IT’S NOT THE CRIME, IT’S THE….Here’s a quote from one of the U.S. Attorneys who was fired in the “Pearl Harbor Day Massacre”:

“It should never have come to this,” said John McKay, former U.S. attorney for the Seattle-based western district of Washington, who was among those fired and is now an adjunct law professor at the Seattle University law school. “I resigned quietly and left. But when they started saying it was for ‘performance reasons,’ I couldn’t keep quiet any more.”

It’s remarkable. The Bushies quietly got a shiny new Patriot Act power to fire and replace U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval, so they went ahead and used it. Then they got called on it. So how did they react?

Well, they could have just said it was for policy reasons: they wanted people who were on board with administration policies a little more heartily, and these folks didn’t make the grade. So we replaced them.

What would have happened then? A little bit of grumbling, probably. Some complaints that Bush was politicizing the office, perhaps, but since the offices are political appointments in the first place that wouldn’t have gone very far. And the fired official themselves, who are all Republican loyalists in the first place, would have packed their bags and gotten other jobs. They know how politics works.

But no. This administration is so dedicated to spin and deceit that they just couldn’t leave it alone. They figured maybe they could avoid any criticism by claiming the firings were for performance-related reasons. That should shut everyone up! But of course it did just the opposite. The fired attorneys, who were originally willing to suck it up and accept their political fate, were unhappy over being called incompetent. Who wouldn’t be? And so the whole thing unraveled. Now it’s a case of U.S. Attorneys being fired because they were too zealous about prosecuting Republican corruption, and the Department of Justice is reduced to feebly arguing that it’s just a coincidence that so many of the Pearl Harbor Eight were investigating corruption cases.

It’s the Bush administration in a microcosm: a too-clever-by-half expansion of executive power, spin and deceit when it’s discovered, followed by a storm of backtracking and protestations of innocence that no one believes. It wouldn’t be so bad if this weren’t also the Bush administration in a macrocosm. But it is.

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