Where's the Beef? Bush Has the Power

Article excerpt

Byline: David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It is obvious by now that the U.S. Attorney "scandal" is no scandal at all. After nearly five months of congressional investigations and hearings, there is no evidence that anyone, either at the White House or Justice Department, acted inappropriately - let alone illegally - in replacing a group of U.S. Attorneys after the 2004 elections. Significantly, the recent and much anticipated testimony of former Justice Department/White House liaison Monica Goodling, while very troubling in other respects, also failed to suggest that any improper motivations played a part in what was, at bottom, no more than a badly handled personnel action.

It is certain, however, that the administration's congressional opponents will not let the matter drop. Not only does the affair offer an opportunity to bloody President Bush politically, but it is part of a larger effort to undercut the presidency itself.

Top federal prosecutors are, and should be, subject to removal by the president. The Constitution vests all of the federal government's executive power in the president and expressly requires him to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Consequently, when the vast federal law enforcement apparatus acts, it is doing so on the president's behalf - exercising his authority. That is why federal prosecutors, investigators and other law enforcement officials must follow the president's policies and priorities and why most senior jobs are filled by political appointees - including the 93 U.S. Attorneys.

This, in fact, is how American democracy works. A president is entitled to fill the federal government's 3,000 or so political positions, from cabinet secretaries to special assistants, with his own loyalists so as to ensure that his program - the platform on which he was elected by the American people - will be implemented. The most senior of these appointments - including United States Attorneys - must also be confirmed by the Senate. Once installed, however, all political appointees, including U.S. Attorneys, serve at the president's pleasure. They can be fired for political reasons.

Every U.S. Attorney understands this. They are not "career prosecutors." And, while many U.S. Attorneys are brilliant lawyers, most got the job because of politics - whether in the form of connections to the president, his political party, or important members of Congress, or an ideological compatibility, or all of the above.

Although these particular individuals were treated shabbily in the process, for which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has publicly apologized, like all other political appointees, they have no legal or moral right to complain when they are displaced by someone with better political credentials. …