February 26, 2007


While we here at BloodlessCoup have covered the issue of the White House firing eight US Attorneys before, today's NYT Editorial brought it back to me again.

In addition to looking clearly wrong (what good reason can there be for firing eight US Attorneys at the same time?), I'm amazed at the short-sightedness of this move, although that isn't new. The firing of eight at once, as the editorial notes, has never happened before. Thus, new precedent.

I'm highly suspicious, and generally against breaking precedent - especially with respect to political decisions. The reason is simple: while firing eight US Attorneys might have short term gains for the Bush administration (stopping corruption investigations? Rewarding campaign contributors? Seasoning future candidates? Something else?), it has begun a new precedent. Bluntly, if the Democrats (and they will eventually win the White House back at some point) do the same thing, then the Republicans won't have a leg to stand on when (not if, when) the Democrats do the same thing (and the Democrats will do the same thing, since the Republicans did it and showed that it could be done).

The end result of this is that it make the system more partisan and political: the goalposts of what is "ethical" get moved further and further every year, to the net negative of the American People. It always amazes me that every administration (Democrat and Republican) won't ask a simple question: "Do I really want the other party to have the same new ability that I'm about to grant myself?" Instead, both parties seem focused on short-term gains (short-sightedness).

Posted by baltar at February 26, 2007 09:42 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Corruption | Law and the Courts | Politics


I'm highly suspicious, and generally against breaking precedent

That's because you are an actual conservative.

Posted by: binky at February 26, 2007 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

the GOP won't be able to protest when the Democrats use the same methods? what planet have you been living on. the GOP sure didn't worry about its own obstructionism on six years of clinton's judicial appointments (which left the judiciary emptier than it had been in ages by the time Shrub took over), or about the degree to which Democrats were willing to pass most of Bush's judicial nominees (leading to perhaps the most conservative judiciary in memory), when it went bitching about the occasional filibuster of some bible-thumping bigot bush tried to slide by the senate.

and their hatred of the filibuster when used against them didn't stop them from filibustering a non-binding resolution that was destined to pass by a healthy margin if allowed to go to the floor for the vaunted "up or down vote" they loved to tout in the face of every Democrat filibuster on every issue.

and you can bet that, in 2008, when the senate majority is extended and Dems retake the White House, that the GOP will bitch and moan about the absence of legislative oversight notwithstanding that the very notion of oversight has been made a mockery during the GOP's time in power.

when the Dems come in and fire a bunch of U.S. Attorneys count on the GOP calling it a witch hunt, improperly ideological, & c, even though it's essentially customary for changes in party control lead to such firings, while it's entirely extraordinary for a president to fire USA's of his own party affiliation simply because they won't lock up the innocent and throw away the key in pursuit of phantom menaces while disregarding real threats in every area that doesn't involve medical marijuana and putative terrorism.

Posted by: moon at February 26, 2007 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

1) You assume the Republican leadership values principle, logic and consistency. I'm surprised you are still willing to assume that - b/c there's a mountain of evidence to show they don't.

2) A short-term focus (which can lead to this sort of short-sighted behavior) is built into our electoral system. If we don't like that, we need to alter the constitution.

3) You are assuming that this fight is over the White House exerting its power and saying it can do this, precedent and Congress be damned. And maybe it is over exerting executive power (to grossly political ends). But it might also simply be about trying to fire Carol Lam (or one of the other federal prosecutors involved in a key corruption case) in the least politically painful way possible.

Posted by: Armand at February 26, 2007 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Moon, of course they will complain, but their complaints will lack any real validity or consistency. I understand that that won't matter (politicians will do what they do), but it will matter to some degree in the public relations aspects of politics. I would like to think that this is exactly the reason we still have a filibuster: that there were not enough idiotic Republicans a year or two ago who were willing to change the rules and get rid of the filibuster because they knew they might need it someday (they weren't short-sighted).

In other words, I'm arguing that discourse (and logic and consistency) still matter with some part of the political debate. The Republicans will continue to do stupid things, and scream when the Democrats do those same things. On the other hand, the last six years have driven me from the party, have driven Balloon Juice's Cole from the party, and quite a lot more moderate conservatives/moderate independents. That isn't irrelevant, and the more the GOP acts in short-sighted and stupid ways, the harder it will be to bring those people back.

Posted by: baltar at February 26, 2007 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Armand, I think I covered some of the points in rebutting moon. In any event, I don't assume the Republicans value logic etc. I'm asking why they are so short-sighted: opening a new precedent obviously means the other party will do the same thing when they are in power. It's simply asking them to do a cost-benefit analysis: is it worth removing Lam et. al. in order to prevent corruption investigations given that the Democrats will be able to do the same in the future (note: the answer may be "yes", logically, because the White House may have information that we don't have, such as how deep the corruption goes, for example). They don't, at this point, seem to be making those logical analysis: that's my point. I'm not willing to accept that everyone in the White House is an idiot, so why are they acting like collective idiots?

As to the short term - long term issue, I think I'll disagree. While the President is term-limited (and, hence, a short-term thinker), the Congress isn't term limited. Presumably, most Republicans would like to be back in the majority at some point, which causes them to think more long term (this is also true of the Party infrastructure and even the big donors as well). Thus, there is instututional pressure to think long term (by some actors).

Posted by: baltar at February 26, 2007 11:44 AM | PERMALINK
Post a comment

Remember personal info?