Balkinization  

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Degradation of an Institution

Marty Lederman

From all I've heard and read, it appears that this is a fairly accurate and thorough description of what the Department of Justice has become. It's quite depressing. And from what I can tell, DOJ is by no means the only agency as to which this description would be apt.

Comments:

Your link didn't seem to work, but I think this is the piece you were referring to. It certainly describes the depressing state of affairs at DOJ.
 

This comment by the retiring Justice attorney makes his biases clear. Curious, how only GOP administrations get mentioned and nothing about political hack AG Janet Reno and the complete political house cleaning of all the US attorneys by the Clintons. I am not a big Gonzales fan, but this is hardly a balanced take of the past 35 years.

Q: You began in the Justice Department during the Watergate years. How would you rank Alberto Gonzales in terms of politicization of the department in comparison to the other AGs you have worked for?

A: Actually, I began earlier, in the first Nixon administration, as a college intern in 1971. But I was there again in the Watergate era, when I worked in part of the Attorney General's Office during my first year of law school in 1973-1974, and then continuously as a trial attorney and office director for nearly 30 years. That adds up to more than a dozen attorneys general, including Ed Meese as well as John Mitchell, and I used to think that they had politicized the department more than anyone could or should. But nothing compares to the past two years under Alberto Gonzales.

To be sure, he continued a trend of career/noncareer separation that began under John Ashcroft, yet even Ashcroft brought in political aides who in large measure were experienced in government functioning. Ashcroft's Justice Department appointees, with few exceptions, were not the type of people who caused you to wonder what they were doing there. They might not have been firm believers in the importance of government, but generally speaking, there was a very respectable level of competence (in some instances even exceptionally so) and a relatively strong dedication to quality government, as far as I could see.

Under Gonzales, though, almost immediately from the time of his arrival in February 2005, this changed quite noticeably. First, there was extraordinary turnover in the political ranks, including the majority of even Justice's highest-level appointees. It was reminiscent of the turnover from the second Reagan administration to the first Bush administration in 1989, only more so. Second, the atmosphere was palpably different, in ways both large and small. One need not have had to be terribly sophisticated to notice that when Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey left the department in August 2005 his departure was quite abrupt, and that his large farewell party was attended by neither Gonzales nor (as best as could be seen) anyone else on the AG's personal staff.

Third, and most significantly for present purposes, there was an almost immediate influx of young political aides beginning in the first half of 2005 (e.g., counsels to the AG, associate deputy attorneys general, deputy associate attorneys general, and deputy assistant attorneys general) whose inexperience in the processes of government was surpassed only by their evident disdain for it.

Having seen this firsthand in a range of different situations for nearly two years before I retired, I found it not at all surprising that the recent U.S. Attorney problems arose in the first place and then were so badly mishandled once they did.

 

i suppose mr. depalma's statement porves that people will find bias where they want to find bias. i read the quote from mr. depalma, and did not find it to be anything other than a statement that the department of justice was more politicized under alberto gonzales than any other attorney general he had served under. the attack is upon mr. gonzales, and no other attorney general, including republicans.

if mr. depalma had read, or paid attention while he was reading the linked article, i'm sure he would have read nothing that would give away mr. metcalfe's political leanings. i would note in this regard that he was appointed during a republican administration.

as for janet reno, the only mention of her in the link is that she maintained the largest distance that mr. metcalfe saw between the white house and d.o.j. while he was there, and that she had a more liberal view of the freedom of information act than did john ashcroft. so what? the article was about mr. gonzales, and the unprecedented level politicization of d.o.j. under him, as opposed to any other a.g., including any republican or democrat a.g.

it's time to make informed comment on this blog, as the level of acrimonious nonsense has increased exponentially recently. agree or disagree. i don't particularly care. at least get facts close to right. there is no conspiracy around every corner. while i lean more left than right, sometimes the republicans are more right than the democrats. sometimes they play politics more than the democrats, and in the process are wrong. mr. depalma should recognize this fact and once in a while get over it.
 

What I was struck by as I read the original article was the description of how, under Gonzales, the operation of the DoJ became a continual effort to read consensus.

This is the very soul of the corporate mentality, and is a huge driving force toward mediocrity. It remains one of the reasons I've left corporate life forever.

Another symptom of the "Corporate presidency" in power today.

It also has implications for the ongoing scandals, in that, in such environments, there is no clear association between decisions and individuals. In the fog induced by consensus-seeking there is often no clear understanding as to who makes decisions (a favorite strategy in Corporate HR departments to let management -- and HR -- avoid responsibility for denying promotions or raises.)

Another corporate trait is to push blame down as low as it can go while incompetent management slides out from under. I wonder if this will work for Alberto Gonzales.
 

I was going to post a comment declaring that the DOJ attorney here obviously either has a mental illness (BDS) or is a liar, but Bart beat me to it. It really is impossible to satarize people like Bart anymore.
 

zod said...
I was going to post a comment declaring that the DOJ attorney here obviously either has a mental illness (BDS) or is a liar, but Bart beat me to it. It really is impossible to satarize people like Bart anymore.



I guess we will just have to arrest, detain, torture and execute them to make them funny and relevant again.

Yes, Bart. The poor man's bias against the politicization of the prosecution of justice is as apparent as your bias in favor of it is there for all to see, like so much rotten egg on your face.
 

What a depressing article. I agree that this might be pervasive throughout much of government now. How long will it take to repair the damage once repairs begin in 2009?
 

phg said...

i suppose mr. depalma's statement porves that people will find bias where they want to find bias. i read the quote from mr. depalma, and did not find it to be anything other than a statement that the department of justice was more politicized under alberto gonzales than any other attorney general he had served under. the attack is upon mr. gonzales, and no other attorney general, including republicans.

Try reading it again - this time with a modicum of criticality. The piece can be summed up by this sentence: "That adds up to more than a dozen attorneys general, including Ed Meese as well as John Mitchell, and I used to think that they had politicized the department more than anyone could or should. But nothing compares to the past two years under Alberto Gonzales."

In sum,he is saying: "I think that GOP AGs are awful, but Gonzales takes the cake."

This is about as biased and slanted as the usual post you find over on the righty blogs when the subject of Clinton comes up.

if mr. depalma had read, or paid attention while he was reading the linked article, i'm sure he would have read nothing that would give away mr. metcalfe's political leanings.

Apart from the attacks on a series of GOP AG without a mention of Dem AG's, this sentence is a pretty dead giveaway: " They might not have been firm believers in the importance of government, but generally speaking, there was a very respectable level of competence."

In sum, he is saying: "Prior GOP hires may not have been good Libs like me who believe in the importance of government, but they were mostly competent."

i would note in this regard that he was appointed during a republican administration.

He was hired as a Justice attorney, not a political appointee. My friend, the legal profession is more Dem and liberal than the population at large and the population back then was heavily Dem and liberal. The Party of Government fills much of the bureaucracy of government.

as for janet reno, the only mention of her in the link is that she maintained the largest distance that mr. metcalfe saw between the white house and d.o.j. while he was there, and that she had a more liberal view of the freedom of information act than did john ashcroft. so what? the article was about mr. gonzales, and the unprecedented level politicization of d.o.j. under him, as opposed to any other a.g., including any republican or democrat a.g.

:::chuckle:::

Reno was a political hack State Attorney in Miami-Dade and was more so as AG. If you want, we can fill a thread with the politicization of the Clinton Justice Department under Reno.

Firing every single US attorney for the first time in history and filling the slots with FOBs. At that time, investigations of Clinton and Rostenkowski were underway. The Clinton investigations stopped until the special prosecutor was appointed.

The MO of the Reno Justice Department was to assume jurisdiction over the various scandals which kept popping up during the Clinton Administration and then sit on them. Even the NYT had to notice when Reno actively obstructed the investigations into the Clinton / Gore diversions of soft money into hard money accounts.

When a special prosecutor was finally hired, Reno Justice Department actively campaigned to get Ken Starr fired.

When two Pentagon employees violated the law in illegally revealing Linda Tripp's file, the Reno Justice Department refused to prosecute.

Justice was turned into a civil plaintiff's firm and went after the GOP supporting tobacco industry with a frivolous suit.

It goes on and on...

Gonzales is very arguably incompetent, but there has been nothing approaching the politicization that went on under the Reno Justice Department.

Yet, this did not even merit a passing mention from Mr. Metcalf. Wonder why?
 

"I think that GOP AGs are awful, but Gonzales takes the cake."

If that's what a non-partisan, apolitical, unbiased, independent thinks, you and the GOP are roaylly fucked. But we've been trying to tell you that for months. You are just too fucking stupid to get it.



Reno was a political hack State Attorney in Miami-Dade and was more so as AG. If you want, we can fill a thread with the politicization of the Clinton Justice Department under Reno.

Why don't you? You are already nothing more than a running joke here, (and banned everywhere else) and an embarassment to lower primates everywhere. Why don't you first post your CV here so we can compare? How about an informal vote on who the real political hack is? But you don't like the idea of people's votes being counted. Too biased.


Janet Reno (born July 21, 1938) was the first female Attorney General of the United States (1993–2001). She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993, and confirmed on March 11. She was the second longest serving Attorney General after William Wirt...

Reno attended public school in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where she was a debating champion and was valedictorian at Coral Gables High School. In 1956 Reno enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she majored in chemistry, lived in Balch Hall, became president of the Women's Self-Government Association, and earned her room and board.

In 1960, Reno enrolled at Harvard Law School, one of only sixteen women in a class of more than 500 students. She received her LL.B. from Harvard three years later. She had difficulty obtaining work as a lawyer.

In 1971, Reno was named staff director of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives. She helped revise the Florida court system. In 1973 she accepted a position with the Dade County State's Attorney's Office. During this time, disputes over Reno's own sexual orientation[citation needed] became a major part of Republican opponent Jack Thompson's campaign against her, who demanded to know her sexual orientation. She left the state's attorney's office in 1976 to become a partner in a private law firm.

In 1978, Reno was appointed State Attorney for Dade County (now called Miami-Dade County). She was elected to the Office of State Attorney in November 1978 and was returned to office by the voters four more times. She helped reform the juvenile justice system and pursued delinquent fathers for child support payments and established the Miami Drug Court.

During her time in Dade County, she was the lead prosecutor in a police brutality case. She was unable to convict any of the four officers charged with beating Arthur McDuffie in 1979. She had a solid case, giving some officers immunity to testify, but the officers who reached jury trial were acquitted by an all white male jury. This led to one of the worst race riots in U.S. history.

In 1993, Reno was nominated and confirmed as the first female Attorney General under Bill Clinton, after both of his previous nominees, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, had confirmation problems when it was revealed both had previously employed illegal immigrants as nannies. Reno remained Attorney General for the rest of Clinton's presidency, making her the longest-serving Attorney General since William Wirt in 1829.

During her term, Reno attracted more controversy than any of Clinton's other cabinet members. While Clinton could steer a middle ground between his Democratic supporters and the Republican Congress on economic issues, Reno's job was at the center of a variety of intractable cultural conflicts. This made her a lightning rod for criticism of the Clinton Administration from the right, who often perceived the federal government as a threat to their fundamental freedoms.


I wonder what fundamental freedoms those would be? Like the man said, you can't even be satirized anymore. It's "hard work".
 

Firing every single US attorney for the first time in history and filling the slots with FOBs.

By FOB, you mean Fresh Off the Boat, the racist term for new immigrants? Classy.
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Try reading it again - this time with a modicum of criticality. The piece can be summed up by this sentence: "That adds up to more than a dozen attorneys general, including Ed Meese as well as John Mitchell, and I used to think that they had politicized the department more than anyone could or should. But nothing compares to the past two years under Alberto Gonzales."

In sum,he is saying: "I think that GOP AGs are awful, but Gonzales takes the cake."


Well, there's 'bias' ... and sometime there's just honest and open appraisal.

It may be true that Metcalfe's opinion is just his own opinion, but it seems to be grounded in quite a bit of experience and knowledge, unlike your foaming tirades here.

OTOH, "Bart", you make this claim of "bias" without a single fact to shore up your 'argument' (in fact, some stuff that's clearly wrong: "Bart": "Curious, how only GOP administrations get mentioned and nothing about political hack AG Janet Reno and the complete political house cleaning of all the US attorneys by the Clintons." The article: "More recently, of course, the DOJ-White House distance hit its all-time high-water mark under Janet Reno, especially during Clinton's second term."). Yes, "Bart", Metcalfe didn't trash Reno, nor scream about the firing of all the USAs by Clinton at the beggining of his term (as Dubya did as well and no one is complaining about). But that's because Metcalfe isn't a foaming RW wingnut like you, "Bart".

Cheers,
 

Reality is about to smack "Bart" DePalma in the face:

... and the population back then was heavily Dem and liberal.

Yeah, well, maybe from where "Bart" sits, to the right of Armey, Gingrich, McCain, Bob Barr, hell, maybe even the likes of Tom DeLay.... Sad news for him, indeed, that the vast majority of the country is more liberal than him (and more rational too). Sadder news for "Bart" and the rest of the twenty percenters is: It's getting more so, thanks to just stuff like this....

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma trots out the same ol' debunked RW lies again:

Firing every single US attorney for the first time in history and filling the slots with FOBs [just as Dubya did, and no one's complaining about that]. At that time, investigations of Clinton and Rostenkowski were underway....

Covered ad nauseam in previous threads. "Bart"'s oblivious to reality though.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma [surprise!] lies:

When a special prosecutor was finally hired, Reno Justice Department actively campaigned to get Ken Starr fired.

No. Not to mention that Starr was hired after Fiske had already looked at it and found no "there" there. Lauch Faircloth and Jesse Helms had a little lunch with their FedSoc buddt David Sentelle, and got their FedSoc partisan hack Starr appointed. $60 million and six years get them nothing for their efforts.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

Justice was turned into a civil plaintiff's firm and went after the GOP supporting tobacco industry with a frivolous suit.

Ahhh, yes, the clean and innocent tpbacco firms. They're pure as the driven snow. "Bart" sure picks interesting ... uhh, 'friends'.

Cheers,
 

Bart wrote:Curious, how only GOP administrations get mentioned and nothing about political hack AG Janet Reno

Bart, open the article and use your browser's 'find' function. I think you'll find your ability to locate material on web pages without actually reading them much improved.

My apologies to those who find Bart's input annoying, but its only fair that he gets similar advantages as the reading enabled.
 

bitswapper:

["Bart"]: :Curious, how only GOP administrations get mentioned and nothing about political hack AG Janet Reno

Bart, open the article and use your browser's 'find' function. I think you'll find your ability to locate material on web pages without actually reading them much improved.



I got that one a couple posts above.

But to the 'obtuse' (cue "Shawshank Redemption" Mozart aria), sometimes it needs to be hammered repeatedly into his pointy little head. Don't expect an acknowledgement though. "Bart"'s 'moved on'....

Cheers,
 

What strikes me is the depressing list of names of Attorneys General since I began my Federal career in 1972: Mitchell, Meese, Reno, Ashcroft, Gonzalez, among others. Not a distinguished person in that bunch. Nobody you would want to see moving on to the judicial bench. For the chief judicial officer of the United States to tell a congressional committee "I don't know" or "I don't recall" (what was the final count, 74 times?) makes you wonder how he remembered enough law to pass the bar.

I haven't seen it reported in the national press yet, but Rep. Rick Renzi (R AZ), who was under investigation by fired US Attorney Paul Charlton before the 2006 elections, had his family business offices raided yesterday by the FBI. The focus of the investigation, as reported in today's Arizona Republic, is not clear. Charlton, BTW, was an extremely well regarded US Attorney in Arizona and folks here are mystified as to why he was fired.
 

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