Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2008

FITZGERALD'S FUTURE.... Given his sterling reputation, and his admirable work prosecuting political figures in both parties, it's easy to forget that Patrick Fitzgerald is a Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney. And as everyone no doubt recalls, when a new presidential administration comes in, it replaces the previous administration's U.S. Attorneys with a new slate of federal prosecutors. It means, in theory, Fitzgerald's term is nearly up.

Given yesterday's events, it's a point of considerable interest: what's Obama going to do with Fitzgerald? The speculation seems to overlook the fact that we already appear to know the answer.

There's the New York Times:

Mr. Fitzgerald has said nothing about his future as Barack Obama prepares to assume the presidency, often an occasion for turnover among United States attorneys. But Senator Richard J. Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois and a Democrat, has publicly called on Mr. Obama to keep Mr. Fitzgerald on, and the betting is that he will remain in the job.

And the Politico:

[T]here is the question of Fitzgerald's future . Presidents can appoint their own U.S. Attorneys, but Republicans aim to all but dare Obama to remove the crusading Fitzgerald before he's done cleaning out corruption in Chicago and Springfield.

And Republican talking points:

Illinois state Republican chairman Andy McKenna pressed Obama to commit to keeping U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in his post until the corruption cases run their course.... "What he should do tomorrow is say, 'Patrick Fitzgerald has a job and can have for as long as he wants,'" McKenna told Politico. "Some have wondered if Barack Obama would keep Fitzgerald [as U.S. Attorney]. It would be great if he confirms that he plans to."

Greg Sargent contacted the Obama transition office, which noted that in June, the Chicago Tribune editorial board asked Obama if he'd keep Fitzgerald at his post. "I still think he's doing a good job. Yes," Obama said, adding, "I think he has been aggressive in putting the city on notice and the state on notice that he takes issues of public corruption seriously."

Some reporters and Republicans seem to be asking a question that's already been answered. Indeed, Obama has said what one assumes reporters and Republicans would want to hear.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

The Republicans know what they are doing. They want to tie Obama to Illinois corruption, so they're going to act like they are now pressuring Obama into keeping Fitzgerald, even though he planned it all the time.

As for the reporters, "there's a hot story here" is more fun than "there's no story here", so that's enough of an opening for the Republicans to spin them.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 10, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Yeh, Fitz will prolly stay.

Posted by: Jet on December 10, 2008 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans aim to all but dare Obama to remove the crusading Fitzgerald before he's done cleaning out corruption in Chicago and Springfield.

Well, that just might be the case, but I'd like to know if those same Republicans will still be "aiming to dare" once Fitz finishes wiping the floor with the corruption in Illinois---and starts looking into the Bush administration's antics.

Posted by: Steve W. on December 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz should go, and come back 5 minutes later.
I.e. - he should not remain as a Bush appointee.
He should be in place as an Obama appointee.

It will reinforce the tradition of incoming Presidents cleaning house, and designating their own appointees.

Posted by: kenga on December 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a case where the MSM neglected to use Ezra Klein's famous PUTDP (Picking Up The Damn Phone) technique.

Posted by: PT on December 10, 2008 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Obama has said what one assumes reporters and Republicans would want to hear."

What Republicans and the corporate media's so-called "reporters" want to hear is themselves spouting scripted talking points aimed at undermining public support for Obama.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 10, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone asked Karl Rove for his opinion? Personally, I'd rather have a prosecutor who is a bit more aggressive. But then maybe the Bush Justice Department did exert some pressure on Fitzgerald to "walk slowly".

Posted by: Danp on December 10, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, keep him aboard, but, as soon as he finishes in Illinois, could he be sent to Preston Hollow?

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz should go, and come back 5 minutes later.
I.e. - he should not remain as a Bush appointee.
He should be in place as an Obama appointee.

The protocol for political appointees when a new administration comes in is to tender a pro forma resignation. The new administration can, and usually does, accept the resignation so the position becomes available for a new appointee.

Is Fitzgerald really so effective that a good Obama appointee can't fill his shoes? Do we really care about some momentary Republican talking point to prevent getting, perhaps, an even more effective prosecutor in Chicago?

Posted by: Jack Lindahl on December 10, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Why would you remove him? He's been zealous in following the law.... The fact that 99% of Republicans would be removed in his position just means that Republicans are corrupt sleezeballs.

Posted by: MNPundit on December 10, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

If you google "obama fitzgerald keep office," the THIRD hit is to a November 9 Tribune op-ed which notes Obama had promised to keep on Fitzgerald, and the 7th hit is to a conservative IL blog entry from March 2008 that has links to TWO news stories and excerpts quotes where Obama says he'll keep Fitz.

I get why the Republicans would want to pretend Obama has ducked this question. But, uh, why are reporters incapable of googling?

Seriously, the third and 7th hits? You don't even need a laptop, that's the kind of "research" you could google on your freaking blackberry.

Posted by: anonymiss on December 10, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

I think they should offer him a job at main Justice and give him the authority to choose his successor as US attorney.

I think he's doing a fantastic job, and he deserves a promotion. I assume Justice has a corruption division? Put him in charge.

Posted by: John T on December 10, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should keep Fitz. A US Atty. is not a political officer, despite the fact that the position is a political appointment. Fitz is a very good, principled lawyer, and has done nothing but an extraordinary job. He has shown a willingness to go after anyone, regardless of political stripe, who truly deserves it. That is what we (both as Americans and as progressives) should want in a US Atty. People like Fitz help maintain the rule of law. What Obama needs to do is focus on filling other positions with similar people.

Also, here's a great story about Fitz that has gotten much less coverage:

http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/10/feds-arrest-ex-chicago-cop-burge.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/21/jon-burge-arrested-for-to_n_136454.html

Posted by: MN2L on December 10, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

As a matter of procedure, I would request all of the USA's resignations, then reappoint Fitzgerald and only Fitzgerald. I don't want that woman in Pittsburgh getting any ideas.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 10, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Ness cleaned up the mob in Chicago - However, after leaving for Cleveland, he could never catch the serial killer of hoboes.

Not saying Fitz is a Ness, but, better days ahead for him.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Eh. Keep him on, but move him to New York City where the big money crimes are taking place. That should keep the Repubs happy.

Posted by: Wapiti on December 10, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want that woman in Pittsburgh getting any ideas

Mary Beth Buchanan - Scourge of Tommy Chong - says she isn't going to offer her resignation.

I know somebody who knows Buchanan...well, she's as bad if not worse than people think.


.

Posted by: spork_incident on December 10, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should ask for the resignation of every non-civil service employee in the Federal government, and reappoint or not as he chooses. For the CS that came by way of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell U, a brand new non-boondoggle office building to nowhere out in Alaska. Not close to Wasilla, please. That pointy part that sticks out into the Bering Strait will do fine.

Posted by: ericfree on December 10, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should ask Valerie Plame if she thinks Fitzgerald is deserving of so many kudos.

Posted by: doubtful on December 10, 2008 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Illinois state Republican chairman Andy McKenna pressed Obama to commit to keeping U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in his post until the corruption cases run their course.

Poor guy'll be 83 tottering around the Dirksen Building, getting the last of the corruption.

Posted by: freelunch on December 10, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

It's interesting to watch the Republicans and their journalistic supporters play this game of "See, we're powerful"--the suggestion that if not for them, Obama would not keep Fitzgerald is as one with the hue and cry over the supposed threatened reimposition of the fairness doctrine. It seems transparent to me, but I am curious as to just what audience this is aimed at; are the Republicans trying to convince themselves? The "mainstream media"? The public?

Posted by: karen on December 10, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Presidents generally appoint someone suggested by the senior senator from his party as the US Attorney. If Sen. Durbin wants Fitzgerald to stay on, then it's a done deal.

Posted by: DBL on December 10, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Man, it wasn't too long ago, maybe 2 or 3 years, since they were calling Fitz a BSD-inflicted member of the liberal hive mind on a witch hunt against the Bush administration. How soon they forget...

Posted by: Joshua on December 10, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

*BDS, not BSD.

Posted by: Joshua on December 10, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Some reporters and Republicans seem to be asking a question that's already been answered. Indeed, Obama has said what one assumes reporters and Republicans would want to hear.

He might change his mind, as he has done on the windfall tax on oil company profits, and the national security vote last summer, and a few other policy matters. He could give Fitzgerald a well-earned promotion to a federal task force investigating allegations of union corruption.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 10, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

[...] Obama has said what one assumes reporters and Republicans would want to hear. -- Steve Benen

I'm not so sure. My guess is that, right now, they'd prefer to hear him say "no, I won't keep him". It would give them lots of room to fill with outrage. "See, he had said he'd keep him but, the moment Fitz investigates his Best Buddy Blago, there comes the axe in retaliation". And that's, probably, why they're asking the question again.

Posted by: exlibra on December 10, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Remember that Fiz is not done investigating the Plame outing. If Obama makes it clear Fiz will stay and finish his open investigations, the Repubs will change their tune real quick.

Posted by: Glen on December 10, 2008 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Wow,
Nobody here is from Chicago - it shows. The real target of Ftizgerald's investigation are the crooks in Crook County and the Big DAddy of them all, Richard M Daley. Something that Obama already knows.

How much koolaid do you people wash down every day worshipping Obama ? This is the same guy who once "vowed" to accept public financing if the Republican candidate accepted it too. What ever happened to that promise ? Fell by the wayside as soon as it was convenient to do so.

Him appointing Hillary to SoS, after pounding on her vote to authorize the Iraq War? wow... cant find the words to describe that decision.

I am not saying that Obama will not keep Fitzgerald - but a healthy dose of skpeticism should be reserved for a Chicago politician who wants to "reform and change" Washington but was standing by idly when corruption was happening in his own State. And has been happeing for ever.

For God's sake he knew a shakedown artist like Rezko for 20 years and didnt hesistate to take his help when he wanted to buy a home. How many Presidents have bought a home with the help of a convicted felon ?

If Daley wants Fitz to go - he goes. Fitz will get "promoted" so that he is re-assigned to a different case.

What Obama "says" and what he actually does are two different things - by now it should be pretty obvious that he is a chameleon who changes colors as per his convenience.


Hopefully Blackguardovich and Rezko get to rot in the same 6 by 6 jail cell. That would help them to broker the "next deal" once they get out of jail.

Posted by: Nagarajan Sivakumar on December 10, 2008 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

This is the same guy who once "vowed" to accept public financing if the Republican candidate accepted it too. -Nagarajan Sivakumar

Figured you'd give that old lie another go around, did ya? Worked so well before November.

What's next? Are you going to tell us he's a British subject?

Lies, lies, lies.

I have a question...how often do you have to wipe the spittle from your monitor?

Posted by: doubtful on December 10, 2008 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Sounds like a case where the MSM neglected to use Ezra Klein's famous PUTDP (Picking Up The Damn Phone) technique."

It's worse than that. Given that there was a June article in the Chicago Tribune on the very subject, this is a case of CNBASOLN. (Could Not Be Arsed Searching On Lexis-Nexis).

Posted by: Sock Puppet of the Great Satan on December 11, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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