Small Pleasures

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OPEN UNIVERSITY APRIL 16, 2007

Small Pleasures

by Christine Stansell
How bad can it get? Really bad.

Ever since the U.S. attorney scandal started to heat up, it's been a pleasure to read the morning news. Last year this time, the initial suspicions and revelations would have flared up and died down in a couple of news cycles, one more blip on the outrage radar. It's not that the press is so much brighter--although they do seem to be waking up and shaking off the torpor (remember back when the White House press corps got a kick out of Bush's good-old-boy nicknames?).

It's that the Democrats have the power to hold committee hearings. Sidney Blumenthal pointed out last week in Salon that for the first time in six years we have congressional oversight. Hence the scandals pile up, one day after another. Questions from Congress about U.S. attorneys lead to the private e-mails for government business when some Democratic staffer spots the astonishing arrogant "gwb43.com" But arrogance has always been this White House's Achilles heel.

It's fun, really fun to see Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling go down, even though your better self knows that it's bad, really bad that these people have power and did terrible things. Still, it's fun, really really fun, to ride mentally to the aid of the beleaguered lawyers and staff in the Minnesota U.S. attorney's office, who are suffering under the reign of the Bible-quoting bully Rachel Paulose. Paulose is another ideologue bulldozed into place without Senate confirmation, under the up-to-now obscure provision of the renewed Patriot Act, a loophole inserted at the last minute by Brett Tolman, staffer on the House Judiciary Committee (who got the job as U.S. attorney for Utah as payment).

I've never been one to remember every intricate pattern in the spider web connections of political players--maybe because the principals are mostly men in suits, hard to tell apart and keep straight. But this one is a delight, easy to follow. Even a quick dip into the Internet--you need go no deeper than Wikipedia--refreshes with more Fun Facts. Rachel Paulose, for example, created an unpleasant impression in Minneapolis from the get-go, because she held her swearing-in ceremony for 300 invited guests in a law school auditorium, complete with U.S. Marine Color Guard, a "processional," and a high school choir (presumably singing hymns). U.S. attorneys are normally sworn in at the federal courthouse, in a modest ceremony, not with an official rapture. A Minneapolis TV station drily described the event as a "coronation."

Paulose, a Federalist Society girl, developed her job skills at a Minneapolis firm from 2003-05 representing the Republican Party in its pursuit of "election fraud"--we can now reasonably put that term in scare-quotes--and defending "faith-based health care," no doubt some other dim corner where Republicans were swilling at the trough. For her efforts, the Big Boys promoted her to Washington, where she worked for Paul McNulty and then Gonzales. The moderate Republican who held the U.S. attorney position in Minneapolis got the word from the Justice Department and resigned (presumably to avoid being fired for "performance") and Paulose got to go back to Minneapolis--without Senate review--to march with her Color Guard and swear on the Bible that she would serve the people of the United States in the pursuit of justice.

I wonder what e-mail account she used.

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