Part III: Alberto Gonzales: The "Empty Suit" AG

Brought into the President's cabinet amid oft-stated concerns that he was a mere crony and "facilitator" for the President, and with a controversial record as White House counsel and counsel to then-Texas Governor Bush, Alberto R. Gonzales' record since he took office as Attorney General is a dismal one. In fact, whether it is the legal war on terrorism or garden-variety issues of crime and punishment, it is hard to identify a single area of unchallenged success. And even where the current team at the Justice Department has enjoyed good news-- say, for example, in the area of increased sexual assault prosecutions or solid white-collar convictions-- the wheels for such victories already were in motion before Gonzales took on the job.

As I focused upon yesterday in Part II of this series, Gonzales' failures aren't just on substantive matters. He has continued to fail, some legal scholars say, to break free from the widespread and long-held perception that he is so beholden to the President, on both a personal and professional level, that he is cannot exercise the independent judgment necessary to properly fulfill his duties at the Justice Department.

In many ways, Gonzales's tenure at the Justice Department has justified the fears of his worst critics and given little favorable ammunition to his best friends. "I thought at the time that it was almost certainly a bad choice," says Stanley Katz, a legal historian at Princeton University. To Katz, Gonzales, upon taking the job as Attorney General was "a person with no experience at the national level, who appeared to be a sycophant of the president, who appeared to be a person who would be unlikely to be able to provide really good advice on big questions, and who appeared to be a person unlikely to be independent to some degree as attorney general and I think all of those things have proven to be true."

Other observers are not even that kind. John Dean, former White House counsel during the Watergate era, told me bluntly via email earlier this week that Gonzales "is an empty suit Attorney General. He is way over his head and it shows... He has been overwhelmed since the day he arrived in Washington in 2001." Two other sources also used the phrase "in over his head" when describing Gonzales and his work at the Justice Department. And one can only imagine what career lawyers within the Justice Department now are saying under their breath about their boss after he failed to adequately insulate them from political pressure from the White House and Congress. Actually, one need not imagine. They are beginning to speak out forcefully.

The perception of Gonzales as a lightweight, as a man not smart or brave enough to do his job well, might well have stayed on the back-burner--surely he is not the first Attorney General to be accused of being overwhelmed by the job-- if he could point today to a record of substantive strength and wisdom shown by his Justice Department over the past two years. But he cannot. Over and over again, the Attorney General has sided with the White House and against a national legal consensus; over and over again he has failed to act as a checkpoint, or even a speed bump, to halt the expansion of presidential power. At a time when the Constitution is under enormous political and legal pressure thanks to the war on terrorism, we have on our hands an Attorney General who still shills for the President as if he were working out of the White House or the Governor's mansion in Austin.

For example, he vigorously defended the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program even though most legal scholars believe it to violate both the Constitution and federal statutory law. In fact, a federal trial judge last August formally declared the program unconstitutional. That legal setback prompted the White House cut a deal with the presiding judge of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to allow a measure of supervision over the program, a move some analysts still see as legally dubious. But even then Gonazales at first refused to share with Congresss the terms of that deal. At no point, at least so far as we know, has the Attorney General questioned the constitutionality of the program or otherwise offered a legal viewpoint that contradicts that of the White House.

Strikingly, Gonzales' unwillingness to differ with the White House contrasts with the position his predecessor-- no shrinking violet when it came to conservative ideology-- took on the issue of NSA eavesdropping. As recounted memorably by Eric Lichtblau and James Risen of The New York Times, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was in the hospital in March 2004 and his acting deputy, James B. Comey, was refusing to sign off on the National Security Agency's spy program. This came before, of course, the program became known to the world. The White House, apparently desirous of Ashcroft's approval, sent Gonzales, and then-chief of staff Andrew Card, to try to talk Ashcroft into giving the Justice Department's go-ahead.

The Times was unable to determine whether Gonzales' mission to the hospital was successful. But the paper did report that "some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation." In other words, even Ashcroft when he was Attorney General wasn't sure the program was constitutional. But Gonzales was, and apparently still is, even though he now has Ashcroft's old job.

And just today we learn, from the National Journal, that: "Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews. Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work."

Meanwhile, the Justice Department's prosecution of alleged terrorists has been spotty, at best, and federal judges have grown increasingly unwilling to accept blind government assertions of national security interests. The most obvious example is the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, whom federal prosecutors alleged was a key conspirator in the plot to attack America on September 11, 2001. Under Gonzales' direction, the feds not only were unable to gain a death sentence for Moussaoui (despite his best efforts to convince a jury otherwise) they also had to endure the indignity of seeing one of their own lawyers scandalize the trial by attempting to coach witnesses. The upcoming terror conspiracy trial of Jose Padilla, the fellow once sold to us as the "dirty bomb suspect" also bodes ill for the Justice Department given the trial judge's tangible disdain for the government's case.

Then there is the leadership of the Justice Department, or lack thereof, in brokering a compromise that might have quickly ended the legal standoff over the rights of the terror detainees currently held down at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as well as individuals who are now or who in the future may be designated by the President as "enemy combatants. Last summer, the United States Supreme Court struck down the existing rules for military commissions that would have tried the men. What followed was the legislative disaster called the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which is currently being challenged in the federal court system as not going far enough in protecting individual rights. Where was the "people's lawyer" on this issue? Guess. He defended the Act and the onerous legal principles upon which it is based. A federal appeals court in the District of Columbia just a few weeks ago upheld the Act but ultimately the Supreme Court will have to get involved again-- a process that could take a year or so more.

Which brings us to this month's bad news at the Department of Justice. In assessing the Attorney General's role in the scandal over the U.S. attorneys, there are really only two main possibilities. Either Gonzales had no idea that the White House and certain politicians were pressuring his subordinates (his federal prosecutors) to the point of dismissing eight of them. Or he knew about the pressure and allowed it to occur. In the first instance, Gonzales was not providing vital leadership. He was not sticking up for his employees the way any manager ought to stick up for his employees in the face of pressure from on-high. In the second instance, he agreed with the White House that the eight attorneys deserved to be fired, which means he finds it acceptable for the Department of Justice to be politicized in a way that goes way beyond where it has been before. In neither instance is his performance acceptable. Nor, for that matter, are his post-hoc rationalizations for his role in the affair.

Here is how a strong piece in Thursday's New York Times, written by Eric Lipton and David Johnston, frames the issue: "'I will no longer represent only the White House,' [Gonzales] testified in 2005 as he prepared to leave his job as White House counsel. 'I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the differences between the two roles.' Yet in one of his first acts in his new job, Mr. Gonzales brought over two top White House aides and elevated a third, D. Kyle Sampson, a Justice Department staff member who had worked in the White House. Within days, Mr. Sampson began identifying federal prosecutors to oust, an effort initiated by Harriet E. Miers, the fellow Texan who succeeded Mr. Gonzales at the White House."

A serial crony seems intent and content to bring or allow cronyism into a place where among all other institutions in Washington it has no business being. "It's O.K. for the president to hear and repeat a politically motivated complaint," Harry E. Cummins III, the ousted United States attorney in Arkansas, told the Times this week. "It is O.K. for Karl Rove to act on it. But it is not O.K. for the gatekeeper of the Department of Justice to let it impact what happens inside the department," Mr. Cummins added. Another fired former prosecutor, John McKay, from Washington state, told CBS News: "Any individual prosecutor is replaceable. What's not replaceable is our reputation for fairness and our reputation for independence from political influences." These are precisely the sorts of comments that ought to be coming out of the mouth of the Attorney General, not the poor loyal prosecutors he failed or refused to protect.

Now, an Attorney General with this sort of a hapless record no doubt would like to be able to say to the American people: "in spite of all of this, I have helped make you safer where you live." But, here, too, Gonzales has failed. According to the National Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, big-city murder rates have risen 10 percent over the last two years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation itself puts the violent crime increase at 3.7 percent for January-June 2006. Also, drug use apparently in increasing in the nation's heartland. What does the Justice Department intend to do about this disturbing trend? Here is what the press release said last December: "Attorney General Gonzales in October announced the Initiative for Safer Communities. Through this initiative, DOJ teams are visiting 18 cities around the country to meet with state and local law enforcement agencies to find out what is causing this increase and to determine which crime-fighting efforts are most effective." In other words, it intends to study the matter.

I cannot argue that any other Attorney General would have found a way to reasonably resolve all of these problems or to otherwise have avoided some of the problems that Gonzales has faced during his two years on the job. It would be unfair to hold anyone to that particular standard. But any public servant, and especially the public servant who holds this particular high office, ought to be held to some reasonable standard. My point here is that by any measure, Gonzales has failed miserably. Failed to show independence as the "people's attorney." Failed to exercise sound legal judgment in evaluating anti-terror policies. Failed to protect his own subordinates in U.S. Attorneys offices around the country from undue political pressure. Failed to keep crime rates down. And failed to live up to the promises he made to friend and foe alike when he was nominated for the job.

You can add it up any way you like, and come at it from a conservative or liberal position, but it still totals this: a man who was proven to be unqualified for the job of Attorney General got it anyway and made a complete mess of things. Judged by performance in office, it is only slightly hyperbolic to say that Gonzales is to the Justice Department and to the Constitution what former FEMA chief Michael Brown was to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. President Bush Wednesday stood by his old friend "Al." At least this time, he didn't say "heckuva job."

By Andrew Cohen |  March 15, 2007; 9:06 AM ET agag
Previous: Part II: Alberto Gonzales, Presidential Enabler | Next: Part IV: The Case for Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald

Comments

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Only in "Wonderland" could John Ashcroft be the good 'ole days.

Posted by: Rian | March 15, 2007 09:18 AM

Why does this surprise anyone? The most political administration in history has picked incompetent people to head important departments, not because they're qualified, but because they're loyal and/or helped get Bush elected. I'm just waiting for the next idiot in charge to rear their ugly head.

Posted by: Rick | March 15, 2007 10:14 AM

Apart from the damage this incompetent AG has done to the country's reputation & trambling on the citizenry civil liberties he should be disbarred and investigated for criminal negligence in Texas capital executions.

Posted by: Amed | March 15, 2007 10:27 AM

Do we need anymore confirmation that this has been the worst administration in history?

Posted by: Long Beach, CA | March 15, 2007 10:41 AM

And remember kids, this guy was on the short list to be a Supreme Court Justice (lost out to Harriet Miers).

Posted by: lmb02 | March 15, 2007 10:53 AM

Only this about Bumblin' 'Bert and his Buddy Bush:

"I used to be amazed, and now I am just amused."

Posted by: JJ | March 15, 2007 11:17 AM

I have very much enjoyed all parts of this well-written series and I feel much more informed on the matter. I am also happy that the Washington Post is printing this and the material over at the Wag the Dog Blog.

I had pretty much given up on all mainstream media, and especially newspapers in this country. I think most newspapers are part of the problem and suffer from exactly the lapses in judgment attributed here to the attorney general.

No if we can begin to restore the practice of actual investigative journalism, perhaps the press can begin the journey back towards being a free and independent Fourth Estate, a role it has semmingly as gleefully abandoned as the President's crony-appointees..

In other words, keep up the good work. Ask the hard questions. Get real answers. The press has the same obligation to protect the public interest and defend the Constitution as the AG, and it would be nice to see the press begin to take that responsibility sertiously again.

Posted by: yogi-one | March 15, 2007 11:21 AM

Excellent, if quite troubling, posts. I take away that Gonzalez, Bush et al don't care about the law, and so can't be shamed into acting properly. How about clearly illegal, not just inappropriate behavior? Such as Bush effectively blocking an internal Justice Department investigattion into unwarranted wiretapping? Or the dosparity between Dem and Republicn targets of investigations? These should be the targets of the press and congress. Also, why don't the press characterize Gonzalez' statements as false, when they are clearly so?

Posted by: B Helman | March 15, 2007 11:41 AM

I once zinged a colleague at a federal agency by saying "how does it feel to be outsmarted by Dan Quayle?" when his staff forced changes to a major policy. I suppose the best way to characterize the AG's record is "how does it feel to be less qualified as a lawyer than Harriett Miers and John Ashcroft?"

Posted by: jon | March 15, 2007 11:44 AM

The debacle of the Bush administration comes from its attempt to run government like a business, with the type of executive management style that made Enron collapse. There is no morality, no competence, and no benefit to the nation. And we, the shareholders of this miserable corporation, are shouting **Sell! Sell!** The only holders are the corrupt board of directors in the Senate and House who put loyalty above righteousness.

Posted by: | March 15, 2007 11:55 AM

he's a dim bulb. no legal skills whatsoever that i can discern. the proverbial bootlicker. and yet he won't resign. at least not right now. people often cite jfk's appointing his brother, robert, to serve as attorney general as somehow being related to this situation. robert kennedy had intelligence and was very bright and very assertive. to this day people remember how he went after labor unions and organized crime. over 40 years later.

Posted by: frieda406 | March 15, 2007 12:09 PM

About the only thing H.L. Mencken failed to mention in the quote below was that the moron in the WH would also bring other morons with him.


"As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.
On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

H. L. Mencken,
Baltimore Sun, July 26, 1920

Posted by: Ed | March 15, 2007 12:11 PM

he's a dim bulb. no legal skills whatsoever that i can discern. the proverbial bootlicker. and yet he won't resign. at least not right now. people often cite jfk's appointing his brother, robert, to serve as attorney general as somehow being related to this situation. robert kennedy had intelligence and was very bright and very assertive. to this day people remember how he went after labor unions and organized crime. over 40 years later.

Posted by: frieda406 | March 15, 2007 12:13 PM

Gonzales has indeed made a complete mess of things in his latest job. Much like Bush in his latest job.

Posted by: gliving | March 15, 2007 12:14 PM

Nice summation of this shallow, unprincipled man's dismal tenure at Justice.

Gonzales really is a very poor specimen of humanity. I cannot understand what makes some people worship state power as an end in itself.

Posted by: OD | March 15, 2007 12:21 PM

You had me up until the end, but didn't take it quite far enough. I don't think it's any sort of a stretch to change your analogy to read:

Gonzales is to the Justice Department and to the Constitution what George W. Bush is to the office of the President of the United States of America.

Posted by: Chris | March 15, 2007 12:25 PM

Heckuva job Al. I expect him to resign and get the Medal of Freedom posthaste. Ironically, there's a very well qualified career prosecutor with impecible credentials (he's even a USA) and a no nonsense attitude who would immediately restore credibility and confidence in the position of Attorney General. His name? Patrick Fitzgerald. Just sayin ...

Posted by: | March 15, 2007 12:29 PM

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 12:29 PM

OD Said: I cannot understand what makes some people worship state power as an end in itself.

Well what I can't understand is why you worship terr'ists and hate freedom. If we protect liberties then how are we supposed to protect liberty? If we're looking into your life without a warrant, it's only 'cuz you hate 'merica.

[Heh, heh. Heh, heh. Hey Laura, come look at this. I got him good.]

Posted by: GWB (is using my initials anonymous Karl?) | March 15, 2007 12:36 PM

A terrific enlightening explanation of another worthless public servant. Thanks.

Posted by: Bill Courtney | March 15, 2007 12:50 PM

Yes, agree, very good reporting job here. That said, it does make me miss Molly Ivins.

I would like to hear more about career lawyers at DOJ speaking out, not necessarily a link to a CBS News report about one of the fired prosecutors.

Posted by: Loomis | March 15, 2007 01:05 PM

Gonzales is a toady who lacked the ethical scruples to provide complete information regarding possible clemency to Bubble Boy when he was governor of Texas--not that Bush the Lazy Executioner would have paid attention to or read what was put in front of him anyway. These two cowards combined do not have the moral stature of an outhouse cockroach.

Posted by: mikeasr | March 15, 2007 01:11 PM

Alberto Gonzales is to George Bush as Jerry Mahoney was to Paul Winschel.

Posted by: V. Kelley | March 15, 2007 01:23 PM

Bush, Cheney, and Gonzales all should resign in unison and immediately.
They have led the country astray in so many ways.
If they refuse to resign then impeachment proceedings should be initiated.
Thanks to Andrew Cohen for such a cogent and accurate description of Gonzales.

Posted by: Bob Hicks | March 15, 2007 01:27 PM

Is there a contest somewhere for the exact date and time for the AG resigning/being fired? Haven't quite heard "You're doin' a hecuva job, Bertie" but I think we're getting close.

Posted by: jmsbh | March 15, 2007 01:35 PM

This summary pretty thoroughly eviscerates Mr. Gonzales, and it couldn't happen to a more deserving Attorney General. It has long been obvious that he was far out of his league, a lightweight in every way. I look forward to his sworn Congressional testimony.

Posted by: H5N1 | March 15, 2007 02:09 PM

Good, insightful, fair commentary.

Posted by: H. Rang | March 15, 2007 02:18 PM

I used to worry that it would be hard for the country to recover from the damage that the Bush Administration would do. I have gone beyond worry, beyond sadness, beyond anger. Why? Because it has become apparent that we have been totally screwed and it does no good to show any emotions except laughter. I am going to laugh my a#* off as each one of these clowns go down. This is better than fiction, no one could ever makes this stuff up.

Posted by: banneroos | March 15, 2007 02:32 PM

I certainly agree with you that Gonzales is an incompetent attorney general, but you had me only up until you said that Gonzalez was obliged to protect the jobs of the people in his charge and stand up to his boss. U.S. Attorneys, like the AG himself, serve at the pleasure of the president as POLITICAL appointees, which generally means that they are obliged to pursue the president's priorities. For the AG there is indeed a fine line to walk with supporting the president's agenda (war on drugs, organized crime, illegal immigration, civil rights, etc.) and protecting the people's rights under our Constitution. However, as political appointees, if the president wants to fire one, some, or all of the U.S. attorneys (or his cabinet, or military commanders, etc.) at ANY time that is his right as the chief executive. We have seen that there is a political price (another scandal) for such dismissals so the president must act judiciously, but the president and the DOJ did not act improperly by firing political these appointees.

Also, a distinction needs to be made between POLICY objectives and POLITICAL objectives. Pursuit of certain policies may benefit one party or another politically, but the fact that some U.S. attorneys were not vigorously pursuing the president's priorities (voter fraud, for which the prosecution is of interest to Republicans) is as legitimate as if a Democratic administration wanted to fire U.S. attorneys for not pursuing voter disenfranchisement (civil rights, for which the prosecution is beneficial to Democrats). That's job performance plain and simple. My position is that Gonzales should be let go for dissembling before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath and admitting his own incompetence in overseeing the Dept. of Justice in this matter and the admission last week that the FBI has abused the use of the National Security Letters. He has also shown that he still sees himself as the president's lawyer, not the protector of the people's rights under our constitution.

Posted by: Sean | March 15, 2007 02:32 PM

The H.L.Mencken quote was great. I live in the heartland and there are many who still support everything this president does. My daughter accompanied her friend to church this past Sunday and was amazed that the service consisted of the congregation putting on a metaphorical skit in which Geo. Bush was allegorical to God. The church goers took turns thanking Bush/God for being in "His" presence.

Posted by: Dave, Freeport, Il | March 15, 2007 02:59 PM

How on earth did Vinson & Elkins end up making Gonzales a partner? Have we seen anything that leads us to beleive he ever functioned as an outstanding lawyer - in the area of practicing law, not schmoozing politicos?

Posted by: LoneStar | March 15, 2007 03:18 PM

To be fair to Alberto, the attorney that screwed up in the Moussaoui case was Carla Martin a career FAA attorney. The rest however seems to be right on point I agree that it is amazing that the Ashcroft time would be seen as the good ol' days.

Posted by: DCRat | March 15, 2007 03:33 PM

"I used to be amazed, and now I am just amused."

JJ: If you're quoting the Elvis Costello song*, the apropos line is:

"Oh, I used to be disgusted, but now I'm just amused."

*The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes

Posted by: dzman49 | March 15, 2007 04:04 PM

Bush has repeatedly appointed people whose only qualifications are a) they are cronies who owe their careers to Bush or b) people who have made a career fighting against the very mission of the agency they head. Their purpose is to prevent the agency from fulfilling its mission, which is typically oversight of industries such as the EPA or the FDA.

I'm not sure yet whether Gonzales only fits into category A or also qualifies under B as well.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 15, 2007 04:35 PM

Forget Gonzalez-what about the man who wasn't qualified to be national dog-catcher becoming president-it all flows downhill from there.

Posted by: frank | March 15, 2007 06:10 PM

My, my, my. Listen to all the wine sucking, yellow belly, non-knowing garbage on this thing. Funny I don't recall this much outrage when Willie Boy dumped 93 US Attorneys, some of which were actually in a full investigation of Willie and some of his cronnies. Was his dumping of the attorneys done in political revenge? Bet you arse it was. But it wasn't a big deal because...THE PRESIDENT HAS THE RIGHT TO FIRE ANY US ATTORNEY, BECAUSE THEY SERVE AT HIS LIESURE.

Whether he does it at the beginning or in the middle of his term makes no difference. Clinton put some of his good ole boys in office when he swapped out. Carter did it, Kennedy did it, Bush did it, but now all the sudden Bush does it and there a has to be a scandal in it somewhere. It will go no where just as it did with the Clinton's Whitewater case when one of Willie's buddies took over the investigation. Oh by the way, for the num-num that thinks Fitzgerald would make a good AG, that would really be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Will Libby be pardoned, you bet. Just like Bush's predecessor 218 drug pushers, robbers, and some that were near the point of being traitors. If you don't believe me look it up at http://www.usdoj.gov/pardon/actions_administration.htm#clinton instead of listening to the talking heads over at MoveON.org.

Posted by: oldsgt | March 15, 2007 07:36 PM

Alberto Gonzales aka oldsgt. Nice try Berto.

Posted by: asta | March 15, 2007 09:15 PM

Shorter oldsgt: It's ALL Bill Clinton's fault!

Really good series, Mr Cohen.

Posted by: JoyousMN | March 15, 2007 09:31 PM

If you believe the terrorist surveillance program is used for listening in to international phone calls to Osama bin Laden, Jeb's got some swampland in Florida's 13th District to sell you. The President's political assassination program is an evil that no attorney general can defend. We know that Bush would drown America in crony capitalism like New Orleans after a flood - Bush never went to jail for what he did for Kenny Boy - but the far bigger stories are crony justice and crony intelligence.

Posted by: Mel Carnahan | March 15, 2007 10:02 PM

Have you noticed that everyone described as a "close associate" of Bush (meaning, I assume, a friend as well as a staff member) is never more accomplished, taller or smarter than Bush himself? Bush cannot tolerate anyone near him with whom he would feel inferior by comparison. No doubt this is why GOnzales has lasted so long.
I've always believed that if Bush's IQ had been 20 points higher, the GOP and Cheney would have had to find some other dupe to run as President. Thats why they chose George rather than his brother Jeb, who had been goomed for the job.

Posted by: smeesq | March 15, 2007 10:08 PM

I'm tired of hearing the incompetence dodge.

It's not incompetence. It's design.

Norquist said he wants to drown government in a bathtub.

And that's what the Republicans did in Katrina, Iraq, and now this.

Where is the plan to restore Constitutional government, or have the conservatives succeeded in their quest to replace it with authoritarian rule?

Posted by: lambert strether | March 15, 2007 10:35 PM

Ouch, I think I have been tagged. NOT. Folks, makes no difference what you think, or what I think, learn something about the way the government is set up. It has been that way for almost every president since before most of you were born. As for it being Willie's fault, your words not mine. I was trying to through the dim-lit space between the ears that if it is wrong for one it should have been wrong for all, including Clinton. If that is a hard pill to swallow, drink a little more water.

Posted by: oldsgt | March 15, 2007 11:06 PM

oldsgt, the Clinton-did-it-too talking point has already been thoroughly debunked. Tell Karl that no one is buying it any more.

Posted by: verbal | March 15, 2007 11:14 PM

This administration is disgustingly immoral, lawless, and reprehensible. It all starts with "w", and darth cheney. The neo-cons and the religious right are both clueless and religious wackos are too sheep like to think for themselves. Talk about sheep lying down with the lions! Neo-cons don't care about you bible thumpers. If only it were against the law to be a republican, think how much safer the world would be. 2008 can't get here soon enough!

Posted by: tuttlegroup | March 15, 2007 11:17 PM

oldsgt, it's pretty shabby to justify bad acts by saying, "well, it's always been done this way, get over it". You are condemning the Democrats for their past actions and simultaneously condoning them by saying that that these same acts are okay when the Republicans do them. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book and has been used by every tyrant. Our Declaration of Independence says that we are above tyranny. We should keep our moral prow pointed in that direction, not away from it.

Posted by: Fran | March 16, 2007 01:27 AM

You fail to measure the AG, Pres and VP with their yardstick. You see the role of government as serving the people and the national interests. In some cases that vision may expand to serving a greater global good.

They, on the other hand, see government as a means of looting national resources for personal benefit. They all fail by the typical measures of 'success' in the private economy. The VP, for example, paid a high price for an asbestos law suit that would normally have bankrupted his corporation. But, they are skilled at using government to distort private enterprise. Their contracting policies make friends fortunes. And so, Halliburton is saved. In fact, it thrives as it moves off shore to forestall any future attempts at justice and accountability. They'll probably hire the retired AG to handle their case.

The AG would fail in the practice of regular 'private' law. But, he has brilliantly succeeded in grooming the contacts perfect for government-private undertakings. You use the term, facilitator, with diresion. I am sure that he would consider that the highest compliment. It is certainly accurate.

Personally, I do not like the looting of our nation. I would like their gated community to be in Leavenworth, KS. But, give these gents credit. They have succeeded in doing so without getting arrested. As that was their goal, grant them their due.

Posted by: twstroud | March 16, 2007 08:18 AM

No, oldsgt is just another guy who thinks he knows a thing or two, but is in fact an ignoramus.

Posted by: | March 16, 2007 08:41 AM

I can't remember who said this, but it rings (for me, anyway) as true today as the day I heard it: "Liberals make me laugh, but conservatives make me cry."

Posted by: Rusty | March 16, 2007 08:50 AM

oldsgt,

You are out to lunch. When other presidents did it, they followed a different set of proceedures and they did not lie to Congress as this AG did.

And in case you have not noticed, in those other cases there was no evil genius inside the white house using it as tool to give corrupt GOP members a free ride, while piling on those who vote for the other party.

Posted by: Bo | March 16, 2007 09:04 AM

I'm impressed - a couple of dozen comments before a Bush Apologists Waterboy brought out the old "Clinton did it too" (debunked and very lame) canard. Limbaugh will be on in an hour and a half and I'm sure the apologist will get a bucket full of talking points that again will have to be smacked down yet again. Yawn.

Posted by: RobertSeattle | March 16, 2007 09:47 AM

What we're seeing here is southern good ol' boy corrupt politics clashing with Northern and Pacific notions of decency, and Constitutional government.

Posted by: Dan Cobb | March 16, 2007 11:26 AM

DAN COBB:

I agree. We're seeing the future of U.S. politics:

Wildly corrupt southern good ol' boy politics (Bush/Gonzales) CLASHING with northern and western politics that believes in the importance of Constitutional government.

Let's face it. How many southern Senators and southern Congressman give a hoot about the Constitutional violations of the Bush Justice Department?

Too bad Lincoln tried to preserve the Union. WHAT AN ERROR!

Posted by: Roger in PA | March 16, 2007 11:30 AM

Bashing one of Bush's irrelevant puppets,
what a great job!
WOW.

After all, your Constitutional Court is not much better than Gonzales, is he?

Posted by: observer from europe | March 16, 2007 12:10 PM

"If only it were against the law to be a republican, think how much safer the world would be. 2008 can't get here soon enough!
Posted by: tuttlegroup | March 15, 2007 11:17 PM"

At a minimum, Republicans should be required to register with the police when they move into a neighborhood.

Posted by: Phil | March 16, 2007 02:46 PM

Gonzales doesn't even know how to spell law, let alone practice it.
He should resign or be fired. He's a disgrace for all DOJ attorneys and an embarrassment to the legal profession. Where did he get his law degree, Sears?

Posted by: Mary Hilton | March 16, 2007 11:01 PM

oldsgt: "THE PRESIDENT HAS THE RIGHT TO FIRE ANY US ATTORNEY, BECAUSE THEY SERVE AT HIS LIESURE"

So in fact their real job is to be waiter while the President is on vacation?

Posted by: zimon | March 17, 2007 04:15 AM

Mr. Cohan forgot to mention that this Attorney General acctually made the statement that he " wasn't sure that the constitution specifically guaranteed the right to Habeus Corpus".

Posted by: Donna | March 17, 2007 03:13 PM

Face it -- greedy, selfish, lying theocrats, ideologues and non-leaders like Bush-shrub and Oil-can Cheney require loyalists in order to maintain their shadowy power over all others.

Anyone actually qualified and capable of thinking independently and acting lawfully -- for the people -- would have quickly shown these crooks to be the mental and intellectual midgets they truly are. True leaders want smarter people who are intellectually honest, not afraid to speak up, and unlike the inhabitants of this rabbit hole, not your mediocre sub-par partisans who excel ONLY at being sycophants and buttt-kissers.

Posted by: PerversityinAmerica.com | March 17, 2007 03:32 PM

Who would have thought.

Bin Laden has become Luke Skywalker and USA is the evil Empire led by Emperor "Bush" and Darth "Dick Cheney" Vader.

In only 5 years.

I would have to say this war on "Terror" has been lost.

The next President will have to completely
rebuild our standing in the world.

All you have to do is look at how Clinton was cheered in South America and Bush could barely go out in Public.

Bush is a born loser.

Posted by: langx | March 19, 2007 01:27 AM

This is just a Bush hating polemic where Gonzales is the surrogate punching bag. Andrew Cohen makes nasty charge after charge and provides a minimum of supporting evidence. Andrew Cohen seems to think Gonzales can't even brush his own teeth and dress himself unassisted. This is because these essays have little to with the facts. Example: Andrew Cohen says "In fact, whether it is the legal war on terrorism or garden-variety issues of crime and punishment, it is hard to identify a single area of unchallenged success." Why do I think given the chance he would say something similar about every individual in the Bush Administration? Because that's obviously his agenda. This essay is about left wing partisan politics, pure and simple.

Posted by: Erick Blair | March 31, 2007 02:17 PM

And let us not forget OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE in all of this. . . . There is a pattern of OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE in these firings. Four of the eight attorneys were working on political corruption cases involving Republicans. Before that two attorneys were fired for the same reason -- one of the cases involved the super-lobbyist Abrhamoff. . . . We need to get to the bottom of this, because OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IS ILLEGAL!!!!

Posted by: | March 31, 2007 06:30 PM

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