Law Day guest peddled politics, not principle

It took a certain amount of cheek for former U.S. Attorney John McKay, the featured guest for Kitsap County’s Law

Day observance earlier this month, to whine that his firing last year by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was politically motivated — and then proceed to spend his entire visit bashing the Bush Administration’s politics.

But it actually took even more cheek for the organizers of Law Day to make McKay the event’s poster boy in the first place.

McKay, just in case you’re not as obsessed by his travails as he evidently believes you should be, was one of eight U.S. attorneys dismissed under what his supporters insist were sinister circumstances.

Gonzales maintains the firings were strictly performance-related, while McKay, then based in Seattle, reportedly suspects he was being punished for failing to appoint a grand jury to investigate reports of voter fraud in the aftermath of the hotly disputed 2004 Washington state gubernatorial election.

Even without rehashing the question of whether there were, in fact, sufficient grounds for McKay to convene a grand jury in that case, it’s hard to understand how refusing to pursue an investigation his superiors wished him to pursue — even assuming that’s the reason McKay actually was fired —?wouldn’t have justified a performance-based dismissal.

For that matter, it’s also unclear what difference it makes anyway, since a U.S. attorney is by definition a political appointment and serves at the pleasure of the president. Lest we forget, Bill Clinton summarily fired all 93 serving U.S. attorneys immediately upon taking office in 1993.

The more pertinent question, however, is why anyone associated with the Kitsap County legal community considered McKay an appropriate centerpiece for a “day of national dedication to the principle of government under law.”

What, other than trying to literally make a federal case out of being fired for what history has shown are almost certainly defensible and even routine reasons, has McKay done to exemplify the highest ideals of the legal profession?

More the point, whatever his professional accomplishments might be, aren’t McKay and whoever invited him knowing full well he would devote his Law Day remarks to bashing the president’s policies the ones guilty of imposing their political —?and personal — grievances where they don’t belong?

To be sure, McKay took the opportunity presented by his Kitsap appearance to portray himself as an innocent victim who stood by his principles and faced down his politically motivated detractors. He also implied he had somehow already been exonerated and his accusers exposed.

But for the record, although McKay has been quoted elsewhere predicting Gonzales would eventually face criminal charges in connection with the firings, nothing has been settled legally as yet — which means it’s just as likely McKay is nothing more or less than a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired for cause.

In which case, what purpose did his visit to Kitsap County serve other than giving him the opportunity to act as the mouthpiece for those who share his burning desire to embarrass a president with whom they disagree?

Certainly there’s a place in public discourse for strong differences of opinion and even controversy. But one can’t help thinking a guest whose legal rectitude was more universally recognized would have been a more appropriate choice as featured speaker for Law Day in Kitsap County than someone who was simply here to peddle an agenda.

From where we sit, the weight of evidence, to use the legal vernacular, suggests it’s John McKay and the Kitsap Law Day organizers, their denunciations to the contrary, who are actually guilty of politicizing an event that ought to have been beyond the influence of petty partisanship.

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