We were highly critical of former U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic’s handling of the case of Georgia Thompson, the state Department of Administration employee who was charged with rigging state contracts at the behest of Gov. Jim Doyle.

Biskupic made a federal case of it, charging Thompson at a time that seemed more politically convenient than legally sound. It seemed to us that Biskupic, a Republican appointee, was trying to embarrass Jim Doyle, a Democratic governor facing re-election.

A federal appeals court confirmed our sense that Biskupic’s case was unsound. The judge overturned Thompson’s conviction for lack of evidence -- acting swiftly and sending a clear signal that Biskupic had blown it.

The question that remained was whether Biskupic was corrupt or inept.

Now that the U.S. Justice Department has cleared Biskupic of ethical wrongdoing after a two-year investigation of his machinations regarding Thompson, the issue seems to be settled.

Despite the fact that it appeared he was acting on pressure from former White House political czar Karl Rove, the Justice Department inquiry determined that the U.S. attorney kept politics out of the case.

Fair enough.

Then we are left with the fact that Biskupic poured his energies into building a case against an innocent woman -- a case that was so unsound that a federal appeals court ordered Thompson’s rapid release and went out of its way to note that the U.S. attorney had failed to gather sufficient evidence or develop sufficient arguments to justify his initiative.

In other words: Biskupic was inept.

This is a sad ending to the story of Biskupic’s tortured tenure. But, oddly, it is more honorable than it could have been. He was not the political hack that many thought; he just didn’t have what it took to do the job.

Ultimately, Biskupic is not responsible for that. The people that put him in the U.S. attorney’s position -- the Bush White House and its Justice Department -- are to blame.

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