- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

Once upon a time, I thought justice was supposed to be blind, but if you listen to the speech White House political adviser Karl Rove gave in Troy, Ala., she’s just another political animal — almost a pet.

Back in 2002, the U.S. Justice Department spent $8,000 of taxpayer money to purchase blue drapes that could cover the bared breasts of the “Spirit of Justice” statue in the department’s Great Hall because Attorney General John Ashcroft didn’t like being photographed in front of them.

I wonder just how much it costs these days to dress her in an elephant suit?

Certainly the Spirit of Justice could not have witnessed atrocities at Abu Ghraib without animating her body in defense of those who were bound, gagged, piled and prodded. Nor would she stand idle upon learning that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales systematically allowed his chief of staff to develop a political scorecard on which to base which U.S. attorneys would be fired.

Just where is the restoration of “honesty and integrity” voters were promised by a certain presidential candidate from Texas in 2000?

It’s a wonder President Bush didn’t wake up last Sunday when we moved our clocks ahead and fast forward the calendar to January 2009, so he could immediately pardon Scooter Libby. The president has the opportunity to set an example and restore the nation’s faith in our justice system. At the very least, he should call for Alberto Gonzales’ resignation.

By providing Congress with conflicting statements on the reason for dismissing the attorneys, several aides, including Mr. Gonzales’s former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, have now been subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify.

Mr. Rove, who may be subjected to a subpoena at some point in this investigation, believes every president is “entitled to do” as he pleases on the hiring and firing of political appointees. Of course, the president can replace anyone at anytime — but it better be for the proper reasons.

Former President Bill Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office. Some Republicans are falling into a chorus of “it’s Bill Clinton’s fault because he did the same thing.” He didn’t. Like virtually every president before him, at the time he took office, Mr. Clinton purged many of the prosecutors his predecessor had appointed. However, most of the attorneys he appointed remained in their positions throughout both his terms as president. And that’s the difference.

Presidents Clinton, Reagan and George Bush the elder all eliminated holdovers from the previous administration. Mr. Gonzales and his cronies have fired competent attorneys who failed the strict loyalty test by not bowing to narrow political interests and pressure from above. While these attorneys are political appointees and serve at the pleasure of the president, they are supposed to be nonpartisan. Just read their testimony and you can understand why the Spirit of Justice must be restored.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, in a recent interview disclosed “some of the falsehoods we’ve been told that are now unraveling,” namely that seven of the eight U.S. attorneys were fired for performance reasons, that Mr. Gonzales said he would “never, ever make a change for political reasons.”

According to Mr. Schumer, evidence clearly shows firing of the U.S. attorneys was based “purely on politics, to punish prosecutors who were perceived to be too light on Democrats or too tough on Republicans.”

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said he was pressured by Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, both New Mexico Republicans, to bring public corruption indictments against local Democratic officials. Six of the eight who have testified in Congress said they were pressured by Republican legislators to hasten investigations of voter fraud, or abandon investigations of political corruption, among a variety of other charges. When they refused to play ball, they were shown the door.

Justice is supposed to be impartial. Political appointee or not, a U.S. attorney’s primary duty is to defend the law and pursue the truth. When these attorneys refused to rubberstamp the administration, they were let go. Now that Sampson has resigned amid the fervor, maybe he can spend his free time with Mr. Libby and form a support group for “Bush administration support personnel” — a committee of those former high-ranking officials who knowingly accepted the blame and took the hit for their political bosses.

The list will likely grow as the Bush administration winds down, but the president still has time to move in a new direction. It starts with cooperating with the legislative branch of government as it began to unravel this scandal and get to the truth.

Justice is supposed to be blind — not blinded. Alberto Gonzales and, by extension, the White House should begin to work overtime to restore Justice and to remove the cloth that has now gagged her. But if this administration will shamefully use the cover of politics to defend their actions and not move to correct the underlying issues, Congress on behalf of the American people must restore the Spirit of Justice.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and National Public Radio and is Al Gore’s former campaign manager.

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