The Justice Department needs a “Watergate-style repair,” former career employee Daniel Metcalfe tells the Legal Times. Metcalfe, who retired this year after 36 years at the department, calls for a “new attorney general, one who by reputation, background, and temperament is well-suited to at least begin the process of restoring the department's previous reputation for political independence and the reliably even-handed administration of justice.” Metcalfe, 55, was director of Justice’s Office of Information and privacy.
Without naming names, Metcalfe says that some influential political appointees at Justice are “too subject-matter ignorant to even realize how ignorant they are.” He says that political appointees now are seeking a “maximum capstone position before the second [Bush] term ends. What happens to bureaucracy at such a time is that it becomes sluggish to the point of constipation, driven only by expediency as gauged from a political or personal agenda, and it sometimes yields some truly mind-boggling results, such as the current U.S. attorney nightmare.” Under Gonzales, Metcalfe charges, “No longer was emphasis placed on accomplishing something with the highest-quality product in a timely fashion; rather, it became a matter of making sure that a ‘consensus’ was achieved, regardless of how long that might take and with little or no concern that quality would suffer in such a ‘lowest common denominator’ environment.” Gonzales is due to appear tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend his handling of the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys.