So the Washington Post has an article up today about the fact that several of Bush’s appointees for U.S. Attorneys have not offered their resignations and do not plan to. Very much is made of the idea that “While [Obama] pledged bipartisanship during his campaign, replacing the cadre of mostly conservative U.S. attorneys would signal a new direction.”
The idea seems to be that Obama must keep these attorneys in place, or he is going back on his word. After all, the only reason that he could possibly want to replace the current U.S. Attorneys is for political reasons. And it isn’t like other Presidents have replaced all of the attorneys when they took office. Oh wait,
When President Bill Clinton took office, he fired all U.S. attorneys at once, provoking intense criticism in the conservative legal community and among career lawyers at the Justice Department.
President George W. Bush took a different approach, slowly releasing several of the prosecutors but keeping in place Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, while she pursued terrorism cases and a politically sensitive investigation of Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.
So I guess it has happened a time or two. And while it is true that Clinton asked for resignations from all the attorneys at once, the writer left out a few things. As David G. Savage pointed out way back in March of 2007, the Clinton administration backed off from their initial effort and, to quote one of the fired attorneys, Tom Corbett, “It was how the message was delivered more than what actually occurred.”
By the end of his first 2 years in office, Clinton had replaced 89 of the 93 U.S. Attorneys. Way more then Bush’s total of 88 of 93 by the end of his first 2 years. But exactly the same as Reagan’s total of 89 of 93 in 2 years.
Reagan? Yes, Reagan, he also removed the U.S. Attorneys that Carter had appointed. And Carter did the same. It is in fact a tradition that when a new president takes office, all U.S. Attorneys offer their resignation. And the new president eventually accepts that resignation and fills the position with his appointee.
As of right now, according to this Baltimore Sun article from March 9th, 42 of the Bush appointees have resigned and Obama has said that the other 51 can stay for now. And some, like Patrick Fitzgerald of Blagojevich fame and the Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame case, and many others, are going to remain in office. This is also normal, as mentioned in the Post article, Bush kept the U.S. Attorney for Southern Manhattan when he took over, just as Clinton kept on some from the prior administration, which was completely ignored in the article.
It seems that the best way to answer the question asked by the Washington Post in their article, is to read the article in the Baltimore Sun. Of course, it would hardly do for the Post to tell people that. Especially since the Sun article is a much more balanced one, presenting more actual facts with less innuendo about what Obama has done and may do.
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