Justice Department Politicization Reflects Bush Policy
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This week's report by the Justice Department's inspector general described hiring practices based on politics and ideology. The report concluded that in 2006, job candidates were screened for their affiliations, sometimes in violation of federal law. Senior new analyst Daniel Schorr says it fits an administration pattern, creating political jobs where there weren't any before.
DANIEL SCHORR: Washington insiders call it the Plum Book, the government's listing of non-competitive - that is to say, political - positions under control of the president. The list has been expanding in recent years as more and more career positions are politicized. In President Bush's first term, the number of positions increased from almost 7,000 to about 9,000. The Justice Department was once the least politicized of government departments. Now it has become a political and ideological hotbed under Attorney General John Ashcroft, and especially Alberto Gonzales. Congressional committees are struggling to get testimony on the firing of nine US attorneys to make room for Bush supporters.
And now, in a tough report, the Justice Department's inspector general tells of how the administration reached down to entry level lawyers and summer interns to make sure that no one with a liberal-sounding resume would be selected. If the candidate used buzz words like social justice and environmental justice in an essay, that was grounds for rejection. So was membership in liberal organizations like Green Peace.
John Conyers, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, says that the department has crossed the line and put politics where it doesn't belong. The current attorney general, Michael Mukasey, says he's taken steps to overhaul the hiring process. He called considering politics in hiring for career slots unacceptable. Manifesting the Civil Service Reform Act that President Carter signed in 1978 has been massively violated. The act is intended to protect civil servants from political influence. In terms of harm to our country, it's not like revelations of loose nukes, but it does suggest a continuing unraveling of the Bush administration and the prospect that his successor will have some Augean Stables of ideology to clean out. This is Daniel Schorr.