The Spectacle Blog

More on Justice

By on 3.19.07 | 4:51PM

Just a couple of other notes on the unfolding "scandal" about the US Attorneys. First, more than one source has now told me info that helps deflate the entire ORIGINAL conspiracy theory from the Left, namely that the replacement decisions on the USAs were driven by a desire to intervene improperly in specific, politically charged cases. The info (I hinted at this in my column last week) is that one person far more involved in the review process than has been commonly reported is David Margolis, who is NOT a political guy but rather a career civil servant for four decades. The idea that Margolis would be part of a right-wing plot or improper, right-leaning shenanigans is ludicrous. (In fact, some conservatives would wish that he weren't involved at all, specifically because he is NOT particularly a man of the right.) On the other hand, Margolis' apparent willingness to let former DoJ chief of staff Kyle Sampson take the fall without his trying to set the record straight about Sampson does not speak particularly well of Margolis' decency.

Speaking of Sampson (whom I believe I have never met or spoken to) I am told by a source close to the Justice Department that he was NOT in charge of the preparation for the now-somewhat-discredited testimony given by Deputy AG Paul McNulty (or for statements made by principal associate deputy attorney general William Moschella). What this means is not that the McNulty mistakes were less an attempt to mislead Congress than they were a result of bureaucratic bumbling. Of course, one of the worst parts of McNulty's testimony was the way he publicly harmed the reputations of the fired USAs.

What does all this mean? First, that the underlying actions, namely the firings, were handled indelicately but not in violation of any laws, rules, or formal ethics. The problems arose not, as the Left would have it, from underhanded or unethical politics, but from political tin ears. Second, that the subsequent explanations of the replacements were handled with a lack of human decency and with political ineptness. Last I checked, those errors are not criminal.

Gonzales, McNulty, Moschella, Margolis, and McNulty's chief of staff Michael Elston all stumbled and bumbled -- which is all Sampson himself did, at worst -- and all should take their shares of the blame for letting this whole situation blow up in their faces. As I wrote in my column, the shame of this is that several USAs had their reputations trashed undeservingly, replacement USA Tim Griffin in Arkansas has been unfairly disparaged, and Kyle Sampson was unfairly made to bear the blame alone. The president has been badly served, and a "scandal" has been created out of thin air.

Sometimes, there's just no Justice.

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