Attorneygate isn’t Watergate
In Joe Katz’s March 30 article “Judicial Branch Shouldn’t Be Political” he first starts by talking about “Attorneygate,” in which the White House fired eight U.S. attorneys for a variety of reasons that are not germane to this discussion. What does matter is the role of U.S. attorneys in the government.
U.S. attorneys are not part of the judicial branch as the headline would suggest. They are the lawyers of the federal government under the control of the Department of Justice, itself an executive office. Every single person working in the executive branch works at the “pleasure of the president” and can be fired at any time, especially political appointees such as U.S. attorneys. In fact, U.S. attorneys are appointed to a four-year term and then continue in office until a successor is nominated and approved by the Senate. The U.S. Code specifically states that U.S. attorneys are subject to removal by the president.
As far as the judicial branch goes, the judiciary has long had political interference, the most notable being FDR’s court-packing scandal which Katz completely fails to mention. For those who slept through that U.S. history class, Roosevelt attempted to change the number of Supreme Court Justices from 9 to 15 when the Court overturned a number of his New Deal proposals. Opposition to this plan was swift and fierce, but it was still effective when Justice Roberts started voting with the liberal justices, a shift nicknamed “the switch in time that saved nine.” Roosevelt’s legacy was forever tarnished by this effort to “politicize” the Supreme Court.
Roosevelt stated that he wanted to create a Supreme Court that could “understand modern conditions.” Sound familiar?
I wonder if Katz is aware of the difference between U.S. attorneys and federal judges when in one line he wishes to remove the power of the president to fire U.S. attorneys and then asks to amend the Constitution to require a two-thirds supermajority to confirm judges. Perhaps if judges were allowed to get an up-or-down vote when nominated instead of being stuck in committee or threatened with filibuster (I won’t speak on the “Nuclear Option”) by the minority party, this wouldn’t be such an issue.
There are very few cases where a supermajority of any sort is required in the Senate, and I can count them on one hand. To suggest that the appointment of judges is a case where this is required is naïve and would severely diminish the importance of the supermajority.
I think Joe Katz would do well to re- read the Constitution before writing any more articles.
University of Massachusetts–Lowell
STAND is too content with itself
“We’ve made our point, and we’re not ready to get arrested yet,” Pareles told supporters.
What courage these young progressive leaders have! Their intellectual forefathers from the ’60s would almost surely be hanging their heads in shame at the sight of such cowardice. Yes, Sudan is a country worthy of our contempt for the continuing genocide in Darfur. However, Pareles and his merry band of modern day Don Quixotes would be better off leaving President Zimmer alone and instead focusing their protest energy somewhere else. Let me make a couple of suggestions. First they could go to the Chinese consulate and demand that China stop acting as a proxy for Sudan in the U.N. Security Council. Or they could write to President Putin and demand, as they so love to do, that he stop inking oil exploration deals with the government of Omar al-Bashir. They could go even further and quit the University as the most appropriate form of protest.
My sense is that none of those will happen because Pareles and STAND’s members are perfectly content with the continuation of their meaningless fight against the University and President Zimmer. Why do something meaningful when you can do something trite and riskless? Those windmills beckon Pareles.