A Government That Can't Remember Anything

Dept. of Justice seal over the White House AP/CBS

Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.

I have a travel advisory for visitors from outer space.

If you've been following the news lately, you can be excused for believing that government service is harder on human memory than Alzheimer's.

As the recent trial of Scooter Libby showed, White House work left him unable to remember anything.

But his problem was nothing compared to the epidemic of memory loss at the Justice Department, where federal prosecutors got fired. The Attorney General couldn't remember talking to his own staff about the reasons why, where as lower officials couldn't remember whose idea it was. And nobody at the White House could remember anything except they didn't do it.

Among the prosecutors who got fired was one who sent a Republican congressman to jail on corruption charges, another who did not push corruption charges against Democrats fast enough – at least not fast enough to please the Republican senator who complained.

Pressuring federal prosecutors to play political games is serious business. The president says he's not happy about it, and the attorney general says mistakes were made. Well, of course they were. But confirming the obvious is not enough. From the top down, the word must go out this will not be tolerated, and those responsible must be held accountable.

Even an alien from outer space can see that or smell it, because this one stinks to high heaven.

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By Bob Schieffer
  • James Klatell

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