Failing by Example

One of the original Bush apologists, Mr. F.U. himself makes a good analogy today: Monica Goodling's quest to purge Democrats from all corners of the Justice Department and the de-Baathification in Iraq.

Blue Evening in Chicago

Thomas Friedman: Failing by Example
While the Bush team has been trying to limit de-Baathification in Baghdad, it was carrying out its own de-Democratization in the Justice Department.

If you want to know why we are losing in Iraq, go back and read this story that ran on the front page of The Times on Saturday. It began like this:

Mr. Friedman's intern doesn't provide the link, here's the permalink of Eric Lipton's article for posterity:

Two years ago, Robin C. Ashton, a seasoned criminal prosecutor at the Department of Justice, learned from her boss that a promised promotion was no longer hers. “You have a Monica problem,” Ms. Ashton was told, according to several Justice Department officials. Referring to Monica M. Goodling, a 31-year-old, relatively inexperienced lawyer who had only recently arrived in the office, the boss added, “She believes you’re a Democrat and doesn’t feel you can be trusted.”...

Ms. Goodling would soon be quizzing applicants for civil service jobs at Justice Department headquarters with questions that several United States attorneys said were inappropriate, like who was their favorite president and Supreme Court justice. One department official said an applicant was even asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”

Ms. Goodling also moved to block the hiring of prosecutors with résumés that suggested they might be Democrats, even though they were seeking posts that were supposed to be nonpartisan, two department officials said.

And she helped maintain lists of all the United States attorneys that graded their loyalty to the Bush administration, including work on past political campaigns, and noted if they were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.

Mr. Friedman continues:

What does this have to do with Iraq? A lot. One benchmark the Bush team has been urging the Iraqi government to meet is to rescind its broad “de-Baathification” program — the wholesale purging of Baathists after the fall of Saddam — which has alienated many Sunnis and hampered national reconciliation.

But while the Bush team has been lecturing the Iraqi Shiites to limit de-Baathification in Baghdad, it was carrying out its own de-Democratization in the Justice Department in Washington. We would feel that we had failed in Iraq if we read that Sunnis were being purged from Iraq’s Ministry of Justice by Shiite hard-liners loyal to Moktada al-Sadr — but the moral equivalent of that is exactly what the Bush administration was doing here. What kind of example does that set for Iraqis?

And this wasn’t only a Washington problem. Read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s outstanding “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” which details the extent to which Americans recruited to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad were chosen, at times, for their loyalty toward Republicanism rather than expertise on Islamism. “Two C.P.A. staffers said that they were asked if they supported Roe v. Wade and if they had voted for George W. Bush,” he wrote.

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Killing People Is Rude

But this degree of partisanship — loyalty over competence — was destructive in a much bigger way. It also deprived the Bush team of the support it needed when things in Iraq didn’t turn out to be as easy as it expected.

Only a united America could have the patience and fortitude to heal a divided Iraq — and we simply don’t have that today. Why? Because George Bush and Dick Cheney asked everyone to check their politics at the door when it came to Iraq, because victory there was so important — everyone but themselves. They argued that the war in Iraq was the central front of the central struggle of our age — an unusual war, a war against terrorism and the pathologies that produce it — but then they indulged in the most rancid politics as usual at home.

They actually thought they could unite Iraq, while dividing America.

Whenever Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney had a choice between seeking political advantage at home or acting in a bipartisan fashion to buy more unity, time and space to do all the heavy lifting needed in Iraq, they opted for political advantage.

When Franklin Roosevelt fought World War II, he made a conservative Republican, Henry Stimson, his secretary of war and did all he could to hold the country together. The Bush- Cheney team, by contrast, summoned us to D-Day and then treated it like it was just another political wedge issue, whenever it suited them.

It has not worked. As Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, put it: “You cannot govern like Winston Churchill some of the time and like Grover Norquist most of the time.

Of course, Friedman ends with a superfluous jab at the Democrats:

Democrats need to be careful, though, that they don’t let their rage with the hypocrisy of Mr. Bush make them totally crazy, and blind them to the fact that they — we — still need a credible plan to deal with the very real threat to open societies posed by Islamist terrorism. But I understand that rage. After all, who can ask more soldiers to sacrifice their lives in Iraq for an administration that wouldn’t even sacrifice its politics?

Shoplifters of the World lift your weary heads

One other excerpt from Mr. Lipton's article I found telling:

Ms. Goodling, now 33, arrived at the department at the start of the Bush administration after working as an opposition researcher for the Republican National Committee during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Her legal experience was limited; she had graduated in 1999 from Regent University School of Law, which was founded by Pat Robertson. Deeply religious and politically conservative, Ms. Goodling seemed to believe that part of her job was to bring people with similar values into the Justice Department, several former colleagues said.

She joined the department in the press office. Soon after, two lawyers said, Ms. Goodling complained that staff members in Puerto Rico had used rap music in a public service announcement intended to discourage gun crime.

”That is just outrageous,“ she told one department lawyer. ”How could they use government money for an ad that featured rap music? That kind of music glorifies violence.“

Ms. Goodling’s shift to the executive office, which oversees budgets, management and performance evaluations of United States attorneys, occurred as officials in the White House and Justice Department were considering replacing a number of the top prosecutors. The first lists of possible targets had already been drawn up. But while those lists were being refined, Ms. Goodling, who would become deputy director of the executive office, was quietly helping make other changes.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on May 16, 2007 6:41 AM.

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