At the center of the maelstrom of public discontent over the firing of the US attorneys is the democratic concept of government officials serving at the pleasure of the US President. Since the controversy erupted, the Bush administration has continually insisted on the President’s prerogative to end the services of government officials who failed in conclusively securing the confidence of the President in implementing the policy agenda of the administration. In the case of the fired US attorneys, they were all deemed incapable of promoting the initiatives of the President, such as the Project Safe Neighborhoods and the filing of immigration cases against illegal aliens, according to Kyle Sampson, the recently resigned chief of staff of US Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales.
However, there has been much speculation from many sectors on the real basis of the seeming arbitrary act of President George W. Bush – that the attorneys were being pressured to help in the electoral campaign of the Republican Party. The fired attorneys themselves and Democratic Party members expectedly fed some of these speculations. Carol Lam, the former US attorney of San Diego, was believed to have been fired for her wide-ranging public corruption case that involved former Republican congressman, Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California. John McKay, the former US attorney of Seattle, was supposedly fired for his refusal to prosecute voter fraud cases after the 2004 Washington gubernatorial elections where the Republican candidate narrowly lost. Moreover, David Iglesias, the former US attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., received relentless harassing phone calls from Republicans in Congress for his failure to bring cases against Democratic candidates especially election-year investigations. These serious assertions of unwanted political influence by the Bush administration on the legal-judicial functions of the US attorneys utterly pale the statements of the Office of the Attorney-General that their relief was performance-related. In the case of Atty. Lam, no conclusive proof was ever shown that she abdicated her responsibility in enforcing the policy initiatives of the Bush administration on gun control and immigration, nor did the Justice Department ever bring their complaints to the attention of the relieved US attorney.
On the other hand, the Senate investigation on the issue has yielded much information that the White House itself had a direct hand in the decision to fire the US Attorneys, especially as political adviser Karl Rove was involved, notwithstanding the exchange of correspondence and documents between the White House and Justice Department prior to the decision. Even Sampson complained about such a heavy-handed manner of political influence and collusion among members of the Republican Party, specifically the case of Republican Sen. Domenici in which he hurriedly sent over names of new persons for prospective appointment for the vacated post of Atty. Iglesias in Albuquerque.
At present, the investigations continue and have since added more fire to an already deeply polarized American public insofar as the Bush administration and its policies are concerned.
A series of unfortunate events have relentlessly struck the Bush administration the past few months, since their defeat in the mid-term elections last year. The Iraq war, as it reached its fourth year last month, continues to cement greater public support for the withdrawal of US troops and repudiate President Bush’s future plans of increasing troop deployment in the war-torn region. More so, a very aggressive Democrat-led Senate and House of Representatives have been very effective in frustrating much of the administration’s policies, even if only in a symbolic fashion, to the extent that sectors, especially in the liberal left, are now proclaiming his lame-duck status. As these issues have already been giving the Bush administration major political headaches, the indiscriminate firing of US attorneys should never have been allowed to come to pass. The administration’s reasons are clearly indefensible, even if the official basis for the attorney’s relief was performance-related, as the particular circumstances of the attorneys showed the blatant political influence and intervention by the GOP on the official duties and functions of the attorneys. While it is true that US attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, their duties cannot be directly interfered with for the political ends of the ruling party in government as it would run contrary to the very ends of justice, truth and fairness that all attorneys were sworn to uphold. More so, their loyalty to the government is not to President Bush himself, but to the Office he represents and all the democratic ideals, principles and policies subsumed under that Office. As a result of all these, the controversy has further discredited the Bush administration and fueled speculation that it is flouting the law for its own political benefit.
- Grier, P. & Chaddock G. (2007). Firing of US attorneys: Was it too political?. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0330/p01s02-usju.html?page=2. 16 April 2007.
- Pappu, S. (2007). Firing Line. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2007/03/27/AR2007032702423_2.html. 16 April 2007.