There is a Newsweek article that describes the internal battle in the Justice Department over the Vice President’s attempt to strengthen the executive branch after 9/11. There are a few things to take away from this article. First, I wonder when people are going to be concerned that the Vice President is setting policy in this administration. I am not going to complain that there is a Republican in the White House – but why couldn’t the GOP have nominated someone that could run his own administration?
More importantly than having a puppet president is the fact that there was a battle over this, and without those few high-up appointees in the DOJ, we might not have been able to have a debate on the so-called torture memo or NSA spying. And those political appointees were not what my father would call “liberal weenies” either. They were solid conservatives who believed that we need strong defenses to protect against terrorism, but were not willing to let the President / Vice President do it illegally. It should also be noted that former Attorney General John Ashcroft backed the lawyers in the DOJ instead of ignoring their advice and caving in to Dick Cheney.
And finally, from a public administration perspective, the political appointees in the Justice Department carried out their battle with the Office of the Vice President internally. Even now that two of the dissenters are no longer in the Bush administration, they refused to comment for the article (a loyalty similar to what Colin Powell has shown). When working in government, there is always the incentive to run to the press every time you disagree with your superior’s policy decisions. It was nice to see that they stood their ground without using the press.