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One-branch government

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Many of the country's supposedly great pundits still think the U.S. attorney scandal unearthed by U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor is small potatoes. Dean David Broder is among the notable sniffers at this as small-bore petty politics.

How wrong they are.

The firing of Bud Cummins as U.S. attorney in Little Rock for replacement by Karl Rove's subaltern and enforcer, Tim Griffin, was but one small part of a massive plot to turn the Justice Department into a purely political operation. Prosecutions of Republicans were stifled. Prosecutions of Democrats were encouraged. Any actions that could be employed to depress voting by groups inclined to favor Democrats were high on the agenda.

Scoff if you want. But first read Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post. He rounds up the growing evidence of the evil-doing and includes this startling factoid:

Is it just a coincidence that so many U.S. attorney offices (21 out of 93 at last reckoning, according to this list) lack Senate-confirmed leaders with independent hiring authority? Could the ability to centrally vet the hiring of career prosecutors outside main Justice have contributed to some degree to the administration's enthusiasm to fire Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys -- as well as its decision to stealthily insert a provision into the Patriot Act allowing interim U.S. attorneys to serve indefinitely?

You may be sure, had not Mark Pryor rooted out this scandal by refusing to wilt on Griffin's extra-legal permanent interim appointment as U.S. attorney, that the Bush administration would have continued to install non-confirmed U.S. attorneys in place everywhere they didn't already have a reliable political operator. Impeachment -- for Gonzales, Bush and others -- is not a far-fetched idea for this assault on democracy.

ALSO: Newsweek further reports how deep Karl Rove has been in this dastardly stuff.

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