This, in the LA Times op-ed page, is just ridiculous:
In the aftermath of Watergate, President Carter directed Atty. Gen. Griffin Bell to prepare legislation that would make the attorney general an appointed post for a definite term, subject to removal only for cause. Carter’s idea was to keep the attorney general independent of presidential direction to ensure that the Justice Department’s authority would never again be abused for political purposes, as it had been during the ethically troubled Nixon presidency.
Despite Carter’s noble intent, Bell refused. In a little-known memorandum to the president dated April 11, 1977, he explained why. Any law that restricted the president’s power to remove the attorney general — and, by inference, to fire any U.S. attorney — would likely be found unconstitutional. The president, Bell reasoned, is held accountable for the actions of the executive branch in its entirety, including the Justice Department; he must be free to establish policy and define priorities, even in the legal arena. “Because laws are not self-executing, their enforcement obviously cannot be separated from policy considerations,” Bell wrote.
The article goes on to argue that Bell was right and that, thus, Alberto Gonzales had every right to fire whoever he damn pleased. I wonder if Douglas Kmiec, the author of this article, has ever considered the case of the Federal Reserve, whose board members serve “definite term[s] subject to removal only for cause.” It’s a part of the executive branch, too. It works pretty much exactly like Carter’s ideal Justice Department would have worked. And you know what? It’s existed for over 90 years without being ruled unconstitutional. Gah.