"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

                --Archilochus

Glenn Reynolds:
"Heh."

Barack Obama:
"Impossible to transcend."

Albert A. Gore, Jr.:
"An incontinent brute."

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
"God damn the Gentleman Farmer."

Friends of GF's Sons:
"Is that really your dad?"

Kickball Girl:
"Keeping 'em alive until 7:45."

Hired Hand:
"I think . . . we forgot the pheasant."




I'm an
Alcoholic Yeti
in the
TTLB Ecosystem



Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Political Prosecutors

In the form of a lambasting of this morning's breathless story in the Los Angeles Times, Patterico has a pretty good roundup of what we know about the reasons the administration fired eight United States Attorneys. It looks like there's not much to work with, even for those afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome. That is, there appears no evidence whatever that anyone was fired because they either pursued for failed to pursue cases with direct political implications, such as official corruption.

As a rule of thumb, if someone must selectively quote the evidence to make their point, then they don't have much of a case. And that's just what the LA Times does with the internal emails recently turned over to Congress.

The Albuquerque Tribune has some better background on what is billed as the "worst" case, that of New Mexico's U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias. Today's Washington Post has a reasonable account of what is known, which sticks pretty much to the facts. They've even provided links to copies of the emails themselves. You know, the sort of thing newspapers do. Go figure.

But while it thus appears that there's not much to this controversy, it may be profitable to consider the principles generating it. What is of concern is the notion that prosecutors ought not to choose their cases and their targets for investigation for political reasons, or from political motives. A noble sentiment. But then again, half the political establishment thought it was a fabulous idea to appoint Patrick Fitzgerald and point him at the White House, and the other half was enthusiastically in favor of the same thing when Ken Starr was launched at the Clintons. So political prosecutors, and politically motivated prosecutions, are good ideas sometimes, but bad ideas other times?

Or what?

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Comments on "Political Prosecutors"

 

Blogger Hired Hand said ... (4:26 PM) : 

"Or what?" - there's a difference between a U.S. Attorney and a Special Prosecutor (and it's hopefully more than the number of zeroes on their check from Mr. Gonzales).

As a matter of policy, it's probably a bad idea to micromanage the work of U.S. Attorneys, who, despite being members of the executive branch, should probably be left to do their own work. The President has pardon power, and that's about as far as I'd like any executive creeping into prosecutions.

Also as a matter of policy, it's probably a good idea to appoint someone independent of the executive branch to investigate it. You know, so they don't get fired for political reasons.

Oops.

 

Blogger Gentleman Farmer said ... (6:52 PM) : 

According to the Constitution, the entire executive power of the Federal government is lodged in a single individual, the President of the United States. You could look it up.

That means that it is entirely up to the President who shall be prosecuted for a particular crime. It is wholly within his power to instruct the appropriate United States Attorney to seek an indictment against this or that individual. There is no more "executive" function than enforcement of federal criminal law.

Besides, we're not talking about "micro-managing." We are, at worst, apparently talking about the NM USA failing to pursue voting fraud cases. And non-fraudulent elections are certainly something we can all get behind, no?

And you're right, there's a big difference between a USA and a Special Prosecutor: The latter is vastly more political, and considerably more dangerous to our system, since he charged with investigating only a single crime or cluster of events. No USA in America would have sought an indictment against Scooter Libby, if for no other reason than that he's got better things to do with his time. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, would have otherwise come away from the whole thing empty. (Of course, he knew at the time of his appointment that no crime had been committed.)

Congress has vast powers to investigate and to compel testimony. If the Executive refuses to comply, Congress is empowered to impeach the Executive. And then there's that whole election thing.

Special Prosecutors are a bad idea all the way around, even when they're going after genuine criminals, as Ken Starr was.

 

Anonymous 'chesty' said ... (6:49 AM) : 

can we distinguish here between an act that is within the president's power, and an act which is a reasonable and responsible use of that power? it certainly may be true that the president has full executive authority, which encompasses the enforcement of criminal law. and it may furthermore be true that the USAs stand as his political appointees charged with executing that power in line with their boss' wishes.

however it is neither reasonable nor responsible for the president of the united states to use his law enforcement power to selectively achieve partisan political goals. would any of us be comfortable with a democratic president instructing his USAs to begin investigating only those cases of illegal activity where republicans in office have been implicated? the fact is that we elect presidents to govern responsibly, and manage the federal government in the nations best interest. i don't think many voters would agree that selective, politically motivated enforcement of our nations laws is in example of responsible government for the benefit of the country.

 

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