The Alberto Gonzales Magical Mystery Tour
With his stock plummeting in Washington, and with the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors looking to get worse before it gets better (ready, aim, subpoena!), Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has decided to do what any hapless pol would have decided to do: he's getting out of dodge for a few days to try to "rally his troops." Well, not exactly "rally" since he reportedly intends to apologize to U.S. Attorneys around the country (not for the firings themselves but) for the way his Justice Department (and theirs) handled the dismissal of eight of their colleagues. And not exactly "troops" since if we have learned anything yet from this lame episode it is that the Attorney General was nowhere close to the kind of "general" his so-called "troops" (line prosecutors) deserved to have when the going got rough for them late last year.
Taking advantage of the what The New York Times describes as a long-scheduled trip "to promote Justice Department programs", Gonzales has added to his agenda meetings with federal prosecutors. He will offer reporters a photo-opportunity but apparently not take any questions from them on the only thing they care to ask him: what's up with his role in the controversy? Was he as out of the loop on things as some of the just-released emails suggest? If so, what should that tell us about his leadership at the Justice Department? And, if not, what did he know and when did he know it? Etc. I would love to be a fly on the wall during those conversations between the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorneys he will meet.
AG: Hi. I am sorry that we bungled the firing of some of your colleagues. But I have to remind you that even though we picked you, and you are a loyal Republican, we can fire you any time we want for good reason or for no reason at all.
USAttorney: Ummmm... thanks for reminding me of that, Chief. I'm a little concerned, though. Don't we need to have a little bit of independence as we discharge our prosecutorial function lest we be accused of simply prosecuting people the White House wants us to prosecute?
AG: No, sorry. That's the old way the Justice Department did business, back when it was full of legal and prosecutorial professionals instead of political hacks and when it was a more objective institution sheltered a bit from partisan politics. The new way we do business at Justice is that we grade you all based upon your loyalty to the White House so that even if by objective legal standards you are doing great work you still can be vulnerable to dismissal. You serve at the pleasure of the President, remember?
USAttorney: Yes, I remember. And I've heard that even Patrick Fitzgerald, selected for his talents from among the rest of us to be special prosecutor in the CIA Leak case, didn't even make your "safe" list. So what does that mean for me?
AG: It means being an Attorney General means never really, truly having to say you are sorry.
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