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Big Bosoms And Square Jaws

Everyone knows that John Ashcroft was fully committed to fighting the all-crucial War on Porn. But what about Alberto Gonzales? He wasn't one of those porno-king sympathizers found so frequently on the Western left, was he? Hardly, Salon's Mark Follman reports today. Not only did Gonzales make adult obscenity a "top priority" for the Justice Department during his tenure, but two of those fired U.S. attorneys may have actually been sacked for being soft on internet nudity:

Two of the fired U.S. attorneys, Dan Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona, were pressured by a top Justice Department official last fall to commit resources to adult obscenity cases, even though both of their offices faced serious shortages of manpower. Each of them warned top officials that pursuing the obscenity cases would force them to pull prosecutors away from other significant criminal investigations. In Nevada, ongoing cases included gang violence and racketeering, corporate healthcare fraud, and the prosecution of a Republican official on corruption charges [!]. In Arizona, they included multiple investigations of child exploitation, including "traveler" cases in which pedophiles arrive from elsewhere to meet children they've targeted online.

The U.S. attorneys' doubts about prioritizing obscenity cases drew the ire of Brent Ward, the director of the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in Washington, who went on to tell top Justice Department officials that the two were insubordinate over the issue. But the obscenity case that Ward pressured Bogden to pursue was "woefully deficient" according to a former senior law enforcement official who spoke to Salon last month.

Appeasers one and all. No, seriously, the whole story's worth reading to get a sense for how warped the administration's law-enforcement priorities have become. Also worth reading is McClatchy's comprehensive look at how a politicized Justice Department has "pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates":

On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

In late 2001, Ashcroft also hired three Republican political operatives to work in a secretive new unit in the division's Voting Rights Section. Rich said the unit, headed by unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate Mark Metcalf of Kentucky, bird-dogged the progress of the administration's Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and reviewed voting legislation in the states.

The Senate, of course, is grilling Gonzales today. But I think Jon Chait put it nicely in his recent Los Angeles Times op-ed: "[A]lmost nobody seems to be overreacting [to these various scandals]. Most people are under-reacting."

--Bradford Plumer