If I may...
The reason this story is an issue is based on a number of things.
First, a little background. US Attorneys are appointed by the president to represent "We the People" in the court of law. So when Joe Schmo screws up, and it's "The People" vs. Joe Schmo, a US Attorney represents "The People." It's an important gig.
There are 93 of them spread throughout the states based on population; so California would obviously have a few of them and, say, Wyoming would probably have one.
Since these positions are appointed, it is standard practice for an incoming president to appoint a new group of 93 attorneys. I've heard in other places people using the argument that Clinton fired all 93 when he took office. Well, yeah, but they weren't exactly fired... they resigned knowing a new president was in office or were asked to resign to be replaced by the incoming president. Standard procedure; Bush appointed a new group of 93 attorneys, effectively "firing," or more appropriately asking to resign, the residing attorneys from the Clinton Admin. Standard procedure.
There are two things that make this situation unique, and a wild card I'll throw in at the end.
1. Never, in US history, has a president fired a single US Attorney mid-term. It's without precedent and highly unusual. Why would, for the first time ever, the Bush administration fire US Attorneys that he appointed in the first place? The argument is loyalty and politics; not performance. There aren't any sufficient studies out, but at least a few of the fired attorneys were at the top of their game, never even losing a case. It wasn't a matter of performance. The concern is this: is it appropriate for the president to fire attorneys bases solely on politics, and more specifically, on loyalty? Whether or not that's the case, the attorneys were fired without explanation or reason which is what left congress scratching its head. Of course, this is now a democratic congress, so the issue is out... if it were still republican controlled, it would have likely slipped through the cracks.
2. When the Patriot Act was renewed by the previous congress, there was an interesting provision added. It stated that, for the first time ever, that the president may appoint a vacant US Attorney spot without congressional approval. This is interesting because previously if a vacancy opened for a US attorney, the president would require approval for appointing a new one mid-term. This is largely why US Attorneys have never been fired mid-term before. So part of the controversy stems from a balance of power and also an abuse of that power. It isn't illegal, but it is seen as a sneaky abuse of power.
A side note to that is that Senator Arlen Specter (R- PA) who was head of the judiciary committee at the time of the Patriot Act passing actually added the provision that the president may appoint a US attorney if a vacancy arose in the name of "national security." Specter is one of my favorite senators, and he has since, amid criticism for adding the provision, been a proponent of investigating the matter to the fullest and finding out why these attorneys were fired without explanation.
My wild card is Alberto Gonzalez (for those who don't know, he is the Attorney General who replaced John Ashcroft in 2005). He is an inept moron. That is certainly a judgment call on my part, but he is highly unqualified for the position of Attorney General. Think of it this way; if Gonzalez is the General of our rights, then the US Attorneys are his soldiers. He had an interesting exchange with Arlen Specter in 2005 regarding the right of Habeas Corpus.
In short, Habeas Corpus is the right of an individual to have a trial before he is jailed. It is the protection against arbitrary imprisonment. Without Habeas Corpus you have no right to tell anyone you have been arrested, you have no right to legal counsel, you have no right to protest your innocence or even mistaken identity. Most Constitutional Scholars believe the right of habeas is the very foundation of our legal system, where none are supposed to be above the law and none beneath it.
Here is the exchange between Gonzalez and Sen. Specter:
GONZALES: The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme —
SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The Constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?
In other words, Gonzalez has little working knowledge of the constitution. Not a great quality in an attorney general.
Now, I understand that this can be construed as, perhaps, a partisan issue. But Gonzalez has a long list of senators who have called for his resignation; not just in the light of the above exchange with specter and the unauthorized firing of the US Attorneys, but also for his general mismanagement of the judiciary system. There is no need to list the democratic senators who have called for the resignation of the secretary of justice, but I'd be happy to list some of the republicans who have called for his resignation as well:
* Sen. John E. Sununu (R-NH), first Republican senator to call for firing
* Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
* Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
* Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
* Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
* Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH)
* Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI)
* Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)
* Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO)
And number of other Senators who are "highly critical" of Gonzalez:
* Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
* Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
* Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
* Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
* Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Senate Minority Whip
* Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
* Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
* Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), former Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
* Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
* former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
So what's the big deal? Probably not a whole lot to you and me; but this is the sort of thing our congress should be fighting for... the rights of "We the People." It's a matter of checks and balances, abuse of power and constitutional freedoms.
Ineptitude in the justice system is what lets criminals walk free. Sometimes the wrong people are doing the most important jobs, and I think it is an important issue to Americans to expect them to be criticized if not performing their duty to us.
If you're a battery, you're either working or you're dead....