And it all goes wrong again.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department, after months of research, released the findings of its investigation into the internal hiring policies of top aides under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — and the results were startling.
The report, prepared by the inspector general of the Justice Department, concluded that top aides to Gonzales used politics as a factor for hiring candidates for top-level positions in the department, damaging the department’s reputation and independence from the executive branch.
Of particular concern was the role of former aide Monica Goodling, who is suspected of introducing hiring policies excluding liberals, both real and suspected, from top positions within the department, regardless of their qualifications.
Now, for some positions, this kind of political strategy is perfectly acceptable and justified. Goodling, in addition to her position as top aide to Gonzales, was liaison to the White House and was, therefore, in charge of political appointments.
When interviewing candidates for these positions, politics naturally is and should be part of the discussion.
The problem is, Ms. Goodling and others used political orientation as a factor when hiring for nonpolitical positions including but not limited to immigration judges and assistant U.S. attorneys.
According to The New York Times, one candidate was even excluded by Goodling because she was suspected of having a lesbian relationship with her supervisor.
This type of behavior is unacceptable. Not only does it show a complete lack of professional ethics, but also this kind of behavior violates both federal law and, according to the report, internal Justice Department policy.
Now that the findings have been released, it is time to take action.
Unfortunately, Goodling and the several other aids named in the report, with the exception of one, have already resigned from the justice department, so no internal discipline can be issued.
The good news is that the reports of improprieties can be used to exclude them from future service in the Justice Department, as was suggested by the report.
But a closed door to the department for future work isn’t enough.
These people made a mockery of proper procedure and hurt the balance and credibility of the one agency that should be incorruptible. A strong message needs to be sent that this sort of political sleight of hand will not be tolerated, be it from either major party.
And there’s only one way to ensure it happens — Goodling et al need to be brought up on charges for the laws they broke.
Fortunately, as in any bad moment, there have been lessons learned.
Amid the controversy, both former Attorney General Gonzales and current head Michael Mukasey instituted reforms to prevent another situation like this from happening. According to the Justice Department’s report, thus far, the changes seem to be working.
Time will only tell, of course, if they are right.
In the meantime, however, this report is a good start to getting us on the right track. We can only hope that, with time, the damage Goodling and her fellows caused the department can be undone.
Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.