Many uninformed pundits are maintaining the Clinton’s replacement of all US Attorneys at the onset of his administration was unprecedented. So what’s the big deal with Bush firing eight?
The pundits proffering this line are wrong.
From a Washington Post online chat yesterday with Stuart Gerson who was a Deputy AG in the Bush I administration and acting AG at the beginning of the Clinton administration. Gerson informs us that “It is customary for a President to replace U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of a term.”
Lyme, Conn.: The “Democratic” response to the firing of the U.S. Attorneys is that these actions were political. The “Republican” response is that the Clinton Administration fired all but one U.S. Attorney at the beginning of the Clinton Administration — so of course, it is all political. What is the difference between these mid-Presidency firings and cleaning house at the beginning of a Presidency, if any?
Stuart M. Gerson: There is a difference, but I do not find it to be an important or material one. It is customary for a President to replace U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of a term. Ronald Reagan replaced every sitting U.S. Attorney when he appointed his first Attorney General. President Clinton, acting through me as Acting AG, did the same thing, even with few permanent candidates in mind. What is unusual about the current situation is that it happened in the middle of a term. However, all of the incumbents had served more than the four years presumed in their original commission and, I suggest, replacing them is entirely the prerogative of the executive, as each deposed U.S. Attorney has agreed. The personnel practices employed, giving inaccurate reasons for terminating them and not giving them the courtesy of notice, are, as the AG now concedes, unacceptable.
UPDATE: CBS’ Public Eye has comments of a number or knowledgeable individuals relative to this matter. The comments support what Gerson has said.