Going, going, Gonzales

In the wake of Attorney General Gonzales’s resignation, both Gonzales and President Bush issued deplorable statements.

Gonzales said:

I often remind our fellow citizens that we live in the greatest country in the world and that I have lived the American dream. Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father’s best days [in Mexico].

The irony is, Gonzales’s conduct was unamerican. He did more than any U.S. Attorney General in history to undermine the core principles of American democracy. And in his parting words, he expresses his gratitude at having lived the American dream?

Bush’s statement:

It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honourable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.

The irony is, Gonzales’s resignation is a consequence of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys:  not because they weren’t doing important work, but for political reasons. Gonzales politicized the office of the Attorney General and made it just another arm of the White House. How rich, then, to allege that Democrats forced Gonzales out of office for political reasons!

I understand that truth is the first casualty of politics. Nonetheless, I continue to be shocked by the public remarks of President Bush and prominent figures within his Administration.

Political “spin” used to consist of putting the best face on an embarrassing set of facts. Now it consists of saying the mirror image of the truth with a straight face while cloaking yourself in the authority of your office.

the mess Gonzales leaves behind

Gonzales’s shameful legacy:
In brief, Attorney General Gonzales is associated with two of the worst characteristics of the Bush Administration:  (1) an expansion of executive power coupled with (2) a contraction of civil liberties.

Note, “expansion of executive power” is a nice way of saying that Gonzales championed the Bush Administration’s efforts to evade the constraints of the U.S. Constitution and core international conventions. It’s a bizarre way to carry out the office of U.S. Attorney General.

  1. Torture:
    “As White House counsel, Gonzales requested a controversial August 2002 memo that drastically narrowed the definition of torture. It stated that to be considered torture, the pain inflicted must be as severe as that accompanied by death or organ failure. The memo also outlined sweeping presidential powers to authorize torture in the name of national security.”

  2. Habaeus corpus:
    “Gonzales developed the policy allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens deemed to be enemy combatants, without charge or access to counsel or the court system.” At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2007, Gonzales said, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States, or every citizen, is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” (NPR)

  3. Geneva Conventions:
    Gonzales authored a February 2002 memo in which he dismissed the Geneva Conventions as “obsolete.”

  4. Domestic Surveillance:
    As White House counsel, Gonzales helped construct the legal arguments for the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program.

  5. U.S. Attorney firings:
    In 2006, eight prosecutors were fired. Why? — were they incompetent?

    Evidently that wasn’t the reason. Andrew Sullivan quotes the Chicago Tribune:  “New Mexico’s David Iglesias got the boot after Republican lawmakers made it plain they were unhappy about his failure to seek indictments in an investigation of alleged Democratic corruption. John McKay of Washington state, who was also fired, had been chided by White House counsel Harriet Miers for not bringing charges of voter fraud in the aftermath of a governor’s race narrowly won by a Democrat.”

    In other words, prosecutors were expected to target Democrats, evidently to stack the deck in favor of the GOP for the 2008 elections.

  6. Failure to tell Congress the truth, the whole, truth, and nothing but the truth:
    This past spring, Congress inquired into the attorney firings. “Gonzales answered ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I can’t recall’ scores of times while questioned by Congress about the firings. Even some Republicans said his testimony was evasive.” (MPR)

    The little Gonzales did say was promptly contradicted by at least two other witnesses. Gonzales conceded only that his testimony had been “unclear”.

Honestly, I don’t think there has ever been a more shameless government, in the history of modern, Western democracy.

“The president, in a brief statement … thanked Gonzales for his service, crediting him with helping shape the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act — some of the very things that so infuriated his detractors.” (NPR)

Earlier this month at a news conference, the president grew irritated when asked about accountability in his administration ….

“Implicit in your questions is that Al Gonzales did something wrong. I haven’t seen Congress say he’s done anything wrong,” Bush said testily at the time.

Actually, many in Congress had accused Gonzales of wrongdoing.



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