(cross-posted to The Agonist)
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Congressional investigators are looking into new allegations a top official at the Justice Department illegally hired career lawyers based on their political affiliations. Investigators are focusing on Bradley Schlozman, a former top official in the department’s Civil Rights Division, who recently returned to Washington after serving as interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Missouri. The Justice Department denies violating federal law, saying an applicant’s political affiliation “is not a criterion solicited or considered in the hiring process.”…. The claims have surfaced amid the congressional investigation of the firings of federal prosecutors in eight cities in 2006 — allegedly for political rather than professional reasons.
It would be easy to jump on the Bush-bashing bandwagon on this issue, and I may well do that before long. More than anything else, though, I find myself profoundly saddened by this sorry saga. One of the things that makes this great country what it is today is the rule of law. Above any and all other considerations, the rule of law, and the belief that no one is above the law, is what keeps things from spinning apart. Over the past 231 years, this country has weathered any number of storms, some of which may have torn less prepared nations apart. Say what you will, but the central recurring theme through all of these various and assorted crises has been the rule of law. Those who violated the law have generally been prosecuted based on the law they violated, not for ideological or political reasons.
No, it’s hardly a perfect system…no system designed and administered by self-interested humans could be. But if you look around the world, there aren’t many legal systems that match up. Yes, it’s been used and abused over time- any system would be by those so inclined- but on the whole, we’ve survived relatively intact. That resilience is a testament both to our good fortune and the strong foundation laid down by the Founding Fathers.
Now we face a new, much more insidious and dangerous threat from those very people we’ve entrusted with the reigns of power. These are the people who rode into Washington in January, 2001, promising to restore “honor and dignity” to government. As if the very reality of eight years of Democratic rule had reduced the federal government and the rule of law to private playgrounds run by partisan hacks primarily interested in partisan gain.
So, how’s that whole “restoring honor and dignity” thing working out for y’all??
But Ty Clevenger, a former Justice Department employee, said Schlozman ordered him to remove information identifying him as a Republican from his paperwork when he applied for a job. And Richard Ugelow, a former Justice lawyer, said the department has been hiring “people who have certain political persuasion and only a certain political persuasion” in recent years.
“That’s not healthy for enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws,” said Ugelow, who now teaches law at Washington’s American University.
No, it isn’t, and there appears to be enough suspicion to cause Congress to investigate whether or not the enforcement of federal law has been subjected to partisan political concerns. There may or may not be sufficient hard evidence to indict anyone for any crimes at this time, but one has to wonder if the thick, acrid smoke hanging over the Attorney General and the Justice Department isn’t indicative of a serious conflagration within DoJ.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, the head of the House Judiciary subcommittee investigating the dismissals, said Congress wants to examine the hiring practices at the Justice Department and the civil rights division in particular.
“If there is one department that should be above political consideration for hiring and firing, that is the Department of Justice,” said Sanchez, D-California.
Congress and the Justice Department’s internal watchdog agency are also looking into allegations that Monica Goodling, a former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, sought out fellow Republicans for Justice Department jobs. Goodling resigned over the U.S. attorneys flap and invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than answer questions from Congress. (Full story)
We should be able to take, if not for granted, then certainly as a matter of faith, that those charged with applying federal law will do so with an even hand, independent of political considerations. Of course, those of us who live here in the real world understand what the last six-plus years have shown as far as that hope goes. The same people who rode into Washington promising to “clean things up” are the ones who have apparently perverted federal investigations for partisan political purposes.
This is why I find myself so profoundly saddened. We should be able to expect better. We shouldn’t have to worry about the rule of law being Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Republican. It should be a matter of right and wrong. It should simply be American.
WE DESERVE BETTER.