Patterico's Pontifications

12/9/2007

L.A. Times Article on U.S. Attorney Scandal Ignores All Contemporaneous Concerns About Their Performance

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:52 pm



I followed the U.S. Attorney scandal very closely, and wrote numerous posts on the issue. Like many political issues, it cannot be accurately painted entirely in black and white hues. There were several different individuals who did not have their four-year terms extended, and the reasons were varied and complex.

I believed there was some evidence of nefarious motives by the Administration. For example, I found the timing of the addition of David Iglesias to the list to be highly suspicious. It certainly raised concerns that Kyle Sampson had proposed to lie to Congress about Bud Cummins. And the buffoonish Kyle Sampson had proposed Patrick Fitzgerald for the firing list — something that certainly suggested that he was looking to politics in making his judgments.

At the same time, there were genuine concerns raised contemporaneously about the performance of many of the U.S. Attorneys. I discussed some of them in posts like this one, or this one, or this one. As I said in this post:

There are reams of documentation on issues like Lam’s failure to prosecute immigration cases; Charlton’s overly restrictive immigration guidelines; Ryan’s management issues; McKay’s public complaints about resources and revealing internal guidelines; Bogden’s and Charlton’s neglect of obscenity cases (which I agree with, but which was an Administration priority); Iglesias and McKay’s neglect of voter fraud; and the list goes on and on and on.

Several of the U.S. Attorneys even balked at imposing the death penalty. That’s not a political issue.

The most obvious example of a mountain being made out of a molehill was the flap over Carol Lam. The controversy over her firing was demonstrably silly — based on mythology that liberals have never bothered to think about in a logical fashion.

The L.A. Times has an article today that ignores all these genuine concerns, and simplistically concludes that the firings were politically motivated — tied to corruption cases that Republicans didn’t like:

The politically charged firings of one year ago spawned a scandal that helped lead to the resignation of an attorney general and cast a pall over the Justice Department. The prosecutors — nine altogether, including two fired earlier in the year — were thrust into new lives and careers under circumstances they could never have imagined.

Called to account for the firings, the department brass branded them insubordinates or underachievers, even though they had scored well in department performance reviews.

The attorneys’ own testimony — and ties to voting-rights and corruption cases that some influential Republicans found objectionable — suggested the possibility of other, more political motives. But speaking out was perceived as disloyal in some quarters.

Nowhere does the article mention any of the numerous, genuine concerns the Administration had with these U.S. Attorneys.

In a perfect example of the article’s simplistic mode of analysis, it actually includes Kevin Ryan as one of the USAs supposedly fired for political reasons, despite wonderful performance reviews:

Kevin Ryan, who was U.S. attorney in San Francisco, has joined a firm in that city and he is building a specialty in sports law. “Yesterday’s over, so can’t look back too long, just too much to see in front of me,” he said in an e-mail, paraphrasing songwriter Jimmy Buffett.

But Kevin Ryan was a horrible manager. According to an article from months ago, his tenure

was plagued by morale problems and accusations that he was a bad manager. A number of the office’s most experienced lawyers left.

This was “well documented in legal newspapers.”

What publication am I quoting in the above statements? Why, that would be . . . the Los Angeles Times!

The editors don’t even understand their own side’s theory on the scandal. Kevin Ryan was so obviously bad, liberals had a hard time figuring out how to portray it as political. The spin ended up being that he didn’t get fired fast enough because he was such a loyal Bushie.

Yet today’s article portrays him as someone fired for political reasons — when back in the day, the spin was that he wasn’t fired when he should have been.

Like many issues, this controversy is more subtle and multi-faceted than it is portrayed by the media. But it’s all about the narrative.

Remember what they did with Bud Cummins? The paper’s Richard Serrano claimed that Cummins saw a connection between a particular political investigation and Cummins’s dismissal, even though Cummins told me in an e-mail: “I made it clear to Mr. Serrano that I knew of no connection between the Missouri investigation and my dismissal.” Even though I told them that Cummins had said they had misrepresented his comments about the controversy, they refused to correct them.

It’s all about making things simple, and eliminating shades of gray, to push the desired narrative. As I always say about this paper, narrative trumps facts.

Today’s article is just another example.

6 Responses to “L.A. Times Article on U.S. Attorney Scandal Ignores All Contemporaneous Concerns About Their Performance”

  1. Decisions from DC…
    Would I be labeling myself a pessimistic cynic in thinking that the foundation of all actions in DC is political?

    Just like the media constantly making the hard-sell about their objectivity, it just turns people away from the process; when, if they were honest, we could feel our involvement in the process of government was uplifting, and not a swim in a sewer.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  2. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said he’d rather have newspapers without government than vice versa. One of many reasons why I’m not a fan of Thomas Jefferson’s.

    If more people read this blog, I think a lot more people would cancel their subscriptions to this newspaper. This will sound like sarcasm, but it isn’t: I can’t even imagine how ignorant I’d be if all I had to inform me were the journalists.

    “Pray for the Republic.” –P. Opus.

    Alan (f1706f)

  3. Alan,

    It is scary to contemplate how much we think we know … and then to realize how much of it may not be true.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  4. They are just trying to top off your 2007 year in review.

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  5. Maybe it’s because IANAL, but I can’t work up any interest over these guys being fired, As far as I’m concerned, they serve at the President’s pleasure and can be discharged at any time, for any reason – or none.

    mojo (8096f2)

  6. On a related, albeit not a “hard news” topic, John Scalzi whacks a LA Times piece about Heinlein, don’t miss comment 131.

    SPQR (26be8b)


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