Really Scary: An Independent Attorney General

A lawyer, writing in the New York Times, calls for “depoliticizing” the office of U.S. Attorney General.

Arnold I. Burns writes:

…I suggest we begin by making the attorney general job no longer a cabinet position. When the nation was established, the president needed a lawyer at his side. But today the president has a White House staff full of them — a veritable law firm in his own home.

The solution is to have the attorney general appointed to a fixed term — say, 15 years — that wouldn’t be coterminous with the tenure of the president who appoints him. As with the director of the F.B.I. (a 10-year term) and the chairman of the Federal Reserve (a four-year, renewable term), the appointment would be made by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress’s oversight would ensure that no political hack or crony of the president could be handed the job.

Likewise, the 93 United States attorneys should not be political apparatchiks, but talented lawyers selected half from Republican ranks and half from Democratic, following the system used for regulatory bodies like the Federal Communications Commission. These men and women should also be subject to Senate confirmation.

Changes in the occupant of the White House should not affect the way justice is administered. If the Gonzales mess ends up giving us an apolitical Department of Justice, the American people will be well served.

Right. That’s just what we need: an unaccountable prosecutor with a 15 year window of opportunity to conduct his reign of terror. “Depoliticize” is a euphemism for freeing the unelected from having to answer to the unwashed mass of voters.

An “independent” attorney general would be truly scary. As imperfect as they are, elected politicians like the president are the only ones standing between tryannical prosecutors and the rest of us.

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