A few years ago I remember reading about two cops who were accused of raping a stripper. They denied having sex with the stripper emphatically – at first. Then one of them said, “If anything happened, it was consensual,” while the other continued their original defense of, “I’m a cop, she’s a stripper; who are you going to believe?”
The Bush Administration’s response to the revelation that it fired eight U.S. attorneys for political reasons has been similarly inept. At first, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, like the cop who chose to stick with his story despite all evidence to the contrary, emphatically denied being involved in the process of firing the attorneys at all. Then, documents showed he was in meetings and knew of the firings. Then, a Justice Department official exercised her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself and declined to testify in front of Congress.
Presumably, this means she committed a crime in the firings, in direct contradiction with the Administration’s claim that it has done nothing wrong or illegal. The icing on the cake came when Gonzalez’s chief of staff testified that Gonzalez made “inaccurate” statements and that he told Gonzalez about the firings ahead of time.
For some reason, this “scandal” has outraged members of Congress from both parties. As far as I am concerned, Congress is guiltier than the president. The president has correctly stated that these prosecutors are presidential appointments and that he can dismiss them as he pleases. The only recourse we, the people, have to ensure that our Justice Department does not become an instrument of political persecution is that the president must confirm U.S. attorneys (the replacements of the fired ones) in the Senate.
The Senate gave up the right to confirmation hearings in the Patriot Act. Why Congress would trust the Bush Administration not to abuse such powers eludes me. The Bush Administration is notorious for what are known as “recess appointments,” appointing officials to positions while the Senate is not in session. The reason why Bush chose to dismiss the U.S. attorneys so carelessly, despite their excellent performance records, was that he could appoint his unqualified cronies without any political fight.
When the Senate is conducting its show-trial, it should remember who allowed the firings to take place in the first place – the Senate. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The Senate is supposed to represent the people’s interests, but time and again they roll over when they are supposed to be enforcing basic checks and balances on presidential power. This type of behavior by the Bush Administration is to be expected; the guilty party is Congress for allowing it to happen.
What few supporters the current president still has will say that he did nothing illegal, and thus people should stop talking about this story. I, for one, think the president – and Congress – should be held to a higher standard than “not doing anything illegal.” And while it is likely that at the end of the day there will be no crime here, the situation is still analogous to cops who rape a stripper and then try to cover it up. Among other things, the Bush Administration has raped Americans of a politically independent Justice Department. And Congress is its accomplice.