It is time for the Democrats to stop bleating about US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. They complain that last year he fired some US Attorneys that worked for him. He had the legal right to fire them for any reason at all, but the Democrats say that he did it for political reasons, and that makes the firings inappropriate.
I agree that US Attorneys should not be either chosen or fired for political reasons. If we lived in a more perfect world, that would be the case. What bothers me here is the sheer hypocrisy of the Democrats in complaining about it. It reminds me of the classic scene in the movie Casablanca. Claude Rains, a thoroughly corrupt police officer, who has been openly taking bribes, complains to Humphrey Bogart that he is shocked, shocked, to learn that there has been gambling in Ricks Café.
One does not have to have a long memory to recall the years when Democrat Janet Reno served as our Attorney General, an appointee of Democrat Bill Clinton. Her politicization of the office was not subtle, but that is not the worst of her resume.
In 1993 there was a group of oddball cultists called the Branch Davidians living near Waco, Texas. They were led by a man named David Koresh, who was probably insane, but who was revered by his band of followers. It is arguable that he posed a threat to federal authority — but how to deal with it?
When Democrat Attorney General Janet Reno took office in March of 1993, a siege of the Waco compound was under way. In April, she authorized an FBI assault on their encampment with armored vehicles. In the resulting fiasco, gunfire was exchanged and fire broke out. There is disagreement about what started the fire, but this is known: seventy six people were killed inside the compound, including more than twenty children.
There is more. In the year 2000, a Cuban boy named Elian Gonzalez escaped to America with his mother, but she died during the process. He was taken in by relatives in Miami, and had the opportunity to grow up here. But Fidel Castro said he should be sent back to Cuba so he could be with his father. In evaluating the sincerity of that claim, we need to remember that, during the 1960s, Castro sent 14,000 children from Cuba to the United States, but prohibited their parents from coming!
Nonetheless, Democrat Janet Reno felt it was necessary to appease Castro, and began a legal battle to send young Elian back. A Florida court ruled that he should stay in America, but Reno pursuaded a federal court to overrule that decision. Then, with the legal status still unresolved, she sent fully armed storm troopers into a private home in Miami in a pre-dawn raid, and took Elian from his relatives at gunpoint. Eventually, the boy was returned to Cuba and is still there. Castro claimed a great propaganda victory, and Democrat Attorney General Reno earned the undying enmity of the Florida Cuban community, and of everyone else who values personal freedom. Even if you think that it was all right to send Elian to Cuba, you cannot justify the way she went about taking him from his Miami home.
So I say to the Democrats in Congress that it does not become you to carry on this crusade against Alberto Gonzalez. Get back to your job, which is passing legislation.
Oh, and did I mention that, as one of her first acts as the new Attorney General in 1993, Democrat Janet Reno fired ninety-three US Attorneys?
Howard L. Chapman is an adjunct fellow of Discovery Institute.