Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Friday, March 23, 2007
Michael Kinsley, We Hardly Knew Ye
What in the world has happened to Michael Kinsley?

Here's the short version. Kinsley wrote a column the other day condemning Democrats for making a big deal out of the prosecutor scandal. Kinsley seems unable to distinguish the difference between the normal appointive turnover of prosecutors and using the U.S. Justice Dept. as a political arm of the Republican party. Josh Marshall to Kinsley:
The firings were not the offense. They were the clue that suggested the offense. As the Congressional Research Service has shown, over the last twenty-five years only ten US Attorneys have been dismissed other than at the beginning of a new president's term of office. And of those, eight were for clear cause. For instance, one of them bit a stripper on the arm in a night club. And that, not surprisingly, led to his ouster.

To quote the CRS report ...

In virtually all of those 10 previous cases, serious issues of personal or professional conduct appeared to be the driving issue. Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired for improper, and in one case criminal, behavior. The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” For two others, the CRS was unable to determine the cause.

(For more details on this key element of the firings story, see this discussion by Scott Lilly.)
In any case, ten times over twenty five years and in eight of those cases for clear and publicly aired reasons.

And then on one day, secretly and with no explanation, seven get canned. And several are involved in corruption investigations targetting Republicans. The first public explanation is that they were fired for poor performance. But then it turns most were among the highest performing US Attorneys in the country. Add in the fact that one of the eight was overseeing one of the broadest ranging and historic public corruption cases in US history and ... well, it all got our attention.

Then, only a little digging revealed clear evidence that two of the US Attorneys were dismissed for not pursuing bogus claims of Democratic 'voter fraud'.
In addition to Marshall, as I often say, just go read Digby on the matter. As usual, Digby does the thorough knockdown of Kinsley as well, but points to the larger issue of what is now a thirty year tradition of Republican corruption in government. And like Digby, I'm sick of being labeled a dirty f$%king hippie because I squeal at the abject corruption right under my nose. I'm not a leftist firebrand. Much of the rest of the country have left American traditions to become reactionaries, blithely following the slick P.R. marketing plan of the GOP.

What I would like to add is, what's up with these guys? People like Kinsley, Broder, Klein, Roberts, Friedman, Donaldson, and on and on .... folks that I used to think of as being bonafide progressive thinkers and guardians of the Jeffersonian wing of the American tradition, what happened to them?

Is the explanation simply that all of these folks have gotten old? Has aging influenced them in a more cynical and conservative direction, as it does with many people? Where are their ideals? I used to love to watch Kinsley on crossfire, his sharp wit cutting conservatives to ribbons. Now he's saying that Bush's behavior is simply, "bidness as usual"?

I don't know. It's all so disillusioning. Interestingly, it's the generally younger blogosphere that is calling these folks on the carpet. I mourne for these thinkers, for the loss of their wisdom, idealism and sense of right and wrong in government. And I mourne for the impact of their loss on the nation.