Wednesday, May 23, 2012

EXTRA: It’s about time!

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is stepping down from his post – a fact that I’m sure has some political observers quaking in their pants.

These are the people who seem to have had dreams of having Fitzgerald as the top federal prosecutor for Chicago and northern Illinois for life – which is the image that had me quaking in my pants.

SO DO I take some pleasure in the fact that Fitzgerald himself had the sense to realize he’s already held the post far longer than any other man, and that it was time for him to want to step down from the job and do something else with his life?

Yes, I do. And personally (although I doubt he cares what I think) I hope he finds pleasure and success in wherever his life takes him, once he leaves next month. Personally, I envy someone who is secure enough financially to be able to quit a job and take the summer off (as Fitzgerald plans to) to reflect, and figure out what he wants to do.

It was kind of assuring during the past decade to have a federal prosecutor who wasn’t obsessed with the idea of using the post to establish credentials that could help him run for political office someday.

It was also unusual to have a U.S. attorney who so-often was brought in to cases involving federal government or other parts of the country, because he was an expert prosecutor. Usually, our federal prosecutors are themselves little more than aspiring political hacks.

ALTHOUGH HAVING SOMEONE who is so intensely in a prosecutorial mode always made me wonder if that is way too harsh a stance for anyone to have to take – particularly if there’s no real limit on how long that person will be in office.

It was just a few days ago that I finally got around to seeing the film “J. Edgar,” the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle where he depicts FBI head J. Edgar Hoover as an earnest man who believed in law enforcement and science, but allowed the power to go to his head in reinforcing his own hang-ups about society!

At one point, I actually found myself wondering, “How long until Pat Fitzgerald becomes like that?” I’m relieved to know now that it won’t happen.

It’s just that I realize that U.S. attorney has always been a limited position. Generally, somebody gets picked for the post, serves a four-year stint, then moves on. Until now, Fitzgerald wasn’t showing any signs of moving on.

JUST BECAUSE THE kind of people who want to lock everybody up were satisfied wasn’t a good enough reason.

And yes, I’ll concede that whoever replaces Fitzgerald will be very much unlike him. After all, it will be Barack Obama who gets to name the replacement, with the advice senior Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and the consent of the U.S. Senate – which will have to confirm the appointment.

The only real question is whether Republican opposition will try to gum up the works to delay a replacement for as long as possible. Perhaps they have dreams of being able to delay a new U.S. attorney to a future date when it would be GOP officials who would get the final word in choosing a person to be the head prosecutor.

In my “book,” that would be the real immoral act!


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