When President Bush was in Chicago on Friday, July 7th, Rick Pearson, the Chicago Tribune's political writer, asked about Patrick Fitzgerald, whose office just the day before had won convictions in the trial of Mayor Daley's patronage chief and three others.
Fitzgerald's official term as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois has expired, and - like some U.S. Attorneys in other parts of the country - he is continuing to serve until the President either reappoints him or names someone else.
Pearson asked the President if he planned to reappoint Fitzgerald. Around these parts, Fitzgerald is best known for his work rooting out corruption in state and local government, but the President knows him best for his work as special prosecutor in the White House/CIA leak investigation.
His answer was a bit confusing. Local news media reported Bush said he hadn't given the reappointment idea any thought.
Writing from Washington, Tribune senior correspondent Michael Tackett reported Bush "seemed knocked back a bit" by the question. That's a nice way to put it.
Here is the Bush-Pearson exchange as transcribed by the White House. You be the judge.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think we had a reasonable chance of shooting it down. At least that's what the military commanders told me.
Rick. Let's get a little local here, Ricky. Do you consider yourself local or national? Hybrid? Are you a hybrid?
Q It seems trendy --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very trendy. You're kind of a trendy guy. Got the gray shirt.
Q Thank you very much. Mr. President, the work of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in prosecuting alleged corruption is well-known here in Chicago, as well as nationally. It's my understanding that technically, he hasn't been reappointed to his position, and serves at your pleasure. Do you have any plans to formally reappoint him to the post, or any position at Department of Justice?
THE PRESIDENT: As a special prosecutor?
Q And would you give us your assessment of the job that he's doing?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't have any plans to reappoint him because I haven't thought about it. I will now think about it, now that you brought it up.
The only -- I can give you an assessment of how I thought he handled the case in Washington. I haven't been following the cases here. I thought in Washington he handled the case with professionalism, he was very professional about it. You didn't see a lot leaks, you didn't see a lot of speculation, you didn't see a lot of people kind of dropping a little crumb here for the press to chew on. And I really thought he handled himself well.
But as far as reappointing him as a special prosecutor, I don't know whether the Attorney General is going to do that, or not. That's his choice to make."
For that and more, here is the complete White House transcript of the July 7 press conference in Chicago.
If you agree with us that Fitzgerald should be reappointed, here's the address for your heartfelt letter:
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
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