Sidney Blumenthal concurs with me that this scandal is all about Rove. Today we see another example with this article about Kevin Ryan in the San Francisco US Attorney's office, the one braindead crank that everyone agrees needed to be fired:
The "company man" hired and fired by the Bush administration as U.S. attorney in San Francisco was a loyal Republican the administration wanted to keep on — until it appeared he could become a public relations liability.
Unlike seven other fired federal prosecutors who may have run afoul of the administration for political reasons, San Francisco U.S. Atty. Kevin Ryan was a team player for Bush and had influential Republican support. A friend of the president even went to bat for Ryan after his firing.
"You would have to know Kevin," said UC Hastings College of the Law professor Rory Little. "You can't find a stronger supporter of the Bush administration agenda."
His tenure, however, was plagued by morale problems and accusations that he was a bad manager. A number of the office's most experienced lawyers left.
Despite his problems, which were well documented in legal newspapers, Justice officials wanted to keep Ryan on, even as they plotted the firings of other U.S. attorneys. It was only when a Democratic judge threatened to go to Congress to raise a public fuss over an excoriating written evaluation of Ryan's office that Ryan was put on the termination list, according to e-mails released by the White House.
Ryan was, by all acounts, a typical Bush administration crony -- unqualified, unfocused and hyper-political. And when he got into trouble, certain very high level California Republicans burst into action:
Some lawyers in San Francisco speculated that Ryan hung on so long because of strong political connections. One of them, Gerald Parsky, a Los Angeles-based Republican fundraiser who vetted federal appointments in California for the Bush administration, quickly came to Ryan's aid.
"FYI," William Kelley, the deputy White House counsel, e-mailed Sampson on Dec. 7. "Jerry Parsky has put in an outraged call protesting the fact of Ryan's departure.''
The e-mail warned that Parsky was scheduled for lunch with Bush the following week.
Parsky's intervention spurred more e-mails. William Kelley, an aide to White House political strategist Karl Rove, told Sampson that "Ryan is the only one so far calling in political chits (which is reason enough to justify the [firing] decision, in my view), but Karl would like to know some particulars as he fields these calls."
Ryan, however, sought to assure the Bush administration that he would not cooperate with critics of the firings.
In an e-mail to Sampson, Elston said Ryan's former deputy had called and assured him that Ryan was not returning telephone calls from Feinstein or Carol Lam, the ousted U.S. attorney in San Diego.
"He wanted us to know that he's still a 'company man,' '' Elston wrote.
They didn't like it that he had called in his chits, but were later reassured that he had promised not to make a stink. How very cosa nostra of him. I'm sure the plan was to reward him quite nicely.
The interesting person in this is Parsky, a California GOP kingpen and confidante of Karl Rove:
Parsky, an investment banker in Los Angeles, chaired the Bush effort in California, and even though the GOP ticket was soundly whipped-Al Gore won the state by 12 percentage points-Parsky has become an extraordinarily influential figure in Bush's circle of advisers. Virtually unknown in Washington, Parsky talks to top Bush aide Karl Rove several times a week (that's in addition to their regular politics-and-policy phone conversation every Sunday). He's deeply involved in some of the president's top-priority initiatives, including Social Security reform and the selection of federal judges.
Parsky also used to be a partner in Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, Ted Olsen's law firm, which serendipitously hired the LA US Attorney Amy Yang and gave her a plum job just as her office was homing in on GOP appropriations czar, Jerry Lewis. It's possibly a coincidence, but the Republican party in California has always operated as a very clubby (and ruthless) bunch. And they are extremely powerful people in the national party --- they have big money and big cred. Two of the last five GOP presidents hailed from the Golden State.
The other thing about this particular email exchange that I find intriguing is that Ryan assured the Justice department that he wasn't taking calls from Carol Lam. Why was that? And why would he know that this would be of interest to the Justice Department in assuring them that he would play ball? Had he been told not to by someone?
It's all very interesting. When you combine this with the other big revelation of the day from the former prosecutor who handled the tobacco litigation and news that there is some evidence that the Department has been playing sfot and loose with Abramoff and this may end up being one of the biggest scandals ever.
As I only half jokingly said yesterday, I thought I was pretty clear eyed about this administration and yet I'm a bit gobsmacked by the US Attorney scandal. I'm a member of the Watergate generation -- the first political event I followed as a teen-ager was the hearings. I am well aware of the proclivity of Republicans to engage in dirty politics. But I honestly never thought that they'd let Karl Rove near the Justice Department and I honestly never thought that so many Justice department lawyers would go along with this. They aren't in the military, they have no obligation to follow their "commander-in-chief" no matter what. They could have spoken out before now and if they had to they should have resigned. This calls the integrity of all of them into question.
That it took this much for anyone to stand up says everything you need to know about our political culture and the total destruction of the concept of integrity. And we can thank all those good Republicans from Ken Lay to Jerry Parsky to Jack Abramoff to Alberto Gonzales to Karl Rove to George W. Bush to Antonin Scalia for that. For the past ten years, Republicans at all levels of society have well and truly trashed this place.
Update: Speaking of integrity...