When Patrick L. Meehan was nominated by President George W. Bush to lead the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia, one of the most powerful and influential criminal justice posts in the nation, [the Daily Times of Delaware County] declared him well qualified for the post and called for a swift confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

That was on Monday, Aug. 13, 2001. Less than a month later, the world changed when the Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked and a plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. Meehan was sworn in six days later.

In the last seven years, the Drexel Hill resident showed that his performance as Delaware County's District Attorney during the 1990s was no fluke. He was an aggressive and innovative federal prosecutor, leading high-profile crusades against gun violence, cyber crimes, gang activity and public corruption. Despite the fact that he had no prosecutorial experience before his stint in Media, Meehan was as effective in law enforcement as they come.

Now that he's stepping down from his post ... political wags are speculating about his next step. Many expect he'll announce a bid for the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.

To that, a response is easy: Go for it, Pat.

Meehan would bring a formidable set of qualifications in a race to succeed Ed Rendell, the popular former Philadelphia mayor, in Harrisburg. He's smart, he's judicious, and he has a long political pedigree. From running Ernie Preate's campaign for state Attorney General in the 1980s to helming races for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in 1992 and Rick Santorum's upset Senate win in 1994, Meehan was a well-connected GOP insider before he assumed public office in Delaware County in 1995. There he was so successful local Democrats didn't even bother to field a candidate against him when he ran for re-election.

Most tellingly, Meehan walks away from his current post somehow unblemished from the rot that blossomed in the Bush Justice Department under the reins of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. No bombshells have surfaced tying Meehan to a corrupt culture that rewarded "loyal Bushies" and sent those with suspect loyalties packing, among other improprieties.

Sure, there's a House Judiciary Committee report circulating in Washington titled "Allegations of Selective Prosecution in Our Federal Criminal Justice System" that raises questions about the case Meehan brought against state Sen. Vincent Fumo, the powerful Philadelphia Democrat. But there's no smoking gun there and it may be a "throw anything against the wall and see what sticks" tactic by Fumo's defense to cloud the case. In any event, that should become clearer in the weeks ahead as Fumo finally faces a jury.

At this point, Meehan seems to have what it takes to make an extremely credible bid for Pennsylvania's chief executive: He's ambitious, media-savvy, connected and rich with experience.

Patrick Meehan has served the people of Delaware County and the Eastern District of the state well. The next step is up to him.

-- The Daily Times, Delaware County

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