Willy Was Slick
(This screed comes to Badattitudes from a disgruntled Washington
And Crisco, Too ...
bureaucrat who prefers not to give his name until he finds another job.)
Visitors to this site will be familiar with the richly evidenced position
that Attorney General John Ashcroft--The Crisco Kid*--is a retrograde culture
warrior of the most vicious and contemptible sort. But thats par for the
course in the Bush Restoration. What distinguishes Ashcroft is that The Kid
is so damn good.
The first clue was how The Kid responded to the unjustified twisting at
his confirmation hearings of his respect for the history and tradition of the
South into accusations that he is pro-Confederate and soft on, of all things,
Having been embarrassed by this but nevertheless confirmed, The Kid led off
with a sustained barrage of African-American appointments to key spots in the
Department of Justice. This was a nice touch, but just a little obvious.
The question still remained of whether The Kid would turn out to be the most dangerous type
of bureaucrat: adroit, and utterly cynical.
The question was answered on April 26, 2001, in a story by Dan Eggen and Marc
Kaufman in the Washington Post. Its an open secret that The Kid wants
to kill the Justice Departments anti-tobacco litigation, largely because
that is what Jesus Christ would do.
A battering ram like Dick Armey would just pull the plug, batten down the
hatches, light up a cigar, and enjoy the storm. Not The Kid. Instead, The
Kids team told the Post that The litigation team handling the
tobacco suit has not done a good job...There is a lack of confidence in some
of the people involved.
In other words, the wrong team is in place.
Anybody familiar with the quality of work done by the Justice Departments
Civil Division in general, and in particular by Sharon Y. Eubanks, who heads
the tobacco team at Justice, knows this is preposterous. The lawyering out of
the Civil Division ranges from good to excellent, and Eubanks is one of the
most seasoned and respected managers in the Division.
Eggen and Kaufman found this out when they had the good sense to talk to
William B. Schultz, the deputy assistant attorney general who oversaw the
tobacco team during the Clinton administration. He told the reporters, We
were always very confident and very pleased with the job that group was
doing. The leadership has been outstanding, and the quality of the line
attorneys is first-rate.
Thus The Kid was right, from his particular point of view: the wrong team is in place.
It seems The Kid is a student of bureaucratic history. Remember the
Resolution Trust Corporation? Thats the government agency that was set up to
manage the Savings & Loan bailout by the real Bush Administration in the late
eighties and early nineties. Poppy Bushs men were faced with the delicate PR
problem of seeming to run the S&L litigation in the public interest while
actually giving sweetheart deals to the mostly Republican financiers who
wanted to buy S&L assets at fire sale prices.
Perhaps because big money was at stake, Poppys high command showed
uncharacteristic finesse in dealing with this knotty issue, and The Kid must
have been watching.
Hark back to August of 1992, when three former RTC attorneys testified to
Congress that experienced litigators were being forced out of the agency and
replaced by inexperienced lawyers. These attorneys were referring to the real
Bush Administrations June 1992 staff shakeup at RTC, which, as reported by
the AP on May 14, 1993, created rapid turnover and left inexperienced
attorneys responsible for cases they were unfamiliar with...
Will The Kid kill the tobacco litigation outright, on the grounds that
Eubanks and her squad have made such a hash of it so far? Not a chance. That
would be wrong.
Like The Ex-Guv for whom he works, The Kid understands the basic precepts of
strong public administration: put the right people in place, and get out of
the way. Look for The Kid to install soon a whole new team of fresh and
inexperienced young attorneys. Then, once the correct team is in place, watch
The Kid get out of the way.
*The author refers here to the fact that Mr. Ashcroft
had himself anointed on two occasions before assuming high offices in his home state.
Crisco was used instead of olive oil, as the ceremonies were held in Missouri
rather than ancient Judea.