(Yes, I am aware that the WVU Mountaineer statue has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. But I'm still a little giddy over our NIT tourney win from last night, and I couldn't help posting a little celebratory photo. Go, 'Eers! Apologies in advance to any of our readers who are Clemson grads…)
NOTE: I will be on Air America talking with Thom Hartmann today around 1:40-ish pm ET.
Via Digby, I found this op-ed in the LATimes from yesterday that clamors for reading and discussion. It was written by the former head of the civil rights division at the DoJ, and it is a refrain that I have heard over and over again from current and former civil servants who continuously bump up against the Bush Administration's demands for fealty over any adherence to the rule of law. From the LATimes:
This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman's central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.
Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.
Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent.
This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.
Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.
The laws of this nation are not meant to be enforced for political expediency and to win elections. The courts do not exist to serve "Rove's shop" and "the math," and yet that is exactly how the Bush Administration has seen them from the time they entered office. A commitment to the "Rule of Bush, And Bush Alone" is not the same as advancing the interests of justice and honoring the rule of law, it simply is not.
I keep thinking back to the GOP opposition to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the voter ID law shenanigans, and so many other instances over the last few years that I have lost count. These were designed, in so many ways, to game the system for political advantage, regardless of the fact that it was an unethical perversion of the laws, their intent, and an overall attempt to thwart the sacred right of citizens in this nation to cast their own votes for their own political representation.
And I keep going back to "A Republic, if you can keep it," and wondering what else I should be doing to ensure that we do just that. (more…)