The NY Times today highlighted an article that focused on an internal DOJ investigation that identified aides to former attorney-general Alberto Gonzales who used political affiliation in their hiring and promotion process. They apparently picked less-qualified applicants for non-political positions over others because of their political affiliations or passed over better qualified applicants because of their or their spouse’s political affiliation or activities. The articles continues by detailing a few examples of such behavior.

A longtime prosecutor who drew rave reviews from his supervisors was passed over for an important counterterrorism slot because his wife was active in Democratic politics, and a much-less-experienced lawyer with Republican leanings got the job, the report said.

Another prosecutor was rejected for a job in part because she was thought to be a lesbian. And a Republican lawyer received high marks at his job interview because he was found to be sufficiently conservative on the core issues of “god, guns + gays.”

(Lichtblau, Eric,”Report Faults Aides in Hiring at Justice Dept.“,The New York Times, July 29, 2008 )

What, of course, is not surprising at all is that the report also determined that White House officials were also actively involved in these hirings and promotion decisions. Does this surprise me? Not in the least. The Bush administration has continually flaunted the legal limits on a wide variety of issues — be it wiretapping without warrants to the firing of U.S. attorneys because of political affiliations or leanings. The fact is this administration has made a rather severe mockery of the law by behaving, and encouraging the behavior, that it is above the law. Former Attorney General Gonzales should have kept better tabs on his department.

The [Department of Justice] report released on Monday goes much further in documenting pervasive evidence of political hiring for some of the department’s most senior career positions, including immigration judges, assistant United States attorneys and even senior counterterrorism positions.

The pattern appeared most damaging in the hiring of immigration judges, as vacancies were allowed to go unfilled — and a backlog of deportation cases grew — while Mr. Gonzales’s aides looked for conservative lawyers to fill what were supposed to be apolitical jobs.

(Lichtblau, Eric,”Report Faults Aides in Hiring at Justice Dept.“,The New York Times, July 29, 2008 )

Since these are apolitical positions within the Justice Department it is illegal according to Civil Service Law and contrary to the department’s own internal policies to use political affiliation as a benchmark for hiring and promotion decisions. Obviously Ms. Goodling and her predecessor, Susan Richmond, felt that they knew better than the law. An example of Ms. Richmond’s interference can be seen in the extension of an attorney’s appointment in the deputy attorney general’s office. When an aide in the deputy attorney general’s office inquired abount the delay he

summed up his frustration in an e-mail message recounting his inability to keep the lawyer in his office. “I also probed whether there is something negative about him that I did not know,” Mr. Levey wrote. “Turns out there is: he is a registered Democrat,” he wrote, and Jan Williams, an official in the White House, “thinks everyone in the leadership offices should have some demonstrated loyalty to the President. She all but said that he should pack his bags and get out of Dodge by sunset.”

(Lichtblau, Eric,”Report Faults Aides in Hiring at Justice Dept.“,The New York Times, July 29, 2008 )

Now, is this something endemic to just this White House? Probably not. But it is interesting to see how pervasive this behavior is in this administration. Sure there were scandals in the Clinton administration, some of them politically oriented and motivated. But this White House has taken this behavior to a new level. And it runs counter to the concept that President Bush is a “Uniter…not a divider” and of trying to portray himself and his administration as being principled. And of course the response from the White House to this report is as expected: Tony Fratto, a spokesman for the White House said of Monday’s report, “There really is not a lot new here.” (Lichtblau, Eric,”Report Faults Aides in Hiring at Justice Dept.“,The New York Times, July 29, 2008 )

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