Kevin Drum has a “list of reasons” that the U.S. Attorney firings were supposedly fishy. (H/t Andrew J. Lazarus.) Some of Drum’s reasons are simply misleading, but others are just flatly wrong. For example:
On a similar note, the day after Carol Lam notified DOJ that she was planning to expand the Duke Cunningham investigation, Kyle Sampson emailed the White House and told William Kelly to call him so he could explain the “real reason” he wanted to get rid of Lam. What was the real reason that he didn’t want to put in email?
This is not true. Sampson’s e-mail says in relevant part:
Please call me at your convenience to discuss the following:
* Tim Griffin for E.D. Ark; and
* The real problem we have right now with Carol Lam that leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires.
Nowhere does Sampson tell Kelley (not “Kelly”) to call him so he could explain the “real reason” he wanted to get rid of Lam.
Drum also says:
When DOJ released thousands of pages of emails last week, there was a mysterious 18-day gap from a period shortly before the firings were announced. This seems like precisely the period during which there would have been the greatest amount of email traffic. Where are the emails?
This is not true. There was no 18-day gap. Talking Points Memo initially claimed that there was a gap between November 15 and December 4. But several e-mails were subsequently located within the alleged gap, including on November 16, an exchange between November 20 through 22, an e-mail from November 29, and another from December 1. There is no gap longer than a week.
They fired eight USAs at once. This is wildly unprecedented. Why did they feel the need for such an extensive sweep?
Clinton fired 93 U.S. Attorneys all at once. I think I know what Kevin is trying to say, but he put it very poorly, and his statement as written is flatly false.
There are other points cited by Drum that are misleading and inaccurate, but don’t fall into the “flatly false” category like the three mentioned above. For example, Drum says: “The email dump contained virtually nothing from before the firings discussing the reasons for targeting the eight USAs who were eventually fired.” I’m not citing this as a factual error, because you could quibble over the meaning of the word “virtually.” But it is totally misleading, given the plethora of pre-firing material (some of which is discussed here) available in the e-mails.
I think Kevin is an honest guy. It’s my belief that he simply has a poor grasp of some of the details of this controversy — and has perhaps gotten snookered by the L.A. Times on a few points as well.
Hey, that’s OK. It happens to a lot of people.
UPDATE: Drum has corrected his post in response to this one, and says:
I think even Patrick realizes this is pretty desperate quibbling. If that’s the defense’s idea of a defense, the Justice Department is in big trouble.
Well, my intent was not to provide a full defense of the Administration in one post, but to point out several clear and unmistakable errors in Kevin’s post. It’s wrong for Kevin to assume that my post is a full defense, when I explicitly say in the post: “There are other points cited by Drum that are misleading and inaccurate, but don’t fall into the ‘flatly false’ category like the three mentioned above.”
As to a more general “defense,” while I am not in the business of defending the Administration as such, I am in the business of seeking the truth. Relevant to that issue, for several days now, I have been pointing out things overlooked by Big Media on this scandal. I’m not repeating them all in this post. If you want to get to the meat of it — were genuine performance issues flagged before the fact? — I have provided quite a bit of evidence that they were. Much of it is listed in the link cited three paragraphs up. Just because I don’t repeat all of that in this post doesn’t mean that I haven’t said it.
By the way, the reason I noted Drum’s misspelling of “Kelley” was not to be pedantic, but to reinforce the conclusion that he wasn’t actually looking at the e-mail itself at the moment he so badly (and materially) misquoted it.
UPDATE x2: Look: I’m not going to write a book on this issue every time it comes up. In the post, I have a link to a post which, in turn, links three other posts that extensively discuss the issue of whether legitimate reasons existed to fire these people. If I cared to pull out all the arguments from those posts, and set them all out here, it would read like a devastasting response to Drum’s misleading argument that “The email dump contained virtually nothing from before the firings discussing the reasons for targeting the eight USAs who were eventually fired. It’s just not so. 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. I’m not going to repeat all of this stuff in every post I write. If you are all too lazy to follow the links, that’s your problem, not mine.
You can argue that there are potential responses to some of the voluminous documentation of these reasons, and it’s a debate that we’ve been having here for days. But to say that there is “virtually nothing” there — I’m sorry, Kevin, but that is just not true, at all. And, like your more blatant errors, it reveals that you fundamentally don’t grasp the details of this subject.
UPDATE x3: Drum’s correction on Lam is still misleading. It now reads:
On a similar note, the day after Carol Lam notified DOJ that she was planning to expand the Duke Cunningham investigation, Kyle Sampson emailed the White House and told William Kelley to call him so he could explain the “real problem” he had with Lam. What was the real problem that he didn’t feel comfortable putting in email?
This is still wrong. Sampson didn’t say he wanted to “explain” the “real problem” with Lam on the phone. He said he wanted to “discuss” it.
These are not minor issues. The issue of immigration had come up repeatedly in previous e-mails. Assume you have been discussing an issue with someone, and have extensively set forth reasons for a proposed action. If you subsequently say, “Call me so I can explain the real reason” or even “Call me so I can explain the real problem we have,” that implies that the problem is different from the one you have been discussing. If you say, “Call me to discuss the real problem we have,” that is consistent with the notion that the problem you have been discussing constitutes a real problem — i.e., a major one that needs to be addressed.
Drum’s mischaracterization of the e-mail, even now, makes it seem inconsistent with the notion that immigration was really the issue with Lam. But the actual e-mail is quite consistent with that notion.