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Friday, June 27, 2008

Group Think

While the recent revelation that the Department of Justice may have displayed .... errr, partisanship? ... in its hiring Under U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales hardly came as a shock, it was an interesting twist to learn that an affiliation with a a few well-respected local legal groups may have actually hindered applicants' chances of being interns or getting into the honors program by getting them red flagged as "liberals." (Click here for prior post on the topic.)

Some argue that the Claude Rains-like protestations of those "Shocked, SHOCKED" to find ideology mattered at the DOJ to be disingenuous and over-the-top. They maintain that during the Clinton Administration, for example, politics were not completely irrelevant to hiring decisions for the programs. Without passing on the truth or falsity of those assertions about past administrations (primarily because I have no solid evidence one way or the other), I still have never been much of a fan of the "everybody's doing it" defense.

This much is perfectly clear to me: "Deselecting" otherwise highly qualified individuals from DOJ service merely because they were affiliated with prominent legal groups that someone may have perceived as "liberal" is wrong. Period. And yes, it was also wrong when the media distorted and demonized the fact that then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and then-U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose happened to be members of the perfectly fine (and, yes, conservative) Federalist Society. However, as my mother was wont to say in my childhood days, two wrongs don't make a right.

It's unfortunate that guilt-by-association tactics are once again in full bloom. If we don't watch ourselves, we may become a society where the only reasonable thing to do is to belong to no group at all that is either socially active or makes us think. Fortunately, the high-definition flat-screen digital television has arrived just in time to help ease the transition. I only pray that you remember to keep it strictly tuned to the "correct" channels. Otherwise, you may one day find yourself "deselected" for something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems like this story ties in nicely to the MN AG's office stories.

You gotta imagine, "AFL-CIO organizer" on your resume doesn't get you far with Lori Swanson, even if you had Harvard Law and a judicial clerkship!