But the documents and interviews indicate that the idea for the firings originated at least two years ago, when then-White House counsel Harriet E. Miers suggested to Sampson in February 2005 that all prosecutors be dismissed and replaced.
Gonzales rejected that idea as impractical and disruptive, Justice officials said, but over the next 22 months Sampson orchestrated more limited dismissals.
"I recommend that the Department of Justice and the Office of the Counsel to the President work together to seek the replacement of a limited number of U.S. Attorneys," Sampson wrote to Miers in January 2006. A "limited number of U.S. attorneys could be targeted for removal and replacement, mitigating the shock to the system that would result from an across the board firing."Translation: We can't be too egregious, or people might realize this is entirely partisan.
As the above story makes clear, facts have emerged that prevent the old "overzealous staffer" defense. Gonzales was trying (before the story emerged) to claim that he had no knowledge of the firings he had approved. No longer possible after this emerged:
E-mails released Tuesday, however, revealed that the firings were considered and discussed for two years by Justice Department and White House officials.
Being caught red-handed naturally prompted Gonzales to rapidly discover a broad streak of righteousness within himself:
"Obviously I am concerned about the fact that information -- incomplete information was communicated or may have been communicated to the Congress," Gonzales said. "I believe very strongly in our obligation to ensure that when we provide information to the Congress, it is accurate and it is complete. And I very dismayed that that may not have occurred here."
But that's the strange position in which we've found ourselves over and over and over again: Bush administration and Republican party push partisan and unethical (though not in this case illegal) agenda. Truth becomes apparent. Administration lies to conceal initial lies/incompetence/radicalism. Media publishes story about Hillary Clinton.
But maybe we really are reaching a tipping point. Bush is predictably claiming success for the meaningless "surge" as violence in Iraq grows deadlier than ever. And we're also losing Afghanistan. But BushCo continues to demand unlimited funding and "no artificial timetables," which even the most self-deluded are beginning to acknowledge as an admission that they have no idea what to do but let the killing continue until it's someone else's problem. Then came the AIPAC conference, which featured Ann Coulter calling a US Senator and vice-presidential nominee a faggot before a cheering crowd-- and a smiling Republican presidential hopeful. And another gay, right-wing prostitute. Joe Lieberman spoke, too, averring once again his unwavering support for the war in Iraq-- which Democratic primary voters rejected him for last fall. Remember when they were being derided for making it about one issue? Those were the days, huh? Then the news of Walter Reed hit the front pages, exposing the right's 'support the troops' mantra as just more hollow demagoguery. Oh, and then the architect of the GOP rise to power, Newt Gingrich, admitted that he was cheating on his second wife even as he spearheaded the Clinton impeachment. This is all over the course of what, two weeks?
And now, a fresh scandal. Going-- once again-- right to the top. We'll see, right? But as soon as articles like this move from places like Salon to Newsweek and Time, we'll know we're there.
This is about a pact the American right made with the devil, a pact the devil is now coming to collect on. American conservatism sold its soul to the Coulters and Limbaughs of the world to gain power, and now that its ideology has been exposed as empty and its leadership incompetent and corrupt, free-floating hatred is the only thing it has to offer. The problem, for the GOP, is that this isn't a winning political strategy anymore -- but they're stuck with it. They're trapped. They need the bigoted and reactionary base they helped create, but the very fanaticism that made the True Believers such potent shock troops will prevent the Republicans from achieving Karl Rove's dream of long-term GOP domination.
In the meantime, we're stuck with hacks like David Gergen saying things like "This is an administration that has been mostly free of scandal over the last six years" on stations like CNN.