Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hey, You Plan For Your Retirement. Why Can't The President Plan For His?

OK, look. A Lot of people accuse the Bush administration of not being able to plan, of assuming things will turn out the way they want them to just because they want them to turn out that way, of not having a clear grasp of the complexities of modern life. And, we have to admit that there is a lot of evidence to support those conclusions. OK, all of the evidence supports those conclusions.

But a new day has dawned. The president has seen the light. No not that light, the clear light of reason. Iraq? No way, were talking about something much more important: staying out of jail once his term is over.

A Senate panel advanced a bill Thursday to curb the Justice Department's power to replace federal prosecutors indefinitely, after seven forced resignations sparked accusations of political favoritism. "Have you been paying attention at all these last six ears?" asked Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Sciolinos. "You think we want prosecutors who, like, do their jobs and stuff once we're out of here?"

U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president and may be dismissed for any reason, or no reason at all. It's the process of replacement that, the bill's proponents argue, should prevent political cronyism. "Well, of course it sounds bad when you say it like that," Sciolinos said.

"I'm going to do everything I can to get it to the floor next week," said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. "I would advise the president and several of his top officials, to be named later, not to take on any long term obligations."

Sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the measure would strip a provision in the antiterror Patriot Act that gave the attorney general new power to replace fired U.S. attorneys indefinitely, avoiding the Senate confirmation process. "'Avoiding' is such a strong word," Sciolinos said. "You folks work so hard, we're just trying to lighten your load a little."

Senate Democrats accuse the administration of slipping the provision into the Patriot Act reauthorization that took effect last March with the intent of circumventing the Senate confirmation process and rewarding political allies. Specter, who wrote the reauthorization as chairman of the committee, says he was unaware of that provision and opposes it. "Oh yeah, like I'm the only one who doesn't read all this crap. Right." Specter told reporters.

The committee cited the firings since March of seven U.S. attorneys from Arkansas to California, some without cause, as evidence that the administration is punishing prosecutors whose work targeted Republican allies and rewarding those faithful to the GOP. "Is that wrong?" Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asked. "See because if that's wrong, well nobody ever told me."

Gonzales has promised to submit every replacement for Senate confirmation. "Well, except for the ones we get to appoint ourselves thanks to Senator Specter," he added.

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, told the panel that some of the ousted prosecutors were fired for performance-related causes he would not describe, while others were asked to leave without cause. Democrats pounced, demanding the performance reports of all seven dismissed prosecutors and threatening to subpoena them. McNulty cautioned that the reports might not detail any reasons for dismissal. "We're lawyers, for crying out loud. You think we're stupid enough to write down 'fired for prosecuting Republicans? OK, don't answer that."

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