Villains ... 

We are pretty hardened by now to the likelihood of ignominious, unconstitutional, and illegal deeds on the part of the Bush administration, but even we were astonished by this week's revelations of the partisan litmus tests imposed on would-be Justice Department officials, including

prospective U.S. attorneys, by Monica Goodling, the former White House liaison with the department.

For starters, there were such questions as "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" and "Why are you a Republican?" Better questions: "What is it about this that makes us want to barf?" And, for that matter, "Why isn't Goodling, who admitted to breaking the law, in jail?"

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more graphic example than this misprision of justice as to just why Bush and his favored operatives (conscientious cabinet officers like Paul O'Neill, Colin Powell, or Christine Todd Whitman were ritually ignored or muzzled or cast aside) should be subject to legal penalties themselves. The only plausible reason for not pursuing impeachment or prosecution is the same as that for staying clear of a wounded cobra. Why waste the time, when it's an election year and the poisonous thing will soon enough pass away of itself?

Perhaps it's more useful to make this administration's misdeeds an object lesson for the 2008 presidential race and meanwhile to quarantine its residual venom as far from the realm of public affairs as is humanly and constitutionally possible.

... and Fools

If the doings of the national Republican administration savor of the sinister, those of the state GOP run more to comic relief. Consider the case of Bill Hobbs, the Tennessee Republican Party's communications director (a job description which is more than a little oxymoronic).

Hobbs' idea of media relations is to pick gratuitous fights with publications across the state (we ourselves have been so favored), and his way of representing the Republican Party itself is to make it look as bigoted and uninformed as possible. (His erroneous description of "Muslim garb" worn by Barack Obama on a visit to Kenya, coupled with his ostentatious use of the candidate's middle name of "Hussein," earned Hobbs an official dressing-down from both of the state's Republican senators.)

But now Hobbs has outdone himself. Faced with the task of how to handle the state GOP's annual Statesmen's Dinner, an occasion for handing out awards and generating good P.R. among the state's mainstream media, Hobbs came up with a precedent — to ban the media from covering what he decided to call a "closed" fund-raiser! That meant an embargo on publicity for such luminaries as Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, this year's crop of Republican candidates, and the event's main speaker, former presidential adviser Karl Rove (who may, some suspect, have forced Hobbs' hand).

As if puzzled as to why the usually compliant MSM subsequently ignored the annual gala and his post-dinner press releases about it, Hobbs has now gone so far and been so breathtakingly kind as to offer around videos of the affair. We won't bother to explain to him what's wrong with all this; wiser heads in his own party surely will.

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