When George Bush heads back to his Texas ranch to search among the scrub brush for his squandered legacy, he will leave behind a Justice Department that resembles a Superfund site and the legacy of two attorneys general who willingly relinquished the office's most precious asset -- independence -- in the service of partisan politics and enabling the president's historic power grab.
So inured have we become to Bush administration scandal that the latest of a long-running series of revelations this week by no less than Justice's own Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility that the department was an adjunct of the Executive Branch and Republican National Committee barely caused a ripple.
To no one's surprise, the IG and OPE concluded that Monica Goodling, a rabid Regent University soldier of God, was a partisan whore who violated federal law by screening job applicants for career positions based on their political and ideological affiliations.
Jonathan Turley calls Goodling "a perfect political commissar." If job applicants were not Republican enough, conservative enough and enamored enough of the president and his policies, as well as red-blood heterosexuals, they were shown the door.
In yet another instance of the mockery that Justice has made of its role in the so-called Global War on Terror, Goodling put the kibosh on hiring an experienced career terrorism prosecutor because of his wife's affiliations were deemed to be politically incorrect. The job defaulted to a much more junior attorney who lacked any experience in counterterrorism and was not qualified for the position.
Perhaps the greatest barometer of the toxicity that has coursed through the halls of Justice is that nearly one year after he resigned, Goodling's gigolo finds that he has something in common with many Americans: He can't find a job.
Former attorneys general are highly sought after, but Alberto Gonzalez apparently hasn't gotten so much as a nibble. His principal income has been giving a few talks before business groups and at colleges, including one where he was interrupted by protesters dressed as Guantánamo Bay detainees. Might this state of affairs have something to do with the fact that his greatest skill as the nation's top lawyer was perjuring himself?
Gonzalez may yet skate in the latest scandal because about all he can be blamed for is lousy oversight, but Goodling is looking like jail bait because of the detailed record of how she commandeered the department's hiring process and forced out people who were not politically or sexually correct, as well.
There would be a certain . . . er, justice in this because she rejected out of hand at least one applicant who was rumored to be a lesbian, and prison would be an excellent opportunity for her to learn first hand about sexual preferences.
Meanwhile, history will be a lot kinder to John Ashcroft, Bush's first AG, than his enemies on the left have been.
While Ashcroft could be a conservative scold, he spoke out (privately) against some of the administration's excesses and famously arose from his hospital sickbed to banish Gonzalez and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card when they tried to strong arm him into agreeing to an extension of the Terrorist Surveillance Act.
Gonzalez, of course, played dumb because he was, while Michael Mukasey is clever like a fox. The former federal judge rode to confirmation nine months ago promising to clean up the scandal-plagued department while deferring on whether he would confront the torture monster head on. He has, of course, been busy feeding that monster ever since.
Mukasey asserts that Justice already has adopted the recommendations of the IG and OPR in their Goodling report, and while that may be so, it misses the larger point -- that it is his responsibility to root out the perps who remain on the payroll and not merely say it won't happen again.
That is not likely to happen given that Bush's third AG has been resistant to efforts to force Karl Rove and Harriet Meirs to testify under oath on their roles in this and other partisan disgraces and already has squandered that most precious asset in proving himself to be yet another handmaiden to the president.