I’ve been thinking about that U.S. Attorney purge. I’ve been having a great time following it from the safe distance of the Internet, watching it like a soap opera on Talking Points Memo. It’s great drama. While no one knows why these particular prosecutors got canned, I have a theory — all of them but the Californians come from jurisdictions likely to be “battleground states” in the 2008 presidential race. And the Californians had problems of their own.
Hibiscus suggested that the purge gave Republican opposition researchers subpoena power ahead of that election. And sure enough, some of the locations happen to be home states of major Dem candidates, the Dem House and Senate leadership, and one of Bush’s occasional Republican critics:
H.E. “Bud” Cummins, Arkansas…Hillary Clinton and Wesley Clark, Arkansas
David Iglesias, New Mexico…Bill Richardson, New Mexico
Kevin Ryan, Northern California…Nancy Pelosi, Northern California
Daniel Bogden, Nevada…Harry Reid, Nevada
Paul K. Charlton, Arizona…John McCain, Arizona
This list, even expanded to include McCain, Pelosi and Reid, provides no good explanation for John McKay of Washington and Carol Lam of Southern California. It also fails to account for the survival of the U.S. Attorneys in Illinois (Obama-land) and New York (now home of Clinton). (Am I missing something?)
My battleground states theory is, I think, stronger. It would be helpful to the Bush allies to have USAs in place who are going to be hypervigilant of vote fraud that hurts Republicans and willing to challenge results that benefit Democrats. If they learned anything in Florida, 2000, it’s that an aggressive response to losing an election can turn things around.
In 2004, Bush took Nevada by 3 percentage points; continued immigration to the state make it a tossup. Kerry took New Mexico by less than 1 percent. Bush won Arkansas by 9 percentage points, but a Clinton candidacy could erase that advantage. While Arizona went solidly for Bush, the New York Times previously named it, along with Washington, a battleground state for 2008. (So did the Cook Report.) That leaves California.
The Californians were, I think, special cases. Kevin Ryan was fucking up and was, among all the USAs, the one most likely dismissed for cause. (Will we now see Josh Wolf freed? And maybe no more vindictive prosecutions of medical marijuana providers?) And Carol Lam in Southern California was overseeing the prosecution of Duke Cunningham, Dusty Foggo and a collection of other crooks that get awfully close to the boneheaded inner sanctum of the Bush Administration.
Not that they needed any one reason to fire these people. The main point that is now clear is that the firings were an attempt to make more obvious the political side of being a federal prosecutor. But I think the battleground state hypothesis covers more of them than any other I’ve seen.