Ignatius Gets Some Of It Right

7 comments March 23rd, 2007at 11:21am Posted by Eli

He softpedals the actual offense pretty egregiously, but I think he nails the underlying attitude:

What infuriates me about the Bush administration is its disdain for people like these [dedicated career civil servants]. You sense that scorn reading the e-mails that have surfaced in the flap over the firings of U.S. attorneys. I don’t think the story is much of a scandal. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, and he can fire whomever he wants. What interests me about the Justice e-mails is that they are a piece of sociology, documenting the mind-set of the young hotshots and ideologues who populate the Bush administration.

Here’s Kyle Sampson, now-deposed chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, griping about a U.S. attorney in Phoenix who had the effrontery to want to make his case personally: “In the ‘you won’t believe this category,’ Paul Charlton would like a few minutes of the AG’s time.” And here’s Brent Ward, the director of a Justice Department task force who made his name as an anti-pornography crusader grumbling that he doesn’t want to deal with the U.S. attorney in Las Vegas: “To go out to LV and sit and listen to the lame excuses of a defiant U.S. attorney is only going to move this whole enterprise closer to catastrophe.”

Umm, Michael Elston actually wrote that first e-mail to Sampson, but I guess Iggy can be excused for missing that, since Sampson’s entire response was the word “Denied.” Way to push the pleasure-of-the-president, nothing-to-see-here meme, though.

The Bush political operatives have become the people the Republicans once warned the country against — a club of insiders who seem to think that they’re better than other folks. They are so contemptuous of government and the public servants who populate it that they have been unable to govern effectively. They are a smug, inward-looking elite that thinks it knows who the good guys are by the political labels they wear.

[Examples of inept cronyism in CPA, CIA, and FEMA]

After Katrina, it became clear that the public wanted a change. Americans want to be confident that those in charge of the country’s business are members of what I call “the party of competence,” whatever their political affiliation. The anguish of Iraq deepened that message, and the 2006 congressional elections codified it. But the Bush administration didn’t get it. The purge at Justice came after the November election blowout. They acted as if they were still on a roll.

Here’s the challenge for the Democrats: Become the party that fixes things, that solves problems, that respects expertise and professionalism. Let the GOP be the party of smart alecks and know-it-alls and smirking e-mail writers. The Republicans have made a bed of political arrogance; let them sleep in it for a good long while.

That approach sure worked well for Dukakis. On the other hand, incompetence and cronyism, while present, were not the defining characteristic of the Reagan/Bush 1 era. Nor was there the sense that the country was seriously damaged and in dire need of repair.

I think competence should be a part of the Democratic narrative for 2008, but preferably as just one component of a larger narrative of integrity and service. Something along the lines of, “Republicans believe that the government is for their benefit alone, and for eight years we have all paid the price. Democrats understand that the government works for everyone, and we are committed to building a government you can depend on. Also, pointless war bad, Constitution good.”

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans,Wankers


  • 1. charley  |  March 23rd, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    . Let the GOP be the party of smart alecks and know-it-alls and smirking e-mail writers. The Republicans have made a bed of political arrogance; let them sleep in it for a good long while.

    i would have preferred “a band of low rent punks, and churlish, criminal thugs who have plunged the world into existential catastrophe and certain disaster for nothing more/less than cheap political gain.” but i’m never going to get to work at the Washington Post.

    these people are just freak’n oblivious. see, i’ve always thought it was the “dumb half” of america (the genius of the GOP plan) that brought us to this point. but really, the “smarties” helped them along.

  • 2. Eli  |  March 23rd, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    You don’t have to be stupid, just dishonest and amoral.

  • 3. virgotex  |  March 23rd, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    republicans are good at politics but don’t care or don’t know how to govern. They aren’t interested in running a government the way it was designed to be run, to achieve the ends for which it was designed. The democrats need to run the government- it’s okay to be creative with rules but fer chrissakes at least play the game as it was intended. Make the government work

  • 4. Eli  |  March 23rd, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    The Republicans believe the government is there for their own personal benefit and that of their friends. It’s not so much that they’re incompetent at making government work, as that they don’t realize what it’s *for*.

    You look at someone and see a person; they just see harvestable organs and a wallet.

  • 5. charley  |  March 24th, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    The Republicans believe the government is there for their own personal benefit and that of their friends.

    they still have to get the stupids to vote for them. hopefully they have become so obvious their plan will now fail, because it appears the next stage was to make voting irrelevant.

  • 6. Interrobang  |  March 24th, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Sure the attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President and can be fired whenever, but if his pleasure turns to displeasure as a result of investigations the attorneys are undertaking and he fires them for that reason, it still smells like a week-old fish. How is that not some sort of a scandal.

    Dumb as a box of rocks.

    By the way, Eli, you might want to fix:

    “On the other hand, incompetence and cronyism, while present, where [were] not the defining characteristics…”

  • 7. Eli  |  March 24th, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Fixed, thanks.

    “Not a crime” is one of the Republicans favorite defenses, and they just keep repeating it until everyone believes it.

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