March 16, 2007

Bush Calls In The Cavalry On Prosecutor Firings

With new memos fueling the fire over the dismissals of eight federal prosecutors and a botched job of explaining them to Congress, the Bush administration needs some professional assistance in cleaning up the mess. Recognizing this, the White House has reached out to one of the GOP's best political consultants to start negotiating behind the scenes with Congress to smooth the tension over Alberto Gonzales' poor handling of the issue:

It was hardly a social call when Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, turned up Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill.

He had come to negotiate with Democrats, who are investigating whether politics played a role in the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors and demanding testimony from Karl Rove and other top aides to President Bush. But Mr. Fielding’s real task is even bigger and more delicate: to serve as the point man for the White House as it decides the future of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, a longtime Texas friend and confidant of Mr. Bush.

In bringing Mr. Fielding back to the West Wing this year, Mr. Bush turned to the kind of consummate Washington insider he disdained when he first came to town, a Republican who remained prominent in the capital as presidents of both parties have come and gone.

Now, occupying a job he held under Ronald Reagan more than 20 years ago, Mr. Fielding, 67, is the White House front man in a high-stakes showdown with the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill even as he scrambles behind the scenes to determine what his new colleagues knew and when.

Soft-spoken and slightly rumpled, he was polite but did not reveal much on Wednesday, lawmakers said. He stayed 20 minutes, just long enough to hear Democrats make their case that Mr. Bush should not assert executive privilege to keep his aides from talking. He left without a hint of what he might do, and said he would report back to them on Friday.

Fielding is a man who understands how to handle a crisis. He has spent enough time in Washington to build his credibility as a man who understands how to stay clean, and how to get clean in a hurry. He issued the order to release the e-mails that have made clear how badly Gonzales botched the communication to Congress, whom he assured that the White House had no involvement in the firings. Fielding understands from his days in the Nixon and Reagan administrations that holding back information makes it much more significant when it finally comes out, and he's using a classic litigator's trick -- disclose before your opponents reveal.

Bush chose Fielding wisely. He replaced Harriet Miers when the former counsel left the administration, and one of his assets as counsel is his ability to broker deals across partisan divides. He worked to do so with the 9/11 Commission, as he did with previous administrations, garnering a reputation as a straight shooter with all sides. John Conyers left his meeting with Fielding satisfied that he could work with him on testimony to Congress about the bungled communications from the AG and his office to Capitol Hill, and that will help dial down the temperature to a rational level.

Last night, I discussed this controversy with Patterico on my CQ Radio show at Blog Talk Radio. Originally, I invited him on the show to debate, because we have had some differences of opinion about the issue. However, we found many points of agreement. Neither of us think laws were broken in the dismissals, and both of us think Gonzales screwed up badly enough in the aftermath that he's probably going to resign soon. We agreed that Kyle Sampson deserved the boot he got for his heavy-handed manner in which these dismissals were carried out, and especially for the notion that the DoJ should go ahead and fire people because they had the power to do so, and they should use it for the sake of using it.

The only points on which we disagreed was whether the firings were justified and whether they were a good idea. Listen to the stream (it's in the second half of the show) to hear the excellent discussion we had on the topic, and hear Patterico's background on these cases. I still believe the dismissals were a mistake, especially given the mid-term status of the eight prosecutors involved, but Patterico convinced me that they all had some level of justification.

UPDATE: Cavalry, not artillery. I need to go back to Cliché School.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (5)

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 16, 2007 11:45 PM


One case involving a congressman and you think that makes up for the shortfall in the other categories? Did you see the chart I linked? white collar cases is one area where she came up short. Either the white collars got honest, or Carol Lam was letting them off.

The other category where she came up short was immigration. She's a border attorney and was under criticism by the Border Patrol's union for letting the mules off in a catch-and-release situation.

One expects a US Attorney to be able to walk and chew at the same time. Having your caseload fall by a third says something.

Maybe Lam belonged in Northern California or in some interior area of the US. But to ignore immigration in the Southern California region was suicide.

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) must have had either or both of those areas in mind when she criticised Lam.

Posted by The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 17, 2007 2:26 AM

the whole of SFDude's running commentary can be summed up thus:

It ain't Camelot anymore.

So. Frickin'. What.

I am perfectly content that Sen. Schumer, Sen. Specter, Rep. Rohrbacher, the DC Press Corps, the Democratic Party, and indeed 40% of the public think the Bush Adminstration is sour milk.

In fact, I start to worry when I can't hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the grinding weight of his misrule.

But go ahead, breathlessly post another story quoting somebody else who Would Have Done Different if they lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. put up more inanity like this:

""There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

When does the 'modern' Presidency begin? And since everybody rotates out with the Boss, who's the apolitical policy apparat? David Gergen?

still-- if your clowns are busy holding show trials, I guess they won't be passing more laws they don't read...

Posted by johnnymozart [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 19, 2007 7:43 AM

This is why President Bush needs to show just and objective cause for the firing of Iglesias and the six other U.S. attorneys,

This is pointless, because like all liberals, you simply want to create your own reality; and actual reality be damned. The President doesn't "have" to do any such thing, and you know it. That is the law. That is the nature of the 1926 Myers case I cited for you; which is the basis of what I am talking about. This is what I keep telling you. I recognize you don't like it, and that you keep ignoring it, but that's the way it is.

Look, I can respect the fact that you are interested in an impartial justice system, but I didn't hear Chuck Schumer caterwauling when Clinton fired all 93 US attorneys without cause (most likely just to get the one that was investigating him). If I had, I might be able to share your outrage. But as it is, the hypocrisy and double standard screams that this is just another manufactured Democrat scandal.

ODM- good points, I completely agree. This is just another hamhanded example of Bush cronyism and mismanagement.

Posted by johnnymozart [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 19, 2007 7:48 AM

Hey has Rove outed any CIA agents lately?

Naw, but Richard Armitage did. But of course, she wasn't really outed, because gosh, if she had been, that would have been a crime. And as I recall, no charges were filed, were they? (smirk)

Posted by angryinlasvegas [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 21, 2007 2:23 AM

Bush is acting like a total asshole. If Rove, Gonzales or Miers have done nothing wrong, why can't they be put under oath? I hope Congress fights him with everything they have on this. This time he has gone way too far. Good people have lost their jobs, and I think we all have a right to know why these particular people were singled out. They all had wonderful reviews as far as their work was concerned. It seems to me that some in the Republican party wanted these U.S. Attorneys to politicize their jobs, and that is not what they are supposed to do.

I hope this is the last nail in Bush's coffin. It seems to me he has a lot to hide and that is why he doesn't want his people under oath. I say tough. He has ruined this country, trashed the Constitution, and is a bully and a spoiled brat, and I hope he winds up having to resign, and he can take Cheney and all the others who are no better, with him when he goes. It won't be too soon for me.