No Comment — May 21, 2007, 8:51 am

Why This Scandal Matters

One week ago, following his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Alberto Gonzales told friends that he had “weathered” the scandal and expected to stay on. That seems laughable at this point, as Congress prepares to vote “no confidence” in his capacity to serve as attorney general – and probably to vote his impeachment if he then fails to leave voluntarily. Gonzales has now established himself as the most disreputable attorney general in the nation’s history, and his weeks of painful groveling and dissembling under a public spotlight have shown the world that he also lacks even a simple sense of dignity.

Today the New York Times explains why this scandal is so important, and why even Gonzales’s removal is not enough to cure it.

As Monica Goodling, a key player in the United States attorney scandal, prepares to testify before Congress on Wednesday, the administration’s strategy is clear. It has offered up implausible excuses, hidden the most damaging evidence and feigned memory lapses, while hoping that the public’s attention moves on. But this scandal is too important for the public or Congress to move on. This story should not end until Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is gone, and the serious damage that has been done to the Justice Department is repaired…

It is now clear that United States attorneys were pressured to act in the interests of the Republican Party, and lost their job if they failed to do so. The firing offenses of the nine prosecutors who were purged last year were that they would not indict Democrats, they investigated important Republicans, or they would not try to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups with baseless election fraud cases. The degree of partisanship in the department is shocking. A study by two professors, Donald Shields of the University of Missouri at St. Louis and John Cragan of Illinois State University, found that the Bush Justice Department has investigated Democratic officeholders and office seekers about four times as often as Republican ones.

It is hard not to see the fingerprints of Karl Rove. A disproportionate number of the prosecutors pushed out, or considered for dismissal, were in swing states. The main reason for the purge — apart from hobbling a California investigation that has already put one Republican congressman in jail — appears to have been an attempt to tip states like Missouri and Washington to Republican candidates for House, Senate, governor and president. Justice Department headquarters has become deeply partisan… The department’s integrity lies in tatters.

Congress has to save the Justice Department, something President Bush shows no interest in doing. It should pass a resolution of “no confidence” in Mr. Gonzales, and push for his removal. But it also needs to insist on new leadership that will restore the department’s traditions of professionalism and impartiality, and re-establish that in the United States, the legal system does not work to advance the interests of a political party.

This analysis is correct. The threat of one party government by the Republicans is dissolving in the air. The time has come to salvage the Constitution and integrity of the institutions, and to insure that the moral collapse of the Bush Republicans does not result simply in another party exercising such shocking abuses.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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