Martha's Vineyard, MA -- Watching the shenanigans in the nation's capital from the shores of Tashmoo Pond has been entertaining, if not exactly amusing, this week. First we got confirmation that the appointments process in the Justice Department has been severely politicized, with political hacks being put in key career positions. Then, as if to remind us of why this kind of political manipulation in the Department of Justice is so important, we had the indictment of Ted Stevens by career officials of exactly the sort that Attorney General Gonzalez was trying to replace with cronies. And today we learn that the list of cronies to be appointed came all the way from the White House.
Things haven't been much better over at the EPA. A federal judge in Florida, in a stinging rebuke to both the state and to the EPA, ruled that the Agency had turned a "blind eye" as Florida broke its own rules committing it to restore the ecosystem.
The Miccosukee Indians, who live in the Everglades, and Friends of the Everglades sued in 2004 over Florida's repeated delay in pollution cleanup deadlines.
District Court judge Allen Gold ruled that the environmentalists and the tribe "are correct." Gold wrote that "EPA has once again avoided its duty to protect the Everglades." Gold also ruled that the Florida legislature "violated its fundamental commitment and promise to protect the Everglades."
This was also the week that an internal EPA email instructing its enforcement officials not to talk to investigators, including EPA's own Inspector General, leaked out. "If you are contacted directly by the IG's office or GAO requesting information of any kind ... please do not respond to questions or make any statements," reads the e-mail sent by Robbi Farrell, the head of the Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance, A cynic might conclude that the Agency has something to hide. He might also wonder how effective such a missive will be, given how rapidly it leaked out. Isn't the attempt to restore the reign of terror to the ranks of the civil service a bit like trying to toughen discipline for prisoners of the Bastille -- after it was already stormed?
And, finally, this became the week when enough was enough for Congress. Four of the leading Senate overseers of the EPA -- California's Barbara Boxer, Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse, Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, and New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg finally joined the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth in demanding that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson resign, and that the Justice Department investigate him for lying under oath to Congress about the role of the White House in Johnson's decision not to permit California to implement its tougher clean air standards for cars.
The smoking gun of Johnson's obeisance to White House pressure came in the form of testimony from a former EPA official, Jason Burnett, to Congress -- which may explain Johnson's desperate attempts to keep his enforcement staff, who probably know best where the real skeletons are buried, away from the press and the Agency's independent Inspector General.
Of course, many of the Justice Department officials who will respond to the Senators' request for an investigation are the same politically tainted staff who were illegally shoehorned into career jobs under former Attorney General Gonzalez at the demand of President Bush.
So while the kettle is bubbling in the nation's capital, real justice seems several hundred days away.