President Barack Obama made a very poor choice when he appointed Timothy Purdon to be U.S. Attorney for North Dakota back during his first years in office.
Purdon’s hyper-partisan background caused delays in his Senate appointment process (he was appointed directly from the Democratic National Committee) and shortly after taking office he announced prosecution of a group of oil companies over a few dead ducks.
The latter turned Purdon into a national punch line because the position he took in the case based on the Migratory Birds Treaty Act was so expansive that it could, as federal Judge Daniel Hovland pointed out in dismissing the case, make you guilty of a federal crime if your cat killed a protected bird.
The Wall Street Journal pointed out at the time that the case was a harbinger of the Obama administration’s looming hostility toward oil and gas development. And, boy, were they right.
Purdon ultimately stepped down from the post early, despite a delayed confirmation, and I think most honest observers can admit that North Dakota is better for it.
But now we have a new President in Donald Trump, and our new president has indicated that he’d like to make a U.S. Attorney appointment in North Dakota as is his right (current U.S. Attorney Chis Myers was appointed by the courts following Purdon’s exist and has no interest in a political appointment).
Former Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley, who served previously as U.S. Attorney under President George W. Bush, has declared interest in the Trump appointment (that’s a point worth remembering, Wrigley was responding to the Trump administration’s desire to appoint someonoe).
I broke that story late last month, and since then certain partisan sources have reacted with a collective sneer.
I think this reaction has less to do with Wrigley – who is eminently qualified for the position – then with Purdon’s rocky tenure in the office.
Republicans gave Purdon a hard time, and rightfully so I think. Purdon’s appointment sure seemed to have more to do with his political connections than any real experience commending him to the job (Wrigley, I should point out, served as a prosecutor for years before his first appointment).
Democrats now seem intent on hassling Wrigely for no other reason than because Republicans hassled Purdon. I’ve yet to hear any arguments against Wrigley which are based on his ability to do the job, yet Senator Heidi Heitkamp, I’m told, is being urged to cause headaches for Wrigley’s appointment.
That’s too bad.
Democrats should aspire to the level of grace Wrigley showed during Purdon’s appointment process. “Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. Byron Dorgan, Rep. Earl Pomeroy and President Barack Obama have apparently reached agreement, resulting in Tim Purdon being nominated for U.S. attorney in North Dakota,” he wrote in a February 14, 2010, letter to the editor. “I do not know Purdon at all well, but if he is eventually deemed qualified and is confirmed by the Senate, then nobody will be pulling for him more than me.”
“Keep in mind, there will always be another election down the road,” he added. “That election, too, will have its consequences, including the selection of presidential appointees.”