Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont offers some interesting advice to President Bush on his choice of a new attorney general to replace the unfortunate Alberto Gonzalez.
Leahy contends that
The attorney general is the people’s lawyer, not the president’s.”
which is an amusing piece of sophistry. Of course, “the people” don’t actually play any role in the federal system after elections are concluded. “The people” cannot decide what side the Justice Department will choose to take on an abortion case. “The people” cannot decide on whether or not Microsoft should be prosecuted for an alleged monopoly. And “the people” cannot decide whether 8 federal attorneys or all 93 need to be replaced.
What Senator Leahy means by “the people” is obviously what Thomas Sowell likes to call the consensus of the elect, the collective viewpoint of the mainstream media, the liberal democrat congressional majority, the establishment punditocracy, and so on.
The Senate has the Constitutional right to advise and consent on presidential appointments of ministers of state and officers of government, but executive power is vested by the Constitution in the president not in “the people” nor in Congress nor in the consensus of the liberal establishment. Cabinet officers really do work for the president.
Senator Leahy goes on to urge President Bush to select a candidate for attorney general, who is neither notoriously partisan nor divisive.
Above all, the new attorney general cannot interpret our laws to mean whatever the president wants them to mean. The departing attorney general showed a lack of independence from the president and the White House. We have seen the disastrous consequences.
The next attorney general must uphold the rule of law on behalf of all of the American people.
The president begins this process. Through his choice for attorney general, he can be a uniter or a divider. For the sake of the Department of Justice and its vital missions on behalf of the American people, this would be an excellent time to work with us to unite the nation.
And how does the last democrat president’s choice of attorney general measure up to Pat Leahy’s proposed standards?
Janet Reno was anything but a uniter, and it is difficult to imagine a possible Republican choice who could be equivalently offensive to the other party. Reno was a leftwing extremist , who many people believed misused her Dade County Prosecutorship on behalf of her own political agenda. She was appointed by President Clinton despite a record of ideologically-motivated, questionable prosecutions in Florida, and despite her dubious moral character and life-style.
Janet Reno went on to compile arguably the most controversial record of any attorney general, presiding over the federal massacre of Seventh Day Adventists in Waco, Texas, the seizure by machine-gun-wielding federal agents of a six-year-old refugee for deportation to Communist Cuba, and –of course– the unprececented and completely partisan firing of all 93 US Attorneys.