Whenever the story of the firing of several U.S. Attorneys by the Bush Administration comes up, Republican apologists always point out that Clinton fired all of the U.S. Attorneys when he took office. Well, that is true, as it is with all new administrations. However when re-elected in 1996, Clinton retained the U.S. Attorneys as has been tradition for past two term U.S. Presidents. Most Presidents have had an understanding of the importance of giving U.S. Attorneys a great deal of prerogative on prosecutorial issues. The reason behind this is to maintain public support for the impartiality of the legal system. If political considerations get in the way of the decision to investigate and/or prosecute, public trust will suffer.
Enter the George W. Bush administration. What is disconcerting about this President is the fact that so many decisions he makes are based upon political considerations. When U.S. Attorneys are fired for “performance” issues and the definition of “performance” is whether the U.S. Attorneys are willing to take direction from the Attorney General and the President’s key advisors on where to focus their attention, and where not to, all Americans should be concerned. Should a U.S. Attorney worry about prosecuting key Republican politicians in this environment? Would lengthy public investigations and prosecutions of Democrats be a means by which a U.S. Attorney gains job security?
Whether it is a Democratic or Republican administration, I believe that the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorneys should do their jobs based upon proper administration of the law, not based upon partisan political considerations. George W. Bush appears to have a different interpretation of their proper role. Americans of all stripes should insist that the truth come out on what considerations resulted in the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. Bush’s use of “executive privilege” lends credibility to the impression that Bush has something to hide and has not understood the importance of having independent prosecutorial arm in the federal government.