Report on Politicalization of Hiring for the DOJ Honors Program:
We've heard about this before, but the latest report by the DOJ Office of Inspector General on the politicalization of Honors Program hiring at the Justice Department adds a great deal of detail. A few thoughts:

  (1) The basic picture is just disgraceful. The Honors Program is a jewel of the Justice Department, and I think it's very troubling that some within the Bush Justice Department would see it as a way to screen candidates for ideology.

  (2) I was glad but not surprised to read in the report about political officials within DOJ (such as Peter Keisler) who didn't play along or otherwise tried to limit the political emphasis in hiring.

  (3) Although I'm not aware of anything like this happening during the Clinton years, I doubt politics was entirely irrelevant to hiring at the time. When I applied to the Honors Program in the fall of 1997 (and was accepted), it was generally understood among conservative/libertarian applicants that being conservative/libertarian was a negative on a DOJ Honors Program application. It wasn't necessarily an automatic ding, except of course at the Civil Rights Division. But it was a negative in an intensely competitive process. As a result, it was common not to list extracurricular activities that signaled conservative/libertarian viewpoints and that were the kind of thing that an applicant might or might not list on a resume depending on the job. I followed that practice in my case. I remember thinking at the time that I wouldn't have gotten the job otherwise.

  (4) The Bush DOJ officials presumably saw themselves as trying to balance out Main Justice. When I was at Main Justice in the Clinton years, it was heavily Democratic among career lawyers: even in the Criminal Division, which you might think leans more conservative than other sections, most lawyers were Democrats. Still, none of that excuses the kind of political hiring that apparently went on. The goal should have been to even the playing field, if it needed evening, not to engage in affirmative action for conservatives.