March 16th, 2007

PK Icon

A brief primer for Karl Rove

Many will regard Karl Rove's recent comments asking as how current AG flap is different from what Clinton did when he came in in 1993 and replaced all the AGs. Many will regard this as a cynical and disingenuos effort to muddle the issue. But I don't think so. Given Mr. Rove's track record, and the track record of this administration generally, I'm convince this was a genuine call for help. (you can check out my post about similar shenanigans involving appointments to industry delegations here:

Allow me to explain briefly, therefore, where Mr. Rove, Mr. Gonzalez, and the rest went wrong. Granted this isn just my own cockamamie theory of government, accoutability, rule of law, and impact on agency moral, etc., etc. And I can expect the same pushback from the W worshippers that I usually get from the J for Js. But here we go.

1) It's fairly common, even routine, for Presidents to want to appoint their own people into political positions. That includes AGs. It is a signature mark of the administration to put their top person in and ensure that enforcement of the law reflects their view. All well and good so far. Clinton took heat for doing it too abruptly (it is rather disruptive to get rid of everyone at once), but most political appointees in any agency expect to clear out their desks with a change of administration.

2) But after enough years that you've had a chance to clean house, a mass firing is unusual. It raises eye brows. But it is still not improper. The administration may be deciding to change course. There may be many valid reasons. So just getting rid of 8 AGs, while unusual, is not inherently wrong.

3) Still, it is understandable that friends of the specific AGs in Congress would ask questions. This always happens no matter which party we're talking about. It is to be expected that when someone has had enough clout to reach the level of AG, that he or she will know someone in Congress will ask a pointed question or two about why their good buddy got the ax.

Here, Mr. Rove, is where you and your friends really started to go wrong. You could have said "well, we think these 8 attorneys were not adequately following the political direction of the President. The President does not have confidence in them. So he is replacing them with AGs who will follow the President's priorities."

True, that would have ruffled some feathers and -- with Ds running the Congress and all -- would have made life a bit difficult. there would have been the usual criticism of cronyism and preferring loyalty to competence and a good deal of questioning as to whether this was punishment for prosecuting Republican corruption too vigorously or going to easy on Democratic corruption. But no one would have denied that the President had the right to replace AGs he considered incapable of following the legal political direction the President wished to take. One could even understand that, with Congress now in the hands of Democrats, that the President must have absolute confidence in his political choices.

It would not, perhaps have been the smartest or most politic thing. It would certainly continue to depress morale at the DoJ and contribute further to the flight of talented folks who think that politics and cronyism have gone too far. But so it goes.

Instead, members of the administration told outright lies to members of Congress. Worse, they appear to have conspired to cicumvent the Senate confirmation process. One recently released email describes in considerable detail how to "jaw this to death" and run out the clock over the next two years to keep Democrats in Congress from holding up your appointees.

The question isn't whether such tactics are legal, the question is whether they are good government. There is also an equally important question of what it says about an administration where so many so high up feel not the least compunction about telling lies (including about people's professional competence, have you no concern for their reputation by which they make their living? I, personally, take a dim view of those who tell lies that make innocents suffer for their own convenience).

And that is the difference. One can debate whether Clinton's move was or was not good governance (answer: not really, which is why they reversed course and employed a longer transition). But that does nothing to answer the question as to whether your conduct, the conduct of Alberto Gonzalez, the conduct of Harriet Meyers, and that of others was appropriate. To compound this behavior with a childish refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing or to take responsibility is, well, I can't come up with words vile enough to be honest.

You remind me of Sauruman answering Eomer: "Am I to be called a murder because brave men have fallen in battle? If you go to war needlessly, for I did not desire it, then men will be slain. But if I am a murderer on that account, then all the House of Eorl is stained with murder; for they have fought many wars, and assailed many who defied them." To which I would give you Theoden's answer: "You are a liar and a corrupter of men's hearts. Even if your war on me was just -- as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me for your own profit -- even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children that lie dead there?"

To translate for the bloody literal minded, Mr. Rove, your claim rings false and your comparison between the deciets you have practcied to evade the unpleasant consequence of defending your actions with the clumsy actions of a previous preident merely show you as a liar and corrupter of mens hearts. And while there are those whose loyalty your voice can still command, those who wish to exercise their will and see the truth will find your voice has lost its charm.

On the other hand, if your question was the genuine bewilderment of the incompetent rather than the rank and odious misdirection of the decitful, then I hope you find this instruction useful.
PK Icon

I apologize to Dar wiliams, but . . . .

From this article in Giga Om explaining how free confernce call services work and why they must be based in Iowa.

In case you missed all this the first time around, here are the basics of the situation: When a long-distance call is “terminated,” if a long-distance provider like AT&T or Qwest doesn’t own the local lines where that call is going to, it must pay a fee to the company that does. Even though such termination fees are typically higher in rural areas, since there are usually relatively few customers in the sticks big long-distance providers can easily balance the cost with their other businesses.

In Iowa, higher than average termination fees (as much as 13 cents per minute, according to both Qwest and AT&T) have been lately combined with fiber-based Internet access to provide a pretty good place for a VoIP-based gateway, which can then provide a way to cheaply reach foreign PSTNs, or to provide other services, like conference calling or chat sessions. The profit comes from some method of subtracting the money paid for foreign terminations or other services from the amount gained from the long-distance providers by “terminating” calls in Iowa.

RLEC=Rural exchange carrier.

Which inspires me to sing:
I have never had a way with RLECs, but the rates of Iowa make me wish that I could
My family and friends I hate to call you, but to get rate arbitrage, I would