Why is the ongoing discussion and political fight over the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors so important?
Former Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson explained it quite well in a speech he made on April 1, 1940 to the United States Attorneys who were serving in each Federal Judicial District across the country.
The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. … While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.
The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive and as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman. And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway. A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.
Sure… the federal prosecutors serve “at the leisure of the president,” but it does matter why the Bush Administration dismissed eight prosecutors. We need to know if Gonzales, under Bush’s orders, dismissed eight good prosecutors so that he could replace them with prosecutors that Jackson describes as the worst – one’s that act “from other base motives.”
More about this after I’ve had time to read the transcript of Alberto Gonzales’s remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
NYT story here.