Part II: Alberto Gonzales, Presidential Enabler

Three episodes in the career of Alberto R. Gonzales before he became Attorney General of the United States tell us what kind of a job he was likely do as the nation's top attorney at the Justice Department. In each instance, history has not been kind either to Gonzales' actual substantive work or to the ethical and moral judgment he exercised on behalf of his clients at the time. In each case, the advice Gonzales offered -- legally dubious to begin with -- created not just political embarrassment and backlash for his bosses, but unfortunate, even catastrophic results.

Not only did the three pre-Justice Department episodes turn out to be remarkable predictors for his troubled and disappointing tenure as Attorney General -- but many predicted two years ago that they might be. For example, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) looked Gonzales in the eye at the latter's Senate confirmation hearing in January 2005 and said: "My concern is that during several high-profile matters in your professional career you've appeared to serve as a facilitator rather than as an independent force in the policy-making process."

Gonzales reassured Sen. Leahy -- and anyone else who cared to lodge the same complaint back then -- that he knew the difference between the role he would have to play as Attorney General and those he had played as White House counsel and as counsel to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

But let us judge him by his deeds and not his words. The Attorney General's record at the Justice Department strongly suggests that he has still acted as a docile and dogged "facilitator" for White House initiatives rather than as a wise, high-minded legal counselor willing and able on occasion to exercise independent judgment and power. The roads to the current scandal over the dismissal of federal prosecutors, to the Justice Department's rabid support for warrantless domestic surveillance, and to department's tepid defense of civil liberties for resident aliens all are paved with stones that Gonzales and Bush laid down before the former took the oath of office in early 2005.

For the first two examples, I lean heavily upon the distinguished work of Alan Berlow, who brilliantly chronicled in the July/August 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly Gonzales' appallingly unprofessional work on death penalty cases when he was counsel for Gov. Bush. According to Berlow, Gonzales "repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence" (emphasis in original) in a series of memoranda Gonzales prepared for the governor's review as part of the state's clemency process. Berlow believes that this was not mere negligence on the part of Gonzales -- that would have been bad enough -- but rather part of a concerted effort by both men to ensure for both political and ideological reasons that there would be no clemency petitions granted. The dice were loaded, you might say, by the man who now is the nation's top lawyer.

In one clemancy case, Berlow accounts, Gonzales failed to include in a memo to Bush the fact that the lawyer for a death row inmate "had literally slept through major portions of the jury selection." In another case, Gonzales failed to include in a memo to Bush the fact that an important prosecution witness had recanted following trial or that an expert witness vital to the prosecution's case had been subsequently expelled from the American Psychiatric Association "because his testimony had repeatedly been found to be unethical." Berlow now tells me that he believes that Gonzales "put the end -- execution -- above the means, some sort of meaningful clemency review." This is precisely what Sen. Leahy was talking about when he spoke of Gonzales as a "facilitator" and precisely the opposite of the role the best attorneys general in our history have played.

When this vital story first emerged, back when the Bush Administration was flying high -- Mission Accomplished! -- and Gonzales was White House counsel, few media heavyweights gave the Texas clemency story much play.

Since then, however, we have seen a not-so-subtle shift in attitudes about death penalty procedures in this country, especially among judges and prosecutors who count. The trend now is toward giving capital defendants more protections, not fewer ones, even in Texas, and I daresay that whatever ambivalence observers may have felt back in 2003 about Gonzales' work on the clemency memos is now gone. It was shoddy business, all around, and the lawyer responsible for it should have been fired, not promoted.

The next charge in our bill of particulars against Gonzales also traces back to his days in the Lone Star State and provides us with a legal link from Texas' death row to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Once again, let's rely upon Berlow. Writing for slate.com in June 2004, he cited two examples wherein Gonzales legal advice to Gov. Bush ran afoul both of constitutional law and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In one case, involving a Mexican national name Irineo Tristan Montoya, Berlow writes that Gonzales told Mexican officials that since Texas had not signed the Vienna Convention the state was not bound to determine whether local police had violated it when they arrested Montoya for murder. Problem is, as Berlow noted, Article 6 of the Constitution states that federal treaties are the "supreme law of the land" and cannot be trumped by state laws or policies. That's first-year law school stuff, by the way.

In another case Berlow chronicled, Gonzales described as a "harmless error" an acknowledged violation of the Vienna Convention in the case of a Canadian national named Joseph Stanley Faulder. Faulder was executed shortly thereafter. And then what happened? In March 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that America had violated on a wide scale the right of 52 Mexicans, including 15 in Texas. Now, we can argue about the scope of international laws and treaties and the effect they ought to have on our domestic legal system. But it is impossible to argue that the legal analysis Gonzales offered his boss in these cases have stood the test of time. And, of course, we see here in the stretching and bending of law and fact from Texas the clear precedent for the "torture" memos that no doubt will come above the fold when Gonzales' obituary, political and otherwise, is written.

Indeed, of Gonzales' "torture" memo of January 25, 2002, the one that helped beget Abu Ghraib and the predictable scorn and recriminations it has caused us abroad, there is not much to add to an already overflowing record that generates a black mark upon all who were involved. As White House counsel, Gonzales was in a position to at least record an objection to our government's change of long-standing policy when it came to the use of torture against enemies captured in the war on terror. It is unlikely that such an objection would have prevailed, given the Machiavellian currents then making their way through the White House and Pentagon, but the President's official lawyer could have been and should have been as brave as some of the lower-level staff attorneys within the Defense Department who rightfully saw how far afield their superiors were going in changing basic fundamental tenets of law and policy.

On Tuesday, I asked Berlow, who does not cover Gonzales on a regular basis, whether he sees any connection between the Gonzales he studied in Texas and the one he sees now as Attorney General. He told me: "His priority has always been to do his boss's bidding." Berlow also told me that Gonzales' pre-Justice record shows a cavalier pattern of carelessly justifying policy decisions. "The administration has an attitude of "anything goes" and "we will find a rationale to justify what it is we want to do--if we are caught," Berlow told me. "What was astonishing in Texas is that they got away with it."

The Texas clemency memos, the Vienna Convention posture, and the infamous torture memo, suggest one of two things about Gonzales' career before he became Attorney General. If you are willing to give Gonzales the benefit of the doubt, and free him from any accusation of willfulness, then he appears to be a incompetent attorney who was not thorough enough to give his clients the best and most complete factual and legal analyses. If that's the case, the President had no business making him the nation's top attorney when there were and are so many other qualified candidates. If that's the case, the dreaded "crony" label fits Gonzales like so many of his red ties. Another "yes" man. Another subservient team player in a position where an independent thinker was needed.

If, on the other hand, you are not so forgiving of Gonzales, and you see in the clemency memos and Vienna Convention stance and torture memo a pattern of purposefully uncritical analysis and judgment, then history's verdict against the Attorney General is even worse. His memos about Texas' death row inmates allowed his boss to do what he wanted to do--ensure the execution of capital defendants -- even though the law required a much more thorough review. His subsequent memo about torture from the White House counsel's office helped allow the military to treat prisoners the way it wanted to -- even though the law fairly said otherwise. It is no wonder that Sen. Leahy was worried back in January 2005 that Gonzales would not have the moxie to say no when he needed to.

"Sycophant" is just one of many uncomplimentary but pointed words used by my sources for this series to describe Gonzales' work and attitude toward his role as counselor. For now, until tomorrow, let's leave it to former White House counsel John Dean, who knows a great deal about the way the Justice Department should be run, or not run, to sum up Gonzales' qualifications before he took over as Attorney General. Dean told me in an email earlier this week: "Frankly, I have a degree of sympathy for Alberto Gonzales, who I suspect is a terrific Texas real estate attorney."

This is the second in a four-part series about Alberto Gonzales and the role of Attorney General of the United States. Part I of the series looked at the history and tradition surrounding the job as the nation's top lawyer. This Part looks at Gonzales' relevant professional career before he became the 80th Attorney General in our nation's history. Part III looks at his record so far in office. And Part IV will look at choices for his successor.

By Andrew Cohen |  March 14, 2007; 10:06 AM ET agag
Previous: Part I: Alberto Gonzales: A Willing Accessory at Justice | Next: Part III: Alberto Gonzales: The "Empty Suit" AG

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Deadly. I had no idea. If Gonzales -- head of the DEPT OF JUSTICE! -- is an example of the kind of incompetent and/or corrupt leadership we have in this administration, we're doomed. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000 (and was shocked when he won in 2004) but I assumed he'd have good enough people working for him that America would be fine despite him. What a joke.

Posted by: ccwinslow | March 14, 2007 10:35 AM

I knew a Texas real estate attorney and Alberto is no terrific Texas real estate attorney.

Posted by: desertwind | March 14, 2007 12:28 PM

Sadly, one of the most famous living alums of my esteemed alma mater.

Posted by: Sad Old Owl | March 14, 2007 01:07 PM

Bush surrounded himself with intellectual and leadership midgets so that no one would eclipse his own deficits in those -- and so many other -- areas. Just the way wall street halliburton saudi arabia and dick head-guy cheney wanted it.

Amerikkan lemmings have been happy to follow them down the rabbit hole because we simply cannot have independent intellectuals and critical thinkers in a has-been former quasi-democracy rapidly descending into a third-world oligarchy where only obscene profits and slimy greed perpetuated by and benefiting the most powerful elite matter.

Posted by: PerversityinAmerica.com | March 14, 2007 01:17 PM

In consideration of anyone too busy / lazy to read the comments from part I of this op-ed piece, I again solicit coherent, meaningful defenses of Mr. Gonzalez to be published in this space. The lack of defenses beyond bringing up the weak "Clinton did it" argument (why not say "Reagan did it" too?) and / or raising the spectre of future terrorist attacks is at best mis-guided and ill-informed and, at worst, far too typical in the current political climate. Why defend your actions and beliefs when you can smear, fear-monger and mis-direct?

As such, the growing realization is that Atty. Gonzalez must go. I look forward to even one counter-argument to this. But I will not hold my breath for fear of passing out waiting for the cows to come home.

Posted by: Will Baroo | March 14, 2007 01:55 PM

Shortly after it was revealed that the government had been engaging in warrantless doemstic wiretapping, Gonzales came to Georgetown Law to offer an argument in support of the program. That turned out to be nothing more than a reiteration of the shakey legal arguments that (i) the president was authorized to do so when Congress gave him authority to engage the war on terrorism, and (ii) the president's Article II constitutional power as commander-in-chief allowed him to do so. Rather than stick around and take questions, Gonzales walked out of the room right after his speech. The simple fact that Gonzales refused to stick around and debate a bunch of law school students about a controversial issue that is undoubtedly a matter of great public concern demonstrates his lack of intellectual capacity or ethical integrity to be the country's top law enforcement official.

Posted by: Nick Boski | March 14, 2007 01:58 PM

What Cohen fails to mention, and what no one has said, is that Gonzalez was able to become State AG in Texas, TX Supreme Court judge (w/ almost no trial or professorial experience, normally a must for any judge), White House Chief Counsel, and now US AG. Why do you think that is? It's because, for the above positions requiring confirmation, the Democrats in TX and in the US Senate did not have the stones to oppose a minority. Bush was going to force them to do so, and correctly called their bluff... What a bunch of PC nonsense. The Dems probably would have confirmed Harriet Miers had Bush's approval rating not been so low.

Posted by: Chris | March 14, 2007 02:27 PM

nobody can defend him. From a republican point of view, this is just another self-inflicted wound in a long series. He should have resigned before all this stuff came out and he certainly should have resigned today.

He really isn't the issue. Its that we now probably have the weakest American President in history serving at the moment. He is intimidated by his own VP. He doesn't have the guts or the sense to throw failures over the side and he seems totally out of touch.

Some conservatives will not like those comments, but those people have to decide if proping up Bush is worth (in addition to already losing both houses of congress) losing the presidency next time, more seats in congress and likely the war. Some of these people are already talking about how its ok because somehow the new Ronald Reagan is going to appear magically four years later and it will be 1980 again. Only problem is there doesn't seem a new Ronald Reagan waiting in the wings.

Gates at Defense is real leader. When the walter reed stuff went down, he started cutting off the heads of those responsible. But get one level up and "the decider" can't seem to ever make a decision. Its like Bush is determined to destroy himself and take the entire republican party with him.

Ignoring the idiots, the senior people in the party need to go tell Bush a couple things:

1) He needs a new chief of staff who will have the authority of chief of staff rather than Dick Cheney acting as if he was.

2) Karl Rove and that whole rotten bunch of Texas idiots around him need to go. Get a professional team in there.

3) Dump Tony Snow. Tony Snow doesn't know to be a press secretary. The role of a press secretary has to be to successfully project information and ideas to moderates, not to make Fox News watchers happy.

Posted by: Bill West | March 14, 2007 02:29 PM

A "political profiling" study (http://www.epluribusmedia.org/columns/2007/20070212_political_profiling.html) appears to show a pattern of deliberate, conveniently timed smearing of Democratic candidates by the DOJ. With the current focus on the fired attorneys, the actions of those who were NOT fired (the logical flip side) is being overlooked. Given the overall influence of these remaining attorneys this could be far from trivial. Was Gonzales blissfully unaware of this as well?

Is this type of discrimination normal for DOJ appointees?

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 14, 2007 04:39 PM

Those who are interested can read the transcript of Gonzales's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A53883-2005Jan6.html

With all due respect to Sen. Leahy's very proper expressions of doubt about Gonzales, it's far to say that questioning by most members of the committee stayed miles away from any effort to get answers from Gonzales about the things Cohen discusses here. Indeed, the transcript gives the sense of a pro forma hearing, to ratify the appointment of someone known to be a close personal friend of the President. There are in particular a number of saccherine references to Gonzales' upbringing and his family, the subtext being the mighty symbolic history being made by the first appointment of an Hispanic American as Attorney General.

Neither Republicans or Democrats on the Judiciary Committee acquitted themselves well that day.

Posted by: Zathras | March 14, 2007 04:39 PM

"What Cohen fails to mention, and what no one has said, is that Gonzalez was able to become State AG in Texas, TX Supreme Court judge (w/ almost no trial or professorial experience, normally a must for any judge), White House Chief Counsel, and now US AG."

He was not AG in Texas... he was chief counsel to then-Gov. Bush -- a position which requires neither advice nor consent from the State Senate.

He was Texas Secretary of State, which does require A&C, but the SOS job down here is really a figurehead position where cronyism is so rampant that not being a crony might be the only thing to disqualify you from the position.

He followed up his stint as SOS to become a Texas Supreme Court appointee, however Sup Ct Justices are elected. Appointments only occur when there is a vacancy and they don't have to be confirmed. They do have to stand for election in the next even-numbered year. He ran unopposed (he might have had a Libertarian opponent) in 2000 and won as part of our all-GOP Sup Ct.

The WHC position does not require confirmation, so there was no confirmation there.

So I'll lay this one squarely at the feet of the US Senate in the confirmation hearings for AG.

(BTW, for both his Tx SOS confirmation hearings and his USAG confirmation hearings, the GOP controlled the respective Senates.)

Posted by: Sad Old Owl | March 14, 2007 04:40 PM

Your best and worst case scenarios in reference to Gonzalez are, sadly, way too similar to so many of the other best and worst case scenarios related to this administration. Best case "they didnt know" or worst case, "they were malicious". Either way, the result is once again failure to lead America on a greater path and instead place us farther down an endless tunnel of political darkness.
Yet somehow, I have hope. Bush aint bigger than America and he cant ruin it on his own.

Posted by: rodin fan | March 14, 2007 04:41 PM

Excellent piece. Well-written and substantively damning for Gonzales. It's just not open to argument. Gonzales should be disbarred.

In Texas, Bush was known as the Texecutioner.

And yet he touts his "pro-life" creds.

Posted by: M.N. | March 14, 2007 04:55 PM

"Bush aint bigger than America and he cant ruin it on his own."

He does seem to have plenty of willing helpers ready to take on the task with him.

Posted by: Sad Old Owl | March 14, 2007 05:06 PM

I am also mortified to report that my alma mater law school, SMU, recently conferred an honorary alumnus award on Mr. Gonzalez. (SMU is also the probable site of the GWB Presidential Library). I considered writing a letter of protest to the law school dean, but put it off, as I didn't want to burn a bridge in case my son decides to apply to the law school some day. It's still a good law school despite this error in judgment (at least it can't be blamed for Gonzalez' law school training).

The other curious thing is that when Gonzalez was testifying before Congress last year (Republicans still in charge), they postured really strongly "out of courtesy" not to require him to be sworn in. I think the hearing was about the NSA surveillance. But I guess Gonzalez was prescient enough not to want to be charged later with lying under oath. It might be interesting to go back and look at that testimony.

Posted by: ljtx | March 14, 2007 05:08 PM

Obviously Mr Gonzales has never been the US AG. He was and still is Mr Bush's attorney. He never grew above being the boy soldier obedient servant and never will. He is a disgrace to his country, his community and his family and should resign immediatly to preserve what ever dignity he still has. And resign he will as did Ms Meyer after Bush said then that she had his full confidence.

Posted by: salim akrabawi | March 14, 2007 05:09 PM

Makes me kind of miss John Ashcroft

Posted by: John D in Houston | March 14, 2007 05:19 PM

Will Baroo wrote: I again solicit coherent, meaningful defenses of Mr. Gonzalez to be published in this space. The lack of defenses beyond bringing up the weak "Clinton did it" argument (why not say "Reagan did it" too?) and / or raising the spectre of future Pet Goat attacks is at best misguided and ill-informed and, at worst, far too typical in the current political climate. Why defend your actions and beliefs when you can smear, fear-monger and mis-direct?

As such, the growing realization is that Atty. Gonzalez must go. Duh. I look forward to even one counter-argument to this. But I will not hold my breath for fear of passing out waiting for the cows to come home.

Here is the single greatest phrase which could be uttered in support for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: Attorney General John Ashcroft

Posted by: Jeb's Boehner | March 14, 2007 05:19 PM

Obvious candidate for a Presidential Medal of Freedom

Posted by: | March 14, 2007 05:21 PM

Gonzales is doing a heckuva job.

Posted by: truth | March 14, 2007 05:30 PM

To call Gonzales a "sycophant" is being kind. More accurately, he is complicit to the possible wrongful execution of persons who might have been wrongfully denied a deserved justice. We already know Gonzales is a liar; it appears he also is a criminal. He dishonors the office he holds and in that respect he goosesteps in unison with the other incompetent morons so popular with this Republican administration.

Posted by: mikeasr | March 14, 2007 06:16 PM

Say good-by to Gonzales. I think he wants to ^spend more time with his family.^

Posted by: | March 14, 2007 06:19 PM

Appointed by a Republican, confirmed by a Republican controlled Senate. And yet Republicans can do nothing but point fingers, again. It's the Dem's fault!!! Please. I can't wait for someone to say it's Clinton's fault. I fail to see the logic in shifting the blame from the person who did things that were wrong to the people who are opposing him.

Posted by: antic | March 14, 2007 06:19 PM

The degree to which we are an ethical democracy will be inversely related to the amount of time Gonzales stays in office. If a true democracy is only one where the majority rule (regardless of whether the majority has an ounce of ethics) then what's so keen about being a democracy?

Posted by: Steve Baran | March 14, 2007 06:45 PM

I'm sick, so sick of this Administration. What amazed me in 2000 and, more so, in 2004 is that thoughtful, professional, educated friends voted for this. There may be little we can do except hope that the next 2 years (and counting) goes fast.

We can, however, think very, very hard about who we elect next time. Do some reading, do some digging, let go of the party loyalty a little. Work hard at seriously looking at the candidates - beyond the campaign promotions. If you want to keep this country together you've got to get serious about WHO we select as our leader.

Posted by: larryjintexas | March 14, 2007 06:47 PM

Gonzales has undermined the integrity of the entire federal criminal justice system by any number of his actions and omissions. Nothing the Justice Department does can go without being examined to see if the action is motivated by political considerations. It will take a long time to overcome what has been done to Justice by this administration.

Posted by: j harris | March 14, 2007 07:48 PM

The national media is failing to tell the component of this story that touches on race and the Republican Party. Let's face it. Gonzales is incompetent. He is being used by the Bush people (as Governor and in White House) to falsely demonstrate that their party has a big tent. Al Gonzales is a Rovian pawn to win support among Hispanics. (Much in the same way the Bush people co-opted Colin Powell and Condi). He is Bush II's Clarence Thomas. I suspect they thought the Hispanic Republican US Attorney in New Mexico would play a similarly pliant and compliant role and know his place.... It is certainly fine to focus on the substance of Gonzales/Rove/Miers handling of this matter, but let's not forget the reasons someone as underqualified as Gonzales was elevated to great heights in the first place.

Posted by: CBeck | March 14, 2007 07:51 PM

would someone please enlighten me about an issue: when African-Americans run afoul of the law, rules, etc...black organizations make an 'appearance' of timid support; gays often times make their support known as well; similarly republicans do too. Where are the voices of the Hispanic oranizations / caucus in defense of AG Gonzales? Is he not Hispanic enough?

Posted by: yellowdogtexasn | March 14, 2007 09:29 PM

Is it my imagination, or is there now no one who admits to having elected this president? Ignoring, for the moment, the travesty in 2000, Bush was somehow RE-elected in 2004. How did this happen? Was he a model president until after his 2005 inauguration, and then suddenly changed? Was his appointment of Gonzales -- now seen to be an attorney general who is, at best partial and partisan, and at worst criminally incompetent -- at all out of character?

So I say to the people who voted for Bush 2004: You got what you deserve. Surely you can't claim to have been surprised. The rest of us weren't and still aren't, and it's a shame for the whole country that we ALL got what you deserved.

[To Will Baroo: Since the subtitle of this series is "The Case Against Alberto Gonzales," why are you looking for arguments in his defense? Mr. Cohen is making a case AGAINST, as the title says. And since this is an article in the Opinion section of the paper, he need not address the opposite viewpoint, as he would if he meant it to be objective reportage.]

Posted by: Neccoboy | March 14, 2007 10:38 PM

Re: comments by John D in Houston and Jeb's Boehner. Attorney General John Ashcroft's political stance might be too religiously conservative. I don't approve his political view, but I firmly admire his stance. To me, it's an insult to Ashcroft to compare him with someone without any conviction at all.

Posted by: IMSOTI | March 14, 2007 11:05 PM

When will this country take backs its civil rights?

Posted by: Ed | March 14, 2007 11:41 PM

Arrogance. That has been the hallmark of the Bush administration, which of course accounts for the elevation of an unqualified toady to the chief legal officer in the land. But this shouldn't be a partisan bbq; can't right-minded people of all parties see the cost to our country at the hand of these incompetent (or venal) folks? And, even reluctantly, appreciate the strength of Cohen's case?

I greatly appreciated Bill West's posting; it takes alot these days for someone to criticize their own party, and West's suggestions for change are level headed. I don't agree with everything he said, but I feel at least as if we could sit in a room and debate in a fair minded and productive way, a rare quality these days. We have 2 more years; our country has suffered so much in its loss of world standing, safety and security during the past 6 years. We must stop reflexively defending the indefensible and try to work together to map out some way of restoring America's standing at home and abroad.

Resign Mr. Gonzalez; you were way over your head to begin with. This would be the greatest service you could provide to your President, and country, now. Then let's really get down to the business of where the buck really should stop.

Posted by: EJH | March 15, 2007 12:06 AM

John Dean's comment about his being a good Texas real estate lawyer is an insult to real estate lawyers everywhere.

Posted by: Mudville | March 15, 2007 12:52 AM

In looking back at this whole sordid administration, I find no surprises, although I must admit to the unmitagated audacity of determined efforts to push through a corrupt agenda. In not having any prior knowledge of Bush before his 2000 run all I could conclude from my instincts were he was not presidential material. He has, shall I say completely validated my judgment on that point. He placed an exclamation point on my point during the 2004 election run. There is something fundamentally wrong with our elected Senators and Congressmen when support is offered blindly with seemingly no consideration to the implications of what the ramifications will be to example one: Our Constitution...Yes we needed to consider our homeland after 911, however legislation which provided the Patriot Act unprecedented tools to fight terrorism,ironially set in motion tools to begin a drop by drop erosion of Constitutional liberties so valued by all americans. It was as if this president would not be denied.
Although it was obvious that challenges to his legal positions were no deterrant but considered more annoying to a president that was use to having his way was almost as if a child has been spoiled beyond anyones ability to alter the behavior. He doggedly wanted to demonstrate his omnipotence by overcoming the courts, or any impediment that dared stand in the way of his alarming consolidation of central power. It appeared that when the courts left the door open to leaving the question of constitutional liberties and enemy combatants to the Congress for final disposition even though the court had ruled against Bush in that extension Bush found a way to circumvent what was clear I believe to most fair or impartial observers. That was to hold these individuals without charges for indefinite periods of time without visitors and subject to the harshest treatment bordering on torture was morally wrong and un-american. Another visable component of this type of Bush/Cheney justice was while country after country, friend or foe has comdemned these tactics no amount of condemnation will alter this embarassment to the people and nation. We have to remain americans long after this renegade gang is gone. The damage this administration has perpretated on a proud nation will necessitate a new administration with the highest level of integrity, character, and knowledge in chartering through rough waters. The Amrican electorate can not fall prey again to the neo-conservative reactionary mob who has been responsible for the "might makes right," philosophy which has led this nation into despair internationally. With all but America's leadership qualities all but evaporated we can not afford to blunder at the polls again. We can ill afford to make the same mistake twice even though we are quite capable of throwing caution to the wind. What did we learn from Vietnam? It must be made redundant that no nation even with the best of intentions has the right to force-feed democracy on any sovereign nation. I believe we will survive this test of american resolve to rebuild American's place in a global community. To elevate concerns in describing a nations motives for whatever it is that is of concern requires close and personal diplomacy not bellicose rantings warning us of the "Axis of Evil." We can not elect men to power and expect nations of the world to respect us or look to us for leadership when the Vice President of the United States goes on the record in favor of torture. I can only state my personal beliefs and I do hold this administration accountable for allowing the unfortunate debasement of the american people by electing this president to a second term. The jury was out until Bush was re-elected. It was guilt by association, that since the american people voted to retain this man's services for another four years then they must be part of the conspiracy to dominate the world and thus will be included in the wrath of the world. It has been my concern that this president would attempt to amend the constitution so as legally be a candidate for another term as if he has not done enough damage up to this point. The only saving grace is that we can look forward to an America where americans can be proud to be americans again. Where we are the nation that can lead by example. Where the word "rendition, " will fade from the collective consciousness of this land and Guantanamo can disappear with the memories of a dark and dismal period of American history that has been termed a political anomaly.Where we as americans can again be secure in our valued democratic freedoms. It has been long a curious juxtaposition of exporting democracy while restraining even circumventing the freedoms here at home.
To believe and feel and know that what the president is saying is the truth since there is no reason to believe otherwise would be an honorable goal for the next president. That American foreign policy is equitable in brokering peace by a neutrality that is based on objectivity not favoring any nation even Israel. That we speak to the nations of the world with regard for their integrity, their history, and their concerns which must be a product of developing a long standing trust with the eventual outcome being a mutual respect. That our nation does not engage in intimidation through a worn out polarizing mindset of punishing nations through american led sanctions or related behavior.
There is no question as americans we will have our work cut out for us but in the spirit of a renewed american enlighenment we will be able to regain a most respected position that will be the product of a willingness to admit the wrongs and be aware of those who wrap themselves in the righteousness of the cloth. Americans must be smarter in order to have a leader that reflects what we believe of ourselves. If we believe we are inherently good, compassionate, and well aware of the values which we believe are qualities we would like to see in our children then we will be restored, and even reborn, but first we must be rehabilitated. Collectivly we must bare the responsibilty for a grievous error that must never never repeated again.

Posted by: Robert Machado | March 15, 2007 01:47 AM

Definitely, Mr Gonzalez
is an ideal candidate for a Presidential Medal of Freedom
because he is doing such a heckuva job screwing the
USA and its citizens civil rights for the Bushies.

Posted by: darker | March 15, 2007 02:04 AM

Renewed englightenment. How noble. Maybe we could give Iran some plutonium to feel better about ourselves. Do you not capitalize America because you are so ashamed? Maybe you should spell it Amerika.

Bush won, and the other guy lost. You can bring back the Sandy Bergers in two years. But you are stuck. Gonzales isn't leaving, and hopefullysome more Washington Post and New York Times sources of information are about to go to jail for leaking classified information...

Posted by: Tom King | March 15, 2007 02:43 AM

There is a third way one might construe the behavior of Gonzales and his boss Bush: they are sadists, who don't want to get their own hands dirty but get a great deal of pleasure out of using their power to torture, abuse and kill the powerless.

Posted by: Jeannie | March 15, 2007 05:21 AM

Gonzales is gonzo. It-s only a matter of time. He just didn-t understand that -taking responsibility- under a Democratic congress now means resignation.

Posted by: cpwash | March 15, 2007 05:43 AM

I pray when our next Pres, a Democrat, appoints a new A.G., they will make it a priority to bring Gonzales to trial for the violation of the Civil Rights of every American. The counts will add up quickly with the secret spying on Americans, Torture of Americans, the Deaths of Americans, etc., etc. He can join his brothers Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, and hopefully GW Bush and Dick Cheney.

Posted by: Cranky | March 15, 2007 06:56 AM

I knew Gonzales was trouble back when the issue of authorizing torture was floating around. He was up to his eyeballs in finding legalistic rationales for torturing people. He's a gangster's lawyer for a thugocracy.

Posted by: John | March 15, 2007 07:08 AM

Gonzales is an empty suit. He is a straw man that is given the official position while not really having any power or authority at all. Everyone should count the country very fortunate that the country didn't end up with Justices Harriet Myres and Alberto Gonzales of the supreme court.

Posted by: Jack | March 15, 2007 07:14 AM

If Gonzales, in Texas, failed to take into account evidence in death penalty cases that indicated actual innocence, it means, in effect, that he committed murder for political reasons. Which is reason enough not just to impeach, but to disbar, try and hopefully convict him.

I wonder if it could be a capital case?

Posted by: Jack | March 15, 2007 07:34 AM

Look at it as another attempt by god to protect the world from Bush becoming a success.

Posted by: noname | March 15, 2007 07:44 AM

If anyone ever read Molly Ivans, you would know that we were in for carnival ride with Gonzales. She knew the guy was trouble and that there were rumblings to rid "liberal" judges - Gonzales was an answer for Bush to do it. I think her book Bushwacked talks about some of this - prescient.

The only thing that Gonzales is supposedly taking the blame for is not being more careful to conceal this whole operation. The "mistakes" are that anyone ever found out.

Posted by: hatom | March 15, 2007 07:47 AM

Does all this mean that Torture Toady will finally be forced out of the office he has so disgraced? Bush deflected criticism of his own incompetence by dumping Rumsfield a week after he said he wouldn't. Much the same has happened in the belated firings over the incompetence and neglect associated with Walter Reed and the medical branch of the Pentagon. It's
not the case, though, of rats fleeing a sinking ship--it's more like the rat captain desperately throwing them overboard to save himself.

Posted by: O. R. Raymond | March 15, 2007 08:04 AM

Sycophant isn't the worst epithet I can think of for an AG. Bad lawyer is worse. How did this guy pass the bar?

Posted by: adam | March 15, 2007 08:34 AM

Anticipate a brown nose defense. I am Hispanic. I had to overcome adversity. I am proud to be the first Latino in this high office. If you fire me, it shows you hate Latinos.

What Al fails to understand and/or acknowledge is that he should be fired beacuse of the other brown nose, the one that got him where he is today.

Posted by: twstroud | March 15, 2007 08:41 AM

"Sycophant" sums up perfectly Mr. Gonzales's record as a Bush acolyte - another apt word of older vintage that comes to mind is "lickspittle."

Fortunately for America, Bush has a good track record on loyal subjects who become political liabilities: he axes them (we all remember Michael "heck of a job" Brown[ie]). Mr. Gonzales will regretfully tender his resignation before the month of March is out, and the wingnuts of the right will blame people like Andrew Cohen in the Liberal Media for forcing a good man (or at least a good Texas real estate lawyer) out of his job.

Posted by: Dave Becker | March 15, 2007 09:36 AM

The statement from him that truly made my jaw drop was when he said something to the effect that, Yes the constitution guarantees habeus corpus but it doesn't say that everybody actually gets habeus corpus. Which made me think, one, what an idiot and two, what a sophomoric smart ass. Sounds like something a C student in college would come up with and get smacked down or flunked by their prof. I mean I was scared and angry about all the other issues but this one just made me think we have a true incompetent (and/or, someone who thinks it is unimportant to do a good job) as AG. Which is true of so much of this administration. What a travesty.

Posted by: Catherine | March 15, 2007 10:06 AM

To follow up on Sad Old Owl at 3/14 4:40 PM, Governor Bush appointed Gonzales to the Texas Supreme Court in 1999 to fill the place of retiring justice Raul Gonzalez.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair | March 15, 2007 10:13 AM

I can't disagree with the arguments I have read condemning Alberto Gonzalez but I have to wonder why I never see any criticism of the greatest enablers of all: the American voter. Anyone who really studied the issues and the man before voting to put Bush in office could have seen what he was and what would happen. In March 2002 it was obvious to me and my husband what Bush was planning to do and how it would end. Why should anyone be surprised? Bush and his cronies have been a catastrophe for us but the American voter let it happen. As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us."

Posted by: Shirley Voyer | March 15, 2007 10:22 AM

Quite frankly I've found this Dept. of Justice firings business very complicated, and a bit boring. Thankfully, Jon Stewart explains it to me in this video:
http://minor-ripper.blogspot.com/2007/03/jon-stewart-explains-department-of.html

Posted by: Minor Ripper | March 15, 2007 11:49 AM

Dear progressive intellectuals,

I know you really cannot fathom why the American public did not buy a "war hero" like John Kerry. How could they fall for GWB?

How could they fall for a guy who really did appoint the first two African Americans to the position of Secretary of State? By the way, I challenge you to find many to surpass their intellectual ability. It must be killing you.

How could they vote for a guy who made the first Hispanic Attorney General?

How could they vote for a guy from Texas who lives in a small energy efficient home instead of a palace that uses ten times the energy of a typical American home? An inconvenient truth?

It is really very simple. Americans no longer believe in politics by personal attack.

The tripe in Cohen's comentary smells like weak old fish marketed by moveon.org.

When Democrats return to centrist philosophies, which 80 percent of Americans hold, they will increase their margin of control. See sawing between extremist views will simply divide this country.

Disagree, call for investigation impeachment, resignation, promote consipracy theories and you will fail.

Where are the non political quantitative charges? You are demanding a defense? What are the real charges?

You are really fun to toy with because you cannot resist personal attack on anyone who disagrees with you.

You live in the greatest country in the nation and it is brought to you by my fellow veterans and good willed politicians from both parties.

Go have a drink in one of your fancy Georgetown bars and enjoy this country.

Posted by: Tom King | March 15, 2007 11:58 AM

Bush/Rove only have a limited number of tactics and zero strategies. Here they are: 1. The straw man argument. e.g. Some would say we should not support the troops. 2. Force the other guy to prove the negative. e.g. "We have to invade Iraq to prove that they do NOT have nukes". 3. Put minorities or women in key positions to deflect criticism of your policies. Nobody can criticize them, even with airtight evidence without being called a racist. Playing the race card -face up- e.g. Powell, Rice, Gonzo, Miers, claude Allen, etc. 4. Control the media cycle. e.g. Lose an election, fire Rumsfeld, Walter Reed/Libby/Gonzo - announce sheik mohammeds confession etc.

Posted by: WA | March 15, 2007 12:00 PM

I just love the bumper sticker

"Some village in Texas has lost it's idiot"

Posted by: chuckie | March 15, 2007 12:52 PM

When "perceived" individual team loyalty is valued over competence and professional integrity, it is no wonder the administration has ended up where it has.

I have heard it said politics is a blood sport in Texas. Perhaps a tight bunch of willfully blind rugby players who will do anything to score is necessary in that environment, but as a nation we have been ill served. Our enemies are renewed, and our friends only help us by holding their noses. The very values the administration claims to be fighting for have been discredited.

AG Gonzales is clearly incapable of reading a rule book without shredding it in the process.

Posted by: Rob Herring | March 15, 2007 12:59 PM

Just one more example of the qualified, competent,and experienced professionals being ignored or pushed out and replaced by political hacks, industry lobbyists, GOP party cronies and Dubya's old drinking buddies.

Posted by: | March 15, 2007 01:10 PM

This man should be in prison

Posted by: Marilyn Ladig | March 15, 2007 02:06 PM

"Where are the voices of the Hispanic oranizations / caucus in defense of AG Gonzales? Is he not Hispanic enough?"
Support comes from respect and I can only think of Gonzales a tio taco (thats just a Hispanic uncle Tom)

Posted by: Armando Garcia | March 15, 2007 02:08 PM

Chris' post yesterday derides Dems for lacking the "stones" to challenge Harriet Miers -- forgetting she was actually brought down by an attack from the right, for not being conservative enough. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative and has proven to be neither. The only thing surprising to me is that people continue to be surprised by revelations of dishonesty and incompetence on the part of this administration.

Posted by: Audentes | March 15, 2007 02:16 PM

Excellent obituary. Gonzales stands revealed as an empty suit, walking.

Posted by: H5N1 | March 15, 2007 02:16 PM

Dear Tom King:

You are apparently not a progressive intellectual according to your salutation. I am. I will not attempt to assume your political leanings. I can only ascertain that you appear to be a supporter of GWB.

I grant you that John Kerry was not the greatest candidate and did not run a good campaign. However you compare a person that did go to Vietnam and was wounded more than once with a guy that flew jets over the Gulf of Mexico in the Champagne Unit of the Air National Guard. Home of the privileged children of the rich and powerful. I would say "war hero" in comparison to our president is accurate.

I am African-American and I do acknowledge that GWB did hire the first two blacks to the position of Secretary of State. Unfortunately Colin Powell compromised most of his integrity by going along with this administration. Currently he is disputing much of what he and this administration said in front of the U.N. before the war resolution. Condi Rice is intellectually brilliant but has performed subpar as National Security Advisor and has only recently showed any independent action as Secretary of State.

You do get credit for hiring a minority but said credit is taken away if you hire cronies, lightweights or "yes" men or women no matter how intellectually brilliant they may or may not be. Like his dad replacing the famed Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas. What a cynical move! How could anyone complain? They are both black! Diamonds and Cubic Zirconia; they both sparkle in the sunlight. Are they not the same?

And your statement: "It is really very simple. Americans no longer believe in politics by personal attack." That is so laughable to hear you say that. I agree wholeheartedly but unfortunately it has been George Bush and cronies that have elevated personal attack to new heights. Remember that any dissent with their poliices and you will be labeled as supporting the terrorists, a "cut and runner" or some other pitiful epithet.

The American people have tired of the "politics of personal attack" and the "politics of blatant partisanship" and the "politics of rank incompetence". To just mention a few of the things we are tired of. Check the current polls and you will see that supporters of George Bush are becoming fewer by the day. So I guess you could say that the centrist philosophies that 80 percent of the country holds are much closer to the same philosophies that the majority of Democrats hold. Sure there are radicals in both parties. It just happens to be that the radicals in the Republican party have been in charge for six years.

I do agree that we live in the greatest country (in the nation? WTF?)and it has been bought with the blood, sweat and tears of my fellow veterans and good willed politicians from both parties as well as all the American people. But it is trying to be destroyed by people who only want partisan "yes" men or cronies to control all the meaningful levers of government. How can that be good for our country in the future?

See no personal attacks, just my observations.

Posted by: Ron Tee | March 15, 2007 07:25 PM

Now that the sins of Alberto have been uncovered it is time for him to go possibly to join the former U.S. Attorneys who are unnecessarily out looking for work.
There should be a little poetic justice somewhere don't you think?

Posted by: Robert Machado | March 15, 2007 08:24 PM

Thank you Mr. Gonza for secrwing up our judicial system.

Posted by: Kevin in Los Angeles | March 15, 2007 09:07 PM

Yikes! I knew America was imploding. But I had no idea it was this far gone.

Posted by: Sarbo Sen, Calcutta, India | March 15, 2007 09:28 PM

No sir.

Though we are drifting off subject:

I am not a liberal intellectual. I am not a right wing nut either. As a veteran, I don't deny Bush had it made in the National Guard, but most veterans I know supported the view of the Swift Boat Veterans about Kerry.

I disagree with you about Powell. He is a good soldier and did his job as a loyal soldier. He was lied to, just like Hilary was lied to; as Bush was lied to, and they all bought it.

Since he is no longer part of the Administration he has the integrity to question it's direction, and the moral conviction to disagree with policy. He is a consumate gentleman.

The problem I have is the Hillary's et al (except Obama) is that they do not have the moral compass to admit they were ALL lied to. They bought the WMD and they clamored for action.

Instead they re-define history and who lied to them to support their political ends. All with harm to our troops and our wounded nation.

If my history is correct, GWB did not appoint Clarence Thomas, or Thurgood Marshall. I missed your point. I have met neither. I read about Marshall, but I have only heard vicious attacks from left on Thomas. I really doubt that any of the Supreme Court justices, both progressive and conservatives are intellectually deprived.

A lot of us in the center are extremely sick of the left wing rhetoric. And it comes mostly from the left.

They sound crazier than Falwell.

We are sick of the exageration of the potentially serious impacts of global warming by folks like Al Gore when it is revealed they are energy hogs themselves. (Do as I say,not what I do.)

I used some creative language to incite these folks on this Blog. It was kind of euphoric. It was like feeding june bugs to a chicken.

But my good neighbors, who are Democrats and Republicans are SICK AND TIRED of hearing conspiracy, perceived threats, congressional hearings etc because of some sudden new discovery that the Attorney General position has been politicised. It has been politicised as long as I can remember.

For a former AUSA or DOJ employee to say that this is something new as the legal profession say is "a deliberate and reckless misrepresentation of the truth."
It is downright deceitful.

An AG is the top law enforcement person in the nation. AG's are political appointees selected by the party's elected president in power.

To say that it is now "political" is hardly a new theory.

Yep, I like GWB, with his faults. And most of the guys and gals I knew at DOJ liked Ashcroft and Gonzales AND Bush. They felt stifled under some of their predecessors, some of which were outright flakey.

Most of them are not right wing nuts or left wing fanatics and don't appreciate being called assasssins and violators of peoples rights. They are trying to keep people from killing you who will never like you.

We would appreciate it if the Democrats would get off their asses and show leadership instead of holding senseless hearings about Gonzales. To borrow a phrase, "its the economy" and its been pretty good for four years. Don't screw things up.

In the mean time, real issues get pushed under the rug.

Posted by: Tom King | March 15, 2007 10:06 PM

Why was this not reported before Gonzo was confirmed? Oh, thats right, WaPoo is irrelevant. They have no real reporters anymore, only White House lapdog stenographers. Here is my favorite line from this three part series about nothing, *An AG is the top law enforcement person in the nation.* P-U itzer prize alert!

Posted by: KEVIN SCHMIDT, STERLING VA | March 16, 2007 01:15 AM

Maybe, the problem is not only Gonzales, or Bush, or Cheney, or the whole pack of them.
Maybe the real problem is -- purely and simply -- the lack of democratic mind in american society.

Posted by: observer from europe | March 16, 2007 11:58 AM

Well Tom King, first of all I do not recall referring to any of the people or issues you related to so either you are not concentating on what it is your reading Tom, or you just wanted to vent. Whatever the case your response is an non-sequiter. Look it Tom and concentrate.

Posted by: Robert Machado | March 19, 2007 12:49 AM

You cant fight Republicans with facts.
If you lie to them they will believe it.

You have to use reverse psycology on the wing nuts.

The truth is to real.

See Faux News

Posted by: Langx | March 19, 2007 01:22 AM

Tom King cut and ran from the discussion in Part I of this series when he was proved wrong. Here's only PART of what he's FAILED to answer:

Tom King: "Why do liberals always say this country is in the crapper?"

1) Tom King, are you unaware that conservatives also complain about the direction of the country? (Consider the endless far-right complaints about so-called culture wars, gays having actual rights, women having actual reproductive freedom, etc.)

2) Are you aware that your entire post does nothing to defend your errors here, like the way you think that Opinion columns are supposed to be objective?

Tom King: "Why do they always call anyone who does not support their philosophy, ignorant."

3) Karen accused Andrew Cohen of not being "objective" in writing this article, and you accused Andrew Cohen of "bias." A mere glance at the page header shows that it is "Opinions > Columns & Blogs." How else do you explain your error other than the fact that you were ignorant of the fact that this column is an opinion, and is SUPPOSED TO BE an opinion?

Tom King: "Liberals always seem to say those who disagree with their pessimistic outlook are wrapping themselves in the flag."

4) Who here has said anything like that?

5) Do you realize that you are again FAILING to actually address the real comments of your opponents?

6) Do you realize that you are again attempting to put words in the mouths of your opponents? (This is known as making a straw man argument.)

7) Do you realize that resorting to straw man arguments and failing to address your errors after getting caught means you lose the debate?

8) Do you realize that you have still offered no defense for Gonzales making a mockery of justice?

9) There is ample evidence that Gonzalez has been using firings to force US attorneys to prosecute Democrats and to force them to stop prosecuting Republicans. If this turns out to be true, do you condemn it?

10) If Bush and Cheney were involved, do you condemn them?

11) What punishment would fit such a crime?

12) Are you too afraid to answer?

=crickets=

Tom King again pulls back the curtain and reveals how much Fox News has damaged the thinking of 30% of the nation by decimating their ability to think and analyze. Tom King, if you think I am wrong, you can answer. If you are afraid I am right, by all means continue to cut-and-run away from answering.

Posted by: | March 19, 2007 10:23 AM

Thansk for bringing up the Berman article from Atlantic. Anyone who read it knew that the Mr. Gonzales would not be an independent voice, but merely a reflection of his bosses beliefs. Back in 2000 Gov. Bush would brag that Texas death row inmates had "full access to the courts."
Mr. Gonzales helped foster that myopic view by avoiding the unsavory realities of Texas capital cases and the quality of justice. The information in that article alone should have disqualified him for the posisiton of AG.

Posted by: Ed Bergh | April 4, 2007 10:50 AM

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