Standard Practice

by digby

You've probably already read the latest Murray Waas scoop which reveals that Gonzales and the white house secretly delegated the hiring and firing function of the justice department political appointees to the little political oppo twins, Kyle and Monica. It's a fascinating tale.

But I have to point out one little passage that made me laugh out loud:

Deputy White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto said it was "unremarkable" that Sampson and Goodling would be involved in the hiring and firing of Justice Department officials.

"The job of a chief of staff is to work with the White House liaison to hire qualified people," he said. "That is fairly standard practice in any large Cabinet department or agency." Fratto added, "The White House has full authority in hiring and firing presidential appointees" and "can choose to delegate that authority. There is no need for written authority to exercise that power."

Asked why, if the process is routine, Gonzales issued the confidential order, Fratto responded, "I don't know why anyone would force the need to write such a memo." He referred further inquiries to the Justice Department.


It's a good question though. If Gonzales had to sign off anyway, why did he issue a confidential memo delegating "authority" to his underlings? The buck stops with the boss, right? If Gonzales wanted to change the rules and deny the senior staff the right to hire and fire their own staff then all he had to do was issue the first memo on February 7, 2006. When it was later determined that he couldn't keep his hands clean and just delegate the whole thing to Sampson and Goodling, why document their "authority" at all? Does he issue a memo saying that he's delegated the typing to his secretary but he signs off on all documents that he produces? It's weird.

I suppose the idea early on was to distance the important people from this dirty little operation. But once the lawyers said it was unconstitutional he should have just let stand the first memo giving him the total hiring and firing authority or ended the operation because it exposed him to charges of unethical political manipulation of the DOJ. Instead he went on a created a secret paper trail for no good reason. I don't get him --- can he possibly be as inept as he seems?