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Still, he was surprised when Justice officials called him and told him he should step aside. He expected to leave under his own terms. Nevertheless, “I worked hard to make it a smooth transition. I went to pretty great pains to make it a situation that represented what should have happened instead of what actually happened. I mean, as far as I can tell, all of us [the fired USAs] were going away like good soldiers. But this wasan unprecedented move. I’m not aware of any president before who removed his own appointees without malfeasance.”
But he and Griffin worked out a transition plan, and things seemed basically okay — until Gonzales told Congress that all the replacements were made because of issues of poor management or the like. Suddenly, the good soldier found himself chafing as his own performance was publicly questioned. When McNulty then repeated the explanation in more explicit terms, while specifically exempting Cummins from the criticism, Cummins was quoted in the press as defending the reputation of the other fired USAs. He received a phone call from McNulty’s chief of staff Michael Elston which, according to Cummins, seemed like a thinly veiled threat to escalate the public criticism of him and the other seven if they didn’t stay quiet.
That was the last straw. Cummins testified before Congress to that effect, and on Wednesday he told me he blamed “certainly the attorney general [Gonzales] and the deputy attorney general [McNulty] too. Paul McNulty, especially, as a former U.S. Attorney himself, should have seen that the public explanation of the firings were inadequate on their face, specious on their face….It’s just wrong. These people are being disparaged wrongfully.”
ALL OF WHICH SHOWS a severe lack of political tact by the Gonzales team. There is nothing wrong with wanting new blood after four years or six years. The president never spends a lot of time explaining Cabinet replacements whenever he makes them. If handled one by one instead of as an attention-getting group of eight replacements in very short order, the changes would have attracted little attention. As well they should have, because there is no inherent scandal in such replacements.
Instead, the administration created its own quicksand and stepped right into it.
It did so even in the case of the loyal Cummins, who showed every intention of going quietly into the night. The press and the cut-throat left, predictably, homed in on the utterly innocent appointment of Griffin and used it to wrongly infer that Rove’s supposedly evil hand was responsible for all eight firings, and to further infer (or in some cases say outright) that by very virtue of his association with Rove, Griffin was no more than a political hack. The truth, of course, is the opposite (again, see Kane Webb’s article): that Griffin was a Rove favorite because Griffin was so talented.
All of which means that what should have been a simple set of administrative changes — some perhaps wise, some almost certainly not, but none of them nefarious — instead is dominating headlines and treated as a scandal. That is not the legacy of a tremendously competent attorney general.
Meanwhile, Griffin is keeping his head low. Reached by phone yesterday morning, he would say next to nothing. Finally he offered this, almost wistfully: “I was honored to be offered the post and I was honored to accept. Despite all the criticism, I just want to stay focused and try to do the best job I can.”
That’s what Cummins was doing, too, and what Kevin Ryan in San Francisco was trying to do, and what Kyle Sampson was in his own way trying to do. Now they all are victims of a “scandal” that should not have snared them.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?