?

Most of the public speculation has centered on presumed efforts to halt the ongoing prosecutions of corrupt Republicans for past acts of bribery, fraud, racketeering, perjury, and even murder. Some speculate it was to jump-start prosecutions against Democrats for supposed voter fraud before the November 2006 elections.

But the '06 election was over. Yet, the released emails show the White House plan to stuff "Bushies" into U.S. Attorney jobs continued.

As long as everyone is left to speculate because Gonzales lied and no one else in the administration has come forward with the truth, we have to ask -- what if it's not about that? What if it doesn't involve excusing or punishing past conduct by others?

What if it's all about protecting conduct that the administration, itself, is planning to undertake in the future?

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