If someone were to make a list of all the things a federal prosecutor could spend his or her time on to distract from fighting the war on terror, organized crime and other top Justice Department priorities, that list would mirror Mary Beth Buchanan's most touted accomplishments during her previous seven years as a US Attorney.
Now the Bush-appointee -- who spent $12 million to put that oh-so-notorious kingpin Tommy Chong behind bars for nine months -- has been struck with another bout of headline-grabbing obstinance. Buchanan says she won't step down once President-elect Obama takes office next month.
"It doesn't serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time," she told a local paper last week, adding, "I am open to considering further service to the United States.
"The defiant posture and break with tradition could complicate Obama's attempt to put his own mark on a Justice Department that has seen its reputation sullied over the last eight years. Some speculate Buchanan is essentially daring the president-elect to fire her.
Buchanan's prosecution of Chong, which was profiled in a 2006 documentary, was by no means her only unorthodox crusade against relatively harmless transgressors. She also pursued the first federal obscenity case in two decades, against a pornography producer, and she's pursued public corruption charges against outspoken Democrats.
After Operation Pipe Dreams -- the sting aimed at Chong and other pot paraphernalia providers -- Buchanan went after the manufacturer of devises like the Whizzinator and other products aimed at helping people beat drug tests. This operation (coincidentally, we're sure) led to federal agents raiding the distributor of documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong and confiscating several thousand DVD copies of the film.
Libertarians and drug war critics note that law enforcement agencies -- whether they be federal, state or local -- can always find a better use of their time and money than cracking down on harmless pot smokers or porn peddlers.