AN INTERNAL investigation has found that high-ranking aides in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department used a conservative litmus test to screen candidates for nonpartisan jobs as prosecutors and immigration judges. But it's not likely anyone will be punished or the public more than mildly interested in this latest example of Republican wrongdoing.
According to the department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility, top Gonzales aide and White House liaison Monica Goodling, who testified before Congress in May, 2007, that she might have "crossed a line" at times, routinely asked candidates questions designed to determine if they held GOP-friendly political views. To make sure, she conducted Internet searches of the job-seekers using key phrases such as "Florida recount," homosexual," and "abortion."
Thirty-four former candidates told investigators that the topic of abortion came up during their job interviews, while 21 said same-sex marriage was discussed. Ms. Goodling would make shorthand comments on the interviews, commenting in one instance that a candidate was appropriately conservative on "god, guns + gays."
Career prosecutor Leslie Hagen of Michigan, the report says, lost a Washington job because of rumors that she was a lesbian. Margaret Chiara, the former U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., believes she may have been fired because of what she says was the false rumor that she was having a relationship with Ms. Hagen.
In another instance, Ms. Goodling chose a Republican with three years' experience as a prosecutor to fill a temporary counterterrorism position in Washington, passing over a highly acclaimed veteran prosecutor whose wife was active in Democratic politics.
That the hiring of career prosecutors and administrative judges by the Justice Department must be nonpolitical is enshrined in law and department regulations, as well as the long-standing practice of both Democratic and Republican attorneys general.
That Bush Administration officials and appointees are ignoring law and tradition is hardly a surprise. They are only doing what they always said they would do: At least since 1994, Republicans have been intent on creating a permanent GOP majority; what better way than to fill career positions with party loyalists?
In regard to ethics and other wrongdoing, Republicans have a Monica problem that makes Monica Lewinsky look like a minor distraction, but Americans are numbed by the frequent reports of GOP attempts to play fast and loose with the law and the Constitution. They are more concerned over how they're going to pay their mortgage or put gas in the family vehicle.
Republicans play that malaise to their advantage. Typically, White House spokesman Tony Fratto dismissed the report, saying, "There's really not a lot new here."
Mr. Gonzales claimed he was unaware of the abuses but the reality is that Ms. Goodling is taking the heat for doing what she was encouraged to do: placing partisanship above all else. Because she and others - including Mr. Gonzales - resigned, criminal charges appear unlikely. They could, however, face disciplinary action from their local bar associations, including having their law licenses revoked.
That would be simple justice.
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