David Brooks Explains It All (Away) For You

August 28th, 2007at 09:13pm Posted by Eli

BoBo clarifies the proper role of an Attorney General for those of us who may have been confused:

Any attorney general has to represent the executive branch in power rivalries against Congress and the courts, rivalries that are built into the Constitution and preoccupy every administration. Doing this effectively requires political experience and skill.


[Successful Attorneys General] had long experience in politics and the ways of Washington. They already had the personal relationships that are the essence of governance. They didn’t have to discover how to ram policy through the system; through long practice it was second nature to them. They had developed contacts across Washington, so they could practice politics without destructive partisanship.

The exemplar for this kind of excellence – the man everybody points to as the superlative attorney general – is Edward Levi, who served under Gerald Ford. Everybody mentions that he was a highly respected legal scholar with a detached, dignified leadership style and that he brought exceptionally smart lawyers to Justice to serve with him.

But he was also an experienced manager, and he fought for executive privilege with a canniness that could not have come from scholarship alone. As Antonin Scalia pointed out in a memorial essay in the University of Chicago Law Review, Levi fought off intrusions on executive privilege from all sides. He resisted the idea of a special prosecutor assigned by the courts, believing the executive branch should have its own. He battled a Congressional committee that sought confidential Commerce Department reports. (The House had initiated contempt proceedings against the Commerce secretary).

Alrighty then, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up: The AG’s proper role is to defend the power of the executive branch against all those who would seek to exercise oversight upon it. Who knew?

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Media,Republicans,Wankers

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