Politics & Policy

Profile in Poisonous Partisanship

The targeting of a fine lawyer and patriot.

Sometimes — too often — a Beltway story comes around that makes you realize how deep a sacrifice public service can entail. The recent experience of J. Timothy Griffin is the latest example.

#ad#Griffin is one of the most well-known — regularly targeted by Democrats and reporters — among recent Justice Department-chosen United States attorneys. Senate Democrats have blasted the Bush Justice Department for firing seven U.S. attorneys. They were “forced to resign without due cause,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) has whined (two of the seven were from her home state). Feinstein faults the Patriot Act for having made the firings possible, despite the fact the move is a typical spoils-of-winning-an-election privilege (Bill Clinton, too, used this perk to its full extent).

Currently serving as U.S. attorney in Arkansas, Griffin, a fifth-generation Arkansan, recently took his name out of the running to serve permanently in that position — so he wouldn’t have to face Senate Democrats who’ve already made up their minds about him.

But now, even after he took his name out of the running, Democrats are still targeting Griffin, and disparaging him. Griffin, you see, has what might as well be a criminal record if you’re a demagogue in a Democratic Senate: He worked for Karl Rove, and he worked for the Republican National Committee.

Had Griffin served only in political positions, critics might have a case for complaining the 38-year-old has a “thin” resume. But in their zeal to tear him down, Democrats (and press coverage) sometimes miss some key details in his professional life. Like the three times he’s served as a federal prosecutor. And the eleven years he’s served as in the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. In 2002, his supervisor wrote: “CPT Griffin has the gift of easily identifying legal issues and drafting clear, concise, and correct opinions. . . . CPT Griffin is a born litigator.”

Griffin’s predecessor as U.S. Attorney (and his former supervisor), Bud Cummins, in 2002 praised Griffin’s work as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney: “You performed at the highest level of excellence during your time here. . . . I believe you indicted more people in your time here than any other AUSA. You were a real workhorse, and the quality of your work was excellent.”

To illustrate even further how far he is from the political hack Democrats portray him as, Griffin also — when working at the White House — was mobilized for active duty in the U.S. Army. He picked up to move to Fort Campbell to serve as an Army prosecutor. Griffin would later be asked to move even further: to Iraq, to serve outside the Green Zone, in Mosul in a JAG position. He ended up earning the Combat Action Badge and the Army Commendation Medal.

But despite this diverse and impressive record, and despite the fact that is no longer a nominee for anything, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse railed against Griffin Wednesday on the Senate floor, charging that he is unqualified for legal work. “It is just hard to believe that Mr. Tim Griffin was the best person possible,” the Rhode Island senator (indefensibly) said.

Griffin has told local Arkansas media that “based on what I’ve seen in the last two months, I would be dead upon arrival” in the Senate. One can’t blame Griffin for bowing out. He has seen how Democrats managed to mow down nominations (think Miguel Estrada . . . ) and make people suffer inane and unjustifiable injustices along the path to Senate confirmation (Bill Pryor . . . ). As one friend and former colleague of his puts it: “Tim’s unpardonable offense is being involved in electing George Bush as president in 2000 and 2004, and being as good at that as he is at being a prosecutor.”

Senator Whitehouse, of course, didn’t have to look very far in Senate history for another example of the Senate driving another good public servant from a permanent slot he was well suited for. It was his own predecessor, Republican (in Name Only) Lincoln Chafee, who ultimately ended John Bolton’s tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Good work, senators; another good man down. The Department of Justice isn’t blameless either. As Andy McCarthy has pointed out on NRO, all U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. As Democratic senators and the New York Times rant about the unfairness of a president removing old U.S. attorneys and replacing them with new ones, it remains a mystery why the Justice Department failed to make this basic point, early and often.

But don’t count Griffin out of the Senate forever. He could be the next Jeff Sessions: Once a U.S. attorney, Sessions was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1985 for a federal judgeship; he is currently nearing the end of his second term as senator from Alabama.

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