In a September 22 editorial urging confirmation of President Bush's nominee for attorney general, The Pueblo Chieftain stated that Democrats “never said a word when President Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office.” But media reports have pointed out that while dismissing a large number of U.S. attorneys at the beginning of a president's term is common, doing so in the middle of a presidency “appears to be unprecedented.” The Chieftain made a similar comparison in a July editorial.
After stating in a September 22 editorial that “anti-war Democrats in Congress went ballistic” when former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “tripped over his lip in trying to explain the firing of a handful of U.S. attorneys,” The Pueblo Chieftain added, “Funny, they [Democrats] never said a word when President Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office.” However, a March 13 McClatchy Newspapers article (accessed through the Nexis database) reported, “Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration,” as was the case with Bush's ousting of nine U.S. attorneys.
As Colorado Media Matters pointed out, the Chieftain in a July 27 editorial similarly stated, “President Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys on his first day in August, and hardly anyone paid attention.”
Before making its unfounded comparison regarding Clinton's “fir[ing] all 93 U.S. attorneys,” the Chieftain's September 22 editorial stated, “It appears President Bush has hit a home run with his nomination of Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as attorney general." The Chieftain later continued:
We did not believe Mr. Gonzales deserved to be railroaded out of Washington. Unfortunately, he tripped over his lip in trying to explain the firing of a handful of U.S. attorneys.
The anti-war Democrats in Congress went ballistic. Funny, they never said a word when President Clinton fired all 93 U.S. attorneys when he took office.
The Senate should move quickly to confirm Judge Mukasey's nomination. It's time to get the Justice Department back on track.
In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, both Clinton and Bush dismissed nearly all U.S. attorneys upon taking office, as is common for a new administration of the opposite political party from its predecessor. The McClatchy article, headlined “Current situation is distinct from Clinton firings of U.S. attorneys,” further reported that “Justice Department officials acknowledged it would be unusual for the president to oust his own appointees,” as Bush did. An Associated Press article about the firings similarly reported, “Such purges of the political appointees often come at the beginning of a new president's administration, not midway through.”
Furthermore, The Washington Post reported on March 14 that “legal experts and former prosecutors say the firing of a large number of prosecutors in the middle of a term appears to be unprecedented and threatens the independence of prosecutors.”