Respect for Law and the Constitution Is Also Good Politics

>> Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nick Katzenbach:

When Bobby Kennedy was named attorney general the appointment was almost universally criticized. He was too young, too inexperienced. Worse, he had run his brother's campaign and would be too political to serve Justice. In an effort to meet these criticisms, Bobby, mostly through Byron White, staffed the department with some exceptional lawyers with impeccable professional qualifications and no political baggage. My absence from the campaign was a political plus.
If Bobby had tried to politicize the department, to bend the law to his brother's political desires, to investigate his enemies and overlook the shortcomings of his political friends, not only would he have proved his critics right but he would have been faced with many resignations. Politicizing the department was never his intention and his staff was not appointed to protect him but to do the job the way it should be done. As time went on it became more and more obvious to the press and to congress that the department had integrity, and all of us, including Bobby, benefited from that reputation. Our arguments in court, our public statements, and our congressional testimony were treated with respect, not suspicion. Lawyers were proud to work in the Justice Department. Recruiting the best young lawyers was easy.

It really shouldn't be surprising to find out that good government is also good politics.


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