Media-manufactured “attorneys fired” scandal continues to erupt

What we’ve seen in the media and leftoid blogs the last several days regarding the attorneys who were fired by the Justice Department is a classic example of a media-manufactured scandal. It starts with the basic premise that the WH has “done something wrong” and then goes about trying to prove it. In other words, a conclusion is drawn about an issue in the early stages of writing about it, and the goal from that point on is to find a way to ‘prove’ your assumptions, thereby closing the mind to any alternative scenarios.

Paul at Powerline sums up the ‘controversy’:

The Post also says that Harriet Miers recommended that all U.S. Attorneys be fired. Gonzales wisely rejected this blunderbuss recommendation. It’s worth noting, though, that such a mass firing would not have been unprecedented. President Clinton, through Janet Reno, fired all of the U.S. Attorneys after he was elected. Clinton used the mass firing as a means of covering up his real intention — to fire the U.S. Attorney in his home state of Arkansas. They didn’t call Clinton “Slick Willie” for nothing.

This time, eight prosecutors lost their jobs. It’s not implausible to think that out of 93 U.S. Attorneys, eight might be good candidates for replacement. But let’s take a quick look at some of the specifics. According to the Post, three of them had low ratings — Margaret Chiara in Michigan, Carol Lam in San Diego, and Bud Cummins in Little Rock. Cummins was replaced by Tim Griffin, whose career Karl Rove apparently wanted to advance. There’s nothing novel in appointing a rising star with good connections to the job of U.S. Attorney. I’ve seen no evidence that Griffin was unqualified and, as noted, Cummins had received a poor rating.

Two of the fired prosecutors — Kevin Ryan in San Francisco and David Iglesias in Albuquerque — received strong evaluations. But according to the Post, Ryan’s firing “has generated few complaints because of widespread managment and morale problems in his office.”

The focus instead is on Iglesias because, in addition to the strong evaluation, he was not on the original list of prosecutors recommended for removal by Gonzales’ aide Kyle Sampson. Rather, he apparently was added as a candidate for removal in response to complaints from New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans that he was not prosecuting enough voter-fraud cases.

Is the firing of Iglesias a genuine scandal? As David Frum notes, it depends on the facts: was there a serious problem of voter fraud in the state, was Iglesias sluggish in dealing with it, and did the administration act even-handedly by insisting that its U.S. Attorneys adequately deal with serious allegations of voter fraud lodged by both political parties?

Until we see good evidence that the answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” the firing of Iglesias is not scandalous.

Wake me up when it’s over.

Related: Check out this must-read from the Wall Street Journal – The Hubbell Standard: Hillary Clinton knows all about sacking U.S. Attorneys:

Congressional Democrats are in full cry over the news this week that the Administration’s decision to fire eight U.S. Attorneys originated from–gasp–the White House. Senator Hillary Clinton joined the fun yesterday, blaming President Bush for “the politicization of our prosecutorial system.” Oh, my.

As it happens, Mrs. Clinton is just the Senator to walk point on this issue of dismissing U.S. attorneys because she has direct personal experience. In any Congressional probe of the matter, we’d suggest she call herself as the first witness–and bring along Webster Hubbell as her chief counsel.

As everyone once knew but has tried to forget, Mr. Hubbell was a former partner of Mrs. Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who later went to jail for mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also Bill and Hillary Clinton’s choice as Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department when Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno–or Mr. Hubbell–gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.

At the time, President Clinton presented the move as something perfectly ordinary: “All those people are routinely replaced,” he told reporters, “and I have not done anything differently.” In fact, the dismissals were unprecedented: Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.

Equally extraordinary were the politics at play in the firings. At the time, Jay Stephens, then U.S. Attorney in Chicago, was investigating then Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, and was “within 30 days” of making a decision on an indictment. Mr. Rostenkowski, who was shepherding the Clinton’s economic program through Congress, eventually went to jail on mail fraud charges and was later pardoned by Mr. Clinton.

Also at the time, allegations concerning some of the Clintons’ Whitewater dealings were coming to a head. By dismissing all 93 U.S. Attorneys at once, the Clintons conveniently cleared the decks to appoint “Friend of Bill” Paula Casey as the U.S. Attorney for Little Rock. Ms. Casey never did bring any big Whitewater indictments, and she rejected information from another FOB, David Hale, on the business practices of the Arkansas elite including Mr. Clinton. When it comes to “politicizing” Justice, in short, the Bush White House is full of amateurs compared to the Clintons.

Macranger is on the same page.

Update: Patterico catches the LA Times in some very selective reporting on this ‘scandal.’

And Tim Graham nails it:

Moments like these are when conservatives need to focus not on Gonzales, but consider how the “mainstream” media are so transparently partisan that they omit any and all information that doesn’t help the Democrats. If you’re going to judge Gonzales (and by extension, Team Bush), ask yourself: why aren’t the Bush people reminding the media of Clinton’s 1993 firings? How can they constantly lead with their chins?

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