Disgrace

Historians will have a field day trying to rank the failures of the Bush administration. Iraq will likely top the list, but the disgraceful politicization of the Department of Justice has to be in the top 5.

Our justice system isn’t perfect, but it’s still the envy of the world. Keeping politics out of the decision to prosecute is critical to the health of our republic.

Last year, we saw how Alberto Gonzales and the other political hacks appointed by President Bush fired nine United States attorneys for not towing the line. Now more information is coming to light about how hiring practices for the Honors Program and other staff positions were influenced by politcal considerations, which is unlawful.

Justice Department officials over the last six years illegally used “political or ideological” factors to hire new lawyers into an elite recruitment program, tapping law school graduates with conservative credentials over those with liberal-sounding resumes, a new report found Tuesday.

The blistering report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, is the first in what will be a series of investigations growing out of last year’s scandal over the firings of nine United States attorneys. It appeared to confirm for the first time in an official examination many of the allegations from critics who charged that the Justice Department had become overly politicized during the Bush administration.

“Many qualified candidates” were rejected for the department’s honors program because of what was perceived as a liberal bias, the report found. Those practices, the report concluded, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

The shift began in 2002, when advisers to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft restructured the honors program in response to what some officials saw as a liberal tilt in recruiting young lawyers from elite law schools like Harvard and Yale. While the recruitment was once controlled largely by career officials in each section who would review applications, political officials in the department began to assume more control, rejecting candidates with liberal or Democratic affiliations “at a significantly higher rate” than those with Republican or conservative credentials, the report said.

The shift appeared to accelerate in 2006, under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with two aides on the screening committee — Michael Elston and Esther Slater McDonald — singled out for particular criticism. The blocking of applicants with liberal credentials appeared to be a particular problem in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which has seen an exodus of career employees in recent years as the department has pursued a more conservative agenda in deciding what types of cases to bring.

It will be interesting to see if Gonzales is directly implicated in this scandal.

Obama mocks McCain’s offer of a $300 million prize

The McCain campaign continues to make blunders. McCain’s recent proposal to offer a $300 million prize for new battery technology is another gem from this inept campaign. Obama hits the softball out of the park.

“When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win — he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people — not just in the private sector but also in the public sector.”

Rudy Giuliani continues to embarass himself

After running one of the most pathetic presidential campaigns in modern history (he paid $50 for one delegate), Rudy Giuliani is being trotted out as John McCain’s latest attack dog on national security. Here’s an example of why Rudy is so bad. Like McCain, he can’t keep his story straight.

Obama’s Father’s Day speech

We’re used to hearing brilliant speeches from Obama, and he doesn’t disappoint with today’s Father’s Day speech.

He returned to a familiar theme – the need for fathers to take responsibility for their children. Obama regularly delivers this message, and he makes a point to emphasize this in front of black audiences, as he acknowledges the serious problems in the black community regarding absentee fathers.

It’s a message of personal responsibility that liberals and conservatives can appreciate.

Mark Warner takes himself out of VP consideration

In accepting the Democratic nomination for the open Senate seat in Virginia, Mark Warner made it clear that he will not be in the running for Obama’s VP.

That’s unfortunate, as he would have been a great selection.

The death of Tim Russert

As a political junkie, it’s hard to imagine Sundays without Russert on Meet the Press. He was a class act.

The tributes will be numerous. Joe Klein was a long-time friend and he offers some interesting insights.

McCain’s biggest problem

John McCain has a long career in the Senate, and he’s taken strong positions on many different issues. His problem, however, is that he can’t seem to remember them. His latest gaffe involves his position on Social Security. Yesterday he denied ever being in favor of private accounts. Of course, that’s not true. He clearly expressed support for privatization back in 2004.

Obama’s middle-class tax cuts

These tax cuts look like a political winner.

McCain’s first wife

The story behind McCain’s first divorce is heartbreaking. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the campaign.

Hillary’s speech

Hillary Clinton was at her best on Saturday in her endorsement of Obama. She had a job to do, and she did it well. In time, many of her supporters will back Obama as they begin to realize that McCain doesn’t share their beliefs.

That said, the Obama team should not, and probably will not, be fooled into putting her on the ticket. She will always have her own agenda, and the minute he offers her the second spot he will no longer have any leverage to control her or her husband.

The only scenario for putting her on the ticket would be some kind of political disaster over the summer that threatens his ability to win this on his own. Barring that, he has many good options for VP, so Clinton supporters should not hold their breath.

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