February 19, 2009

Given that the media has been predicting the demise of the Obama administration since about ten minutes into his swearing-in, as so brilliantly pointed out by Frank Rich, I'm hesitant to take this report by the Chicago Tribune at face value:

The Obama White House has effectively, and somewhat quietly, answered that question -- for now: With Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explaining that the Justice Department has allowed all the chief federal prosecutors who have not already left in the changing of the presidential guard to remain at their posts, at least temporarily.

Of the 93 U.S. attorneys who served under the previous administration, Gibbs said aboard Air Force One en route to Phoenix with President Barack Obama, 51 remain.

The White House also says that, at the start of the administration, all 93 were allowed to serve temporarily. Thirty resigned before Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20, and 12 more have left since then. And the 51 still serving are technically there on a temporary basis -- Obama hasn't decided that all will remain.

Yet, during his campaign, Obama made it clear that Fitzgerald had his support. The corruption-buster also has the support of Illinois' senior Sen. Dick Durbin. Durbin (D-Ill.) had said in November that he would recommend another term for the Chicago-based prosecutor. And Durbin's office had recently made it known that Fitzgerald would be sticking around, as our colleagues at the Ticket noted.

"I will support what he wants to do," Durbin said in November. "I think he has done an extraordinary job."

I don't have any problem with Fitzgerald staying; I think he takes a very Obama-like post-partisan approach to his work. And with the careful caveat of that these are "temporary" placings and that Obama has quite a full plate right now, there are just some questions that I must ask:

1) How many of these remaining 51 US Attorneys were hired through Monica Goodling and Bradley Schlozman's partisan loyalty litmus test?

2) Obviously, Durbin went to bat for Fitzgerald. Were Democratic Senators in other states consulted about the US Attorneys in their states?

3) Does this include the attorney who went after Don Siegelman, Alice Martin? How about Mary Beth Buchanan in Pennsylvania? All the US Attorneys remaining had passed Rove's loyalty tests. Can they rise above it now in an Obama administration?

4) What's wrong with giving some Democratic attorneys a leg up into the Justice Department?

5) Gibbs clearly hedges his bets in his statement that this is temporary. When GWB43 came into office, he did ask at least one US Attorney, Mary Jo White of New York, to stay, because she was in the middle of terrorism prosecutions. White eventually left and rejoined the private sector. But if Obama removes these USAs later, will anyone remember that their status was temporary? Won't this be the red meat the Republicans and their mouthpieces in the media need to obfuscate on the Bush US Attorney purge, something that Conyers still wants a Congressional investigation on?

Call me a doom-and-gloomer, I think this is going to cause problems in the end for Obama.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.