What to do about the politicization of the Attorney General's office
The chief law enforcement officer of the United States is the Attorney General. He/she is charged with the investigations and prosecutions of Federal crimes. When there is corruption in the government, it is the Attorney General who is charged with ferreting out the corrupt and restoring integrity to the Federal government.
But what if the Attorney General selectively seeks out crimes to investigate? What if the Attorney General turns a blind eye to those crimes and scandals that will discredit his political interests? What if the Attorney General himself is corrupt?
Our Founding Fathers crafted a form of government that was supposed to have power distributed across the three main branches of government. They were wary of concentrating too much power in any single component of government. The experience of living under an all powerful monarch certainly guided the Founding Fathers as they crafted the Constitution. They installed checks and balances against the concentration of governmental power so as to steer America clear of any despot coming into total control of our government.
But “time and tide” have eroded their vision. The office of the Attorney General has become a political extension of the President, choosing what to investigate, what to prosecute, what documents to share with the Congress, and what to tell the American people. Our history is replete with examples of Attorneys General who served then political agendas of their party to the exclusion of serving the law.
John Mitchell covered for Nixon. Edward Bates was instrumental in Lincoln’s suspension of “habeas corpus”. Francis Biddle succumbed to political pressure from FDR and enforced the Japanese internment camps of WWII. There are more examples to be found. The sad fact is that the chief law enforcement officer of the United States is often more of a “political pawn with a badge”.
We claim to be a nation of laws and we boast that we have “equal protection under the law”. Does anyone really believe that anymore? The recent IRS scandals have shown just how jaded the “equal protection” mantra has become. There must be some better way to isolate the political agendas of the White House from the enforcement of our laws.
So, what can be done? Completely stripping the Executive Branch of its power to enforce laws can’t be the solution. Even the most political of Attorneys General has had to function in good faith to enforce some laws. The Courts cannot take on the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General. That would present too much of a conflict of interest for the judges. And, certainly the Congress is no place for the law enforcement arm of government.
But allowing the contempt for the law to go unchecked is equally destructive to our Republic. In today’s world, we can look to the impeachment process for a possible solution. But impeachment is really no solution. It has become a political paper tiger with absolutely no teeth.
How about this? Why don’t we Americans seek to amend the Constitution to include a requirement that the Attorney General must be reconfirmed each and every year? Further, the Attorney General should be barred from acting in his office until he has been re-confirmed each year. And, there can be no recess appointments to the Office of the Attorney General. This all may sound a bit radical, but it could provide a constitutionally mandated forum for forcing some disclosure of the more politically driven agendas that seem to creep into the workings of the Office of the Attorney General.
“Light” is a great disinfectant and a little constitutionally mandated “light” shining into the actions of the Attorney General just might bring pause to that office when they undertake politics over “blind enforcement of the law”.