Monica GoodlingRemember Monica Goodling? Take a good, long look, because make no mistake, you are seeing Washington in a future McCain Administration.

One won’t have a hard time catching up to speed because Goodling’s name is in the headlines again. She is the former senior counsel to the former U.S Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned last year in disgrace. His office has been accused of everything from supplying the Pentagon cover to torture on the battlefield and helping the government carry out illegal wiretapping on its citizens to harassing a semi-conscious John Ashcroft in his hospital bed to make sure they could keep that illegal wiretapping humming despite a near-mutiny among the Justice staff.

Yesterday, current AG Michael Mukasey appointed a prosecutor to look into one of the most overlooked scandals of the Bush Administration — the politically-motivated firing of several U.S attorneys. This appointment was prompted after a 358-page report, released Monday, that found evidence of foul play, further damning an office staffed with a “sweep of religious conservatives” and Bush acolytes (with Goodling as young mother hen) accused of purging the department of so-called liberals in order to make way for loyalists — and people Karl Rove owed favors to.

In their 358-page report, investigators said the lack of cooperation by senior officials at the White House and in the Justice Department left gaps in their findings that should be investigated further.
“Serious allegations involving potential criminal conduct have not been fully investigated or resolved,” the report said, listing lying to investigators, obstruction of justice and wire fraud among the potential felony crimes.

The report found evidence that several of the attorneys were indeed fired because they displeased Republican heavies — and at least one, Bud Cummins, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, was forced out seemingly “to provide a position for former White House employee (Timothy) Griffin,” Karl Rove’s former deputy in the White House political office.

Breakdown of report here.

Goodling’s only job before landing what many would consider a primo post for a recent law school graduate (not counting her stints as a Republican National Committee researcher on the Bush campaign and the Justice Department press office) was six-months in the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. But Goodling, 33, was a 1999 graduate of the law school at Regent University, which was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and early on became a feeder for the Bush Administration, and she had a secret stairway to heaven.

She pled the fifth last year when congress asked her to explain her role in terminating the attorneys. Known as the whip-hand of God by her detractors, a “faithful” Bushie by those more charitable, Goodling was part of “a generation of young religious conservatives who swept into the federal government after the election of President Bush in 2000,” WaPo detailed last year.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick found their presence a little less divine:

No, the real concern here is that Goodling and her ilk somehow began to conflate God’s work with the president’s. Probably not a lesson she learned in law school. The dream of Regent and its counterparts, such as Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, is to redress perceived wrongs to Christians, to reclaim the public square and reassert Christian political authority. And while that may have been a part of the Bush/Rove plan, it was only a small part. Their real zeal was for earthly power. And Goodling was left holding the earthly bag.

Seems, taking the cue from former AG Ashcroft, that Goodling and others in Justice replaced their pocket Constitutions (if they had them) with bibles, and started engaging in the now-infamous litmus tests for new agency applicants, and pushing career people out the door who did not fit the bill. An earlier report in July found that Goodling had violated the law by screening applicants for career, non-political jobs with precision no doubt sharpened from her days as an opposition researcher for the RNC:

“What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?” Goodling asked at least some candidates, according to the joint investigation by Justice’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility. Others were asked about their views on abortion and gay marriage.

But this extends far across the Bush Administration landscape, and this is why heeding these lessons is so important on the eve of this election. I remember when the first person I knew complained of being asked the Roe v. Wade question in an interview for an administration job (she was an Afghanistan specialist) around 2003. We shook our heads. Then the second friend arrived a few months later with fresh stories, all from Republican Party faithful not wanting to “disappear” into political blackness if they didn’t toe the line. The swaggering kings of the K Street Project smashing in ecstasy against countless devotees, sycophants and courtiers of the “W,” with no room, or tolerance, for moving off-script.

That was several years and one re-election campaign ago. Then the Justice Department story exploded. Also last year, a probe was opened into whether Karl Rove was using his old office as chief policy guru at the White House to throw his weight around at various federal agencies, pressuring government employees to support Republicans in upcoming elections.

This would have hardly bothered the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Division, which apparently had been stacked with graduates other than the Regently kind. Something tells me they might have been too tangled in the sheets — and snowblind — to worry about Rove’s picks for the 6th Congressional District in Connecticut. Plus, they were doing The Man’s work — just in another way — screwing big oil and gas company reps to keep everyone on the same page.

But the real culmination of this systematic, often illegal, unethical and thoroughly corrosive cancer in Washington, the real disaster it has wrought and the true omen for our times, is the rampant and ultimately game changing, war-losing Republican cronyism in post-invasion Iraq. The user-friendly story? The war went bad because of a handful of misdirected military commanders and Paul Bremer. Good start, but let’s hear it all, that the Monica Goodlings were sent to Iraq, alongside every partisan retainer and hot-handed neo-conservative with a political favor to call in and the need to burnish a resume, lacking the wit, the empathy, the knowledge and above all, the humility to help rebuild a foreign nation like our promise dictated.

From Imperial Life in the Emerald City, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran in 2006:

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O’Beirne’s office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O’Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn’t need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O’Beirne’s staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O’Beirne’s office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad’s stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq’s $13 billion budget, even though they didn’t have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration’s gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

McCain claims to have put his political neck on the line to support the Surge, being “the first” to voice a lack of confidence in former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He is the self-proclaimed king of the porkbusters on Capitol Hill, but has never once stood up against the most perverse marriage of greed, pork, power, hubris and dogmatism imaginable, as it is tested on the very people we were supposed to liberate in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We see how well it is going — the people of Baghdad still get four hours or less a day of electricity and in Kabul, they’re muttering for the return of the Taliban.

Shame on both McCain and Democrat Barack Obama for not making this a campaign issue. Let’s take it a step further: can we really believe, with McCain having pushed aside his old inner circle for a battalion of former Bush administration officials and hacks, with a lust to win so acute he would employ the same ethically-challenged operatives who killed his own presidential bid in 2000, and would accept help from the same bottom feeders responsible for “swift boating” a man’s purple heart in Vietnam, that he won’t owe more than few favors when he gets into office?

Monica Goodling may be on a permanent leave, George Bush on the way out. But a McCain win will not only be seen as “a mandate” for what they started — politically and ideologically — in Washington, but will no doubt reverse a necessary decampment of their adherents, and the removal of a cancer that started in the Imperial City and still afflicts the Emerald one.