March 26, 2007
The political world in the U.S. is up in arms about the recentfiring of eight federal prosecutors by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The fundamental question is whether the White House abused its constitutional power in influencing the Justice Department in not renewing the contracts of these eight prosecutors. It is important to remember that Federal Prosecutors are political appointees. In the past both the Republican and the Democratic presidents have used that privilege to the benefit of their party. Janet Reno, President Clinton's Attorney General fired all 93 U.S. attorneys after her appointment in 1993. Robert Kennedy was criticized for being to close to John Kennedy when he was Attorney General.
The authors of the Constitution were wise in establishing a check and balance of power between the Judicial, Legislative and Executive. What about the boundaries between the White House and the Justice Department? Where is the line between what constitutes acceptable influence from objectionable interference?
Determining boundaries is crucial in resolving any ethical dilemmas. The term abuse, by definition implies boundaries. Trying to determine what is acceptable and what is not can sometimes be difficult. We need points of reference. Such points of reference can be found in the Constitution, the law or tradition and even religion.
According to a friend of mine, Professor and Rabbi Armand Abecassis, there is an old Jewish belief that at the Last Judgment Day, three professions (or professionals) will be more severely judged.
- The Rabbi, because he has spirituality authority.
- The Doctor, because he has the authority of knowledge
- The Butcher, representing the power of the economy, providing a basic human need. (Unless of course, you are a vegetarian!).
We all, to some degree, have power. We can affect adversely or favorable the life of others. We should be careful, not to abuse the power we have, however great or small.