by Max Brantley
UPDATE: As we said earlier, your heard it here first. PS -- This is crummy treatment of Bud Cummins, a good guy who has been a good and fair US attorney and who is being moved out to reward a political hatchet man. Griffin has a lot to live up to. Belated kudos to Cummins.
We told you here first that the Bush administration was hellbent on installing Tim Griffin, an Arkansas native who's been a top political aide to Karl Rove and a hardball opposition researcher for the Republican Party, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
It's about to happen, by interim appointment rather than the normal nomination process. U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins will step aside to make room for Griffin.
The Bush administration is aware of resistance to Griffin, on account of his political background, on the part of Arkansas senators. His name has been linked (he says unfairly) to Republican efforts at suppressing minority votes in presidential elections. Regardless of the truth of those accusations, he's been written about frequently as an intensely partisan and effective political player. Is this the kind of person you want holding discretion over prosecution in an overwhelmingly Democratic state? Will he pursue Republicans with equal fervor?
U.S. Rep. John Boozman is expected to defend sidestepping the nomination process by saying Griffin wouldn't receive a fair shake in Senate hearings. A spokesman for Sen. Mark Pryor said the better course is to have a hearing like that given others and let the public decide if the process is fair. The Pryor spokesman also said the office has constitutional questions about whether an interim appointment may only be used to fill a position in a Congressional recess as opposed to a period running through the two years remaining on Bush's term.
"He is essentially sidestepping the process," Michael Teague of Pryor's office said. "The big question is if he is being afforded some kind of special treatment because of his political campaign work. Bud Cummins had to go through the nomination process. What makes this guy so special?"
I can answer that question: Hit man for Karl Rove. Loyalty to the president. Political ambition. Resume building for that ambition.
The appointment should be announced shortly, maybe as early as today.