This morning in the Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Arlen Specter asked the Attorney General if the White House ever gave Justice Department officials political briefings. Gonzales, of course, didn't know.(He doesn't know much.) Specter wondered whether it might not violate the Hatch Act. And then they moved on to something else.
It really wasn't all that long ago that such a question would have been unthinkable, and if it were asked it would create screaming headlines, non-stop chatter on the cable shows and calls for special prosecutors. Now, it's just a rather mild question in a committee hearing, answered with a shrug.
Specter asked because this morning the Washington Post revealed that Karl Rove is still giving his partisan power point presentation to members of the federal government:
On Jan. 4, just after the 2006 elections tossed the Republicans out of congressional power, Rove met at the White House with six U.S. ambassadors to key European missions and the consul general to Bermuda while the diplomats were in Washington for a State Department conference.
According to a department letter to the Senate panel, Rove explained the White House views on the electoral disaster while Sara M. Taylor, then the director of White House political affairs, showed a PowerPoint presentation that pinned most of the electoral blame on "corrupt" GOP lawmakers and "complacent incumbents." One chart in Taylor's presentation highlighted the GOP's top 36 targets among House Democrats for the 2008 election.
The article also runs down some of the earlier political briefings going back to 2001 to agencies as far flung as the Peace Corps. (I'm kind of surprised the Republicans have even kept that office open.) It is amusing that Rove and Taylor laid the blame on "corrupt" officials and "complacent" incumbents, but it does bring up one important question that I've asked many times. Why are the taxpayers still paying Karl Rove's salary?
I've never been entirely comfortable with the idea that someone with his portfolio was a government official anyway, but since he's supposedly no longer doing any policy work, he's a purely political entity. Nobody from the White House is running for office again and the taxpayers don't usually pay for the executive branch to employ political directors for either Party. I doubt that any congressmen are all that eager for Karl's help at this point, and he can't have any pull in legislative affairs after he cast the blame for the 2006 defeat squarely at the feet of everyone but his boss and himself. So what exactly is Karl Rove's job now?