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Playing politics with key federal appointments

   WASHINGTON -- The federal legal system is designed to stop politics at the courthouse door -- but the Bush administration seems to have broken that door down.

   That's the unmistakeable conclusion of a 140-page report, issued Monday by the Justice Department's Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, that lambasted Bush Justice Department appointees for allowing political considerations to trump skill and experience in appointments to key
career posts.

   And two of the good lawyers who got trumped are from Western New York.

   Believe it or not, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department aide with the most appointment power, looked at William J. Hochul not as the award-winning prosecutor of the Lackawanna Six -- but as the husband of Kathy Hochul, a longtime Democratic activist who now serves as Erie County clerk.

   And Goodling looked at John Kelly, a federal prosecutor from Rochester, not as Michael A. Battle's handpicked top aide at the office that oversaw U.S. attorneys -- but as a "political infant" who hadn't done enough for the Republican Party.

   Worse yet, Hochul was applying for a counterterrorism job in Washington -- and Goodling decided we'd all be better off giving the post to a Republican with no counterterrorism experience whatsoever.

   And remember, this was the administration that was supposed to be getting tough on terror.

   So does any of this make you feel any safer?

  -- Jerry Zremski

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