Strom II: The Sequel

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2001

The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:

Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina described President Bush's new nominee to be U.S. attorney in his state as "a man of character and integrity" who "will make a fine U.S. attorney." It isn't particularly surprising that the senator would feel warmly toward the young man Mr. Bush has chosen. Not only did Mr. Thurmond himself recommend this nominee but the nominee is none other than the senator's own son: J. Strom Thurmond Jr. And in South Carolina, that is all the qualification one needs.

Which is a good thing for the younger Mr. Thurmond - since it seems to be the only qualification he's got. At 28 years old, he has been out of law school only three years. He has never managed an office - let alone a 60-person shop that has the power to seek the death penalty. For the past two years he has served as an assistant state prosecutor; before that he worked briefly in private practice. An analysis by the State newspaper of Columbia, S.C., back in February found that the 93 U.S. attorneys then in office had an average age of around 50 and, on average, 22 years of experience in law.

If we didn't know better, we might suspect nepotism. Fortunately, however, Sen. Thurmond has explained that family relations played no role in his recommendation to the president. Besides, he noted at the time he advanced his son's name, it's only nepotism when you hire your kin. "I am not employing Strom Jr.," he pointed out. "I am recommending him for a position."

The U.S. attorney's offices have never been filled entirely on merit. Knowing a senator well has always been a helpful qualification. But this one fails the laugh test. Mr. Bush's acquiescence undermines the professionalism of the Justice Department. The Senate, which has the power to confirm or deny this nomination, ought to show more respect for law enforcement.

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