The Partisan Injustice at Justice

"What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"

I have gone forward and back for a while now trying to figure out where today's rant should begin, but I find that I cannot get past that question. It was posed by Monica Goodling, an aide to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, to job seekers at the Department of Justice.

"What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"

Is it me, or doesn't she sound less like a job interviewer than like an adolescent girl splayed out on her bed, giggling with her girlfriend about some hottie actor they both adore? I mean, what, exactly, was an applicant expected to say?

"I adore his strong chin"?

"That crinkly smile really turns me on"?

"I can't resist the manly twinkle in his eyes when he mispronounces 'nuclear'"?

Presumably, Goodling is somewhere doodling the president's name and hers inside Valentine hearts while she awaits her fate. You see, she faces possible professional sanctions for violations of both civil service law and the DOJ's own policy. As detailed last week in a Justice Department report, she and other aides systematically schemed to fill non-political positions with Bush loyalists.

It wasn't just that she asked a question that would have been more at home on the cover of Tiger Beat. It was that she passed over a respected prosecutor with almost 20 years of experience for an important counterterrorism job because his wife was active in Democratic politics, hiring instead a Republican with three years' experience. And that she denied one applicant on the suspicion - the "suspicion," mind you - that she was a lesbian. And that she jettisoned yet another because he was a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. And that she ran Internet searches to determine applicants' political views. And that one of her interview questions was: "Why are you a Republican?"

It goes on. And on. Goodling's priority was not experience, talent or competence. Rather, she was looking for, as she put it in a note, applicants who were suitably conservative on "god, guns + gays."

Yes, every president is entitled to fill political positions with loyalists. But these were not, I repeat, political positions. Rather they were, or were supposed to have been, career, non-partisan jobs: immigration judges, assistant U.S. attorneys, trial attorneys.

The problem is, in this administration, there's no such thing as a non-partisan job. For them, the campaign never ends.

Just last month another report found applicants for DOJ internships and honors programs being turned away for political reasons. Then there's Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which recounts how people interviewing to work in the Green Zone in Iraq were asked their opinion of Roe v. Wade, among other conservative litmus tests.

What does abortion politics have to do with turning on the electricity in Baghdad? Hey, you got me.

This administration prizes ideological purity above ability. As a result, it has driven the presidency off a cliff, the country following close behind. These are not people who came to government to govern. No, these are true believers who came to government to institutionalize true belief, to make it permanent as a stain.

There is something Stepford, something robotic and chilling, in the glassy-eyed, ends-justifies-the-means faith of these young Bush aides in their own righteousness. Forget credibility. Forget competence. Just give us your answer, please: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?"

It is a telling question. Apparently, these people have forgotten or never even knew: It wasn't George W. Bush they were supposed to serve.

--Leonard Pitts Jr.

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