In Bushâ€™s Justice Dept, Being Gay Is "Even Worse Than Being a Democrat"
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About a year ago, we learned in jaw-dropping detail about the questions asked of those seeking employment at Bush’s Justice Department. Thanks to Alberto Gonzales and Monica Goodling — remember them? — job applicants for civil service jobs were quizzed with all kind of personal questions that the DoJ couldn’t legally ask. This went well beyond just isolating registered Democrats as inherently untrustworthy — though Goodling did that, too — and included one applicant being asked, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?”
But what about all of those Justice Department employees who were already on staff when Goodling & Co. got there? It was too late to ask them personal questions during their interviews. How, then, could they ensure that DoJ employees were pure by conservative Republican standards?
The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating whether a career attorney in the department was dismissed from her job because of rumors that she is a lesbian. The case grew out of a larger inquiry into the firings of U.S. attorneys and politicization at Justice under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Several people interviewed by the inspector general’s staff described the case to NPR and said they came away with the impression that the Attorney General’s office decided not to renew Leslie Hagen’s contract because of the talk about her sexual orientation. Hagen received the highest possible ratings for her work as liaison between the Justice Department and the U.S. attorneys’ committee on Native American issues. Her final job evaluation lists five categories for supervisors to rank her performance. For each category, a neat X fills the box marked, “Outstanding.” And at the bottom of the page, under “overall rating level,” she also got the top mark: Outstanding.
The form is dated February 1, 2007. Several months before that evaluation, Hagen was told her contract would not be renewed.
After Hagen won awards for her work as a federal prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger recruited her to DC for her job, because, as he put it, she was “the best qualified person in the nation.” Everyone Hagen worked with raved about her amazing work and her supervisors were anxious to renew her contract.
But as we know all too well, in the Bush administration, qualifications and outstanding on-the-job performance hardly matter.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.