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.

By Andrew Cohen |  March 22, 2007; 7:57 AM ET agag
Previous: White House Wins on Law, Loses on Politics | Next: The Long Knives Are Out for Gonzales


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Best would be the conversations with those who were on one of the early fire lists. "Hey, we decided you were not the worst, just nearly the worst! Chin up and go and get 'em!"

Posted by: Chris M | March 22, 2007 11:13 AM

People, get over thnking that an "apology" will make it all better. This apology scam is getting out of hand.

Posted by: Fairfax | March 22, 2007 12:05 PM

It means that the remaining 85 Fed Prosecutors who were not on the fired list are genuine "Bushies" who play the partisan Political game in the courts George wants.

Posted by: Donald | March 22, 2007 12:21 PM

Too bad the Post didn't have you write today's editorial in place of the pathetic pap they chose to print on this issue.

Too many apologists focus on narrow legalities and give this administration a pass. The politicization of federal prosecutors, like that of so many institutions of government, is a crime against intelligence and morality, if not a prosecutable offense. (And of course we can't decide that until we get the facts.) George Bush may be the Decider, but Gonzalez is his chief consigliere and enabler and should not escape scrutiny.

The problems with this administration can be summed up in one sentence: too much ideology, not enough transparency.

Posted by: Jeff in WI | March 22, 2007 12:50 PM

AG: Hi! Prosecuted any hapless Dems for no good reason lately?

USAttorney: Yes, I brought charges just last week.

AG: Bad timing. Didn't you get the memo? You are supposed to hold off until October 2008.

USAttorney: I suppose but the case is based on a complete fabrication anyway.

AG: I don't understand. Is there another kind of case?

USAttorney: Well, I do have legitimate rape and murder charges that could be filed against a Republican candidate.

AG: No, no, no! How could you be so incompetent? In my mind's eye, I see another list forming.....

USAttorney: Sorry, sir! I'll get back to distortion of justice right away!

AG: See that you do. If things go well I see a judgeship in your future.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 22, 2007 12:52 PM

Memo to Surviving US Attorneys: Get with the Bush Administration program!!! Your job responsibilities have now been redefined. You are not supposed to be putting Republican congressmen in prison, even when they have taken $2,500,000 bribes -- for you to do so is DISLOYAL. You are supposed to be putting Democrats in prison, preferably immediately before an election, by any means necessary -- they have always done something naughty, so LOOK FOR IT! After all, they are Democrats. You do not work for the American people, because some of them are Democrats. You work for the Republican Party, to keep our wise and glorious leaders in office for a wonderful Century Of Progress. Do not prattle about *impartial evenhanded justice* if you want to keep your jobs. Join The New America!

Posted by: oldhonky | March 22, 2007 12:56 PM

Patrick Fitzgerald has redeemed himself by allowing Rove and Company scapegoate, Libby, take the fall for the administration and refusing to file any charges against the real criminals in the case.

A real Justice Department Prosecutor would use Bush's tried and true law based on what that Revelation has cost tax payers money wise.

It cost tax payers millions to have a CIA operative and False Front company dismantled and forced to start over. The Justice Department has used that law to successfully prosecute others.

Posted by: Donald | March 22, 2007 01:15 PM

Judge C. Crater: I really like your conversation, quite humorous

Posted by: Nite | March 22, 2007 01:44 PM

Surely there are loyal Bush supporters in many of the Federal Prosecutor positions throughout the country, but I'm curious how those who pride themselves in their knowledge, skills and abilities as professionals over their loyalty to Bush must feel about the label. Every prosecutor still holding his or her position now carries the albatross of "Loyal Bushie" on their shoulders regardless of whether or not they in fact are. For those that care, one would think that label would be an insult to their professionalism. It calls into question why they have their job-Is it because they possess sharp legal minds or is it a result of some partisan affirmative action? Of course, you don't need a sharp legal mind to be Attorney General, so maybe it doesn't really matter.

Posted by: Career Advisor | March 22, 2007 02:28 PM

Thanks, Nite. I'm gunning for Cohen's job.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 22, 2007 03:14 PM

NEWS-FLASH:Chertoff to replace Gonzales as AG!

Posted by: hankomatic1 | March 22, 2007 03:20 PM

Isn't it time for Mr. Gonzales to enter rehab?

Posted by: Bob | March 22, 2007 04:05 PM

hankomatic1: What's your source for Chertoff replacing Gonzales? None of the major news websites have that up yet.

Chertoff was speculation for replacing him yesterday.

Gonzales and rehab? As his fellow Texan Ron White says, "You Can't Fix Stupid!"

Posted by: | March 22, 2007 04:12 PM

Jeff in WI wrote:

"The problems with this administration can be summed up in one sentence: too much ideology, not enough transparency."

Perhaps the problem is more fundamental: Too much political centralization blended with federal paranoia and static group thought; not enough political decentralization and confidence in the judgment of ordinary individual people (not so stupid as media and politicians suppose) who really inhabit this nation and have unpampered practice at living flexible lives each day, living within rational limitations. They still have the nominal right to vote although realized outcomes are pretty vague in producing any effect. Apparently the two political parties are just two sides of the same coin.

DC is the new Rome, and is running fast to become irrelevant. If military diaster can be arranged, it sure seems to be headed there using people they barely know. Today's media fixation on the former job positions of eight lawyers on the public payroll, a diversion from about a dozen issues which actually do matter to people, is so comic one would burst out in laughter if it were not so historically tragic as a symptom of a deluded leadership and bureaucracy.

We should mandate that every federal official be required to maintain a garden of at least 100 square feet. Some dirty hands making food would improve the landscape and likely reduce their time invested in making trouble.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 22, 2007 04:39 PM

Gonzales is now using kids to teach them that lying under oath is ok. Why do criminals and crooks use children? Fingers Foley used our kids to abuse them now Gonzales is using the kids too. This Administration is one of the lowest group of sickos and they should ask God for forgiveness of their sins. Gonzales needs to stand up like a man and admit what he's done. Like other appointees unqualified and learning on the job Gonzales just doesn't know what an Attorney Generals job duties are. He just thought that he was to do the same thing he was doing as Council to the President. Karl Rove managed the AG office and placed lawyers he thought would follow directions of not convicting Republicans but filing false charges against Dems.

Posted by: Jackie | March 22, 2007 06:03 PM

Same source that told us that Joint-Chiefs were in revolt!

Posted by: hankomatic1 | March 22, 2007 06:36 PM

Gee Andrew, why don't you tell us how you really feel? this is nothing more than the rantings of a very bitter person. It is possible that someone can be an honest, upstanding person, enen though they do not subscribe to the same political and legal theories you do. I think your problem is less with the man than with the legal philosophy the Attorney General and the President represent. Yet, in typical lefty fashion, you attack the person instead of his ideas. This piece is so one sided, you should be ashamed to call yourself a journalist.

Posted by: | March 22, 2007 07:50 PM

"Typical lefty fashion?" What is that supposed to mean?

Tell us, unnamed poster at 7:50 p.m., just what sage legal philosophy was behind the political interference with the Iglesias firing, or the rating of Fitzgerald as not having distinguished himself?

All Cohen has done is correctly point out that we have an AG who doesn't stand up for the troops. Like the troops who were about to go into a courtroom to give closing arguments in the tobacco case, and who got a call from political appointees who ordered that THEIR closing argument be read verbatim. My heart goes out to that Justice trial attorney, who had many years of service under her belt and probably did not have the luxury of being able to resign on the spot. I would have told them I'm doing my close or you can come down here and deliver your piece of crap yourself, you worthless hack.

Nice Justice Department you're running there, Alberto.

Posted by: ExAUSA | March 22, 2007 08:11 PM

Andrew, your columns are informative and carefully written (despite the loyal Bushies going to pieces at any perceived slights to W). Now, can you give us an explanation of what kind of Federal crime would there be in: "He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. " as stated by Sharon Y. Eubanks, United States Ambassador to Australia and former Federal Prosecutor (surely a competent witness!!) Is this suborning perjury?

Posted by: | March 22, 2007 09:24 PM

It seems the FBI's abuse of national security letters is just as important, or more so, as the firing of the prosecutors and we have heard nothing in the press for days.

Both issues show the incompitance of the Attorney General and the director of the FBI and their total disregard for the rights of the people of America.

Posted by: garring | March 22, 2007 10:01 PM

Following up on Anon 9:24 PM, and how could we forget the blundered Moussaoui case from just last year:

"Four federal aviation officials scheduled to testify in the sentencing trial of al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui said Tuesday that improper coaching by a federal lawyer would not affect what they tell the jury, but the four disclosed new problems in the government's handling of witnesses.

The trial was in recess and the jury was absent Tuesday so Brinkema could hold a hearing to determine whether to end the government's bid to execute Moussaoui after the startling revelation a day ago that a federal attorney had used trial transcripts to coach seven upcoming trial witnesses."


And of course these abuses are isolated, not systematic, and, certainly not the result of some sort of through the looking glass interpretation of legal justice.

"I {heart} the Star Chambers," Alberto Gonzales.

Posted by: JP2 | March 23, 2007 08:28 AM

I find it interesting that a President who is known by the press to BE VERY LOYAL and who demands Loyalty has violated his own credo.
First Valerie Plame Wilson is exposed despite her classified status- hence leaving employees of the CIA wondering about their relationship to this country. Then firing 8 on his own US Attorneys. All Republicans. Causing Republicans and the other remaining US Attorneys to wonder about loyalty.
Just how does this President define LOYALTY????

Posted by: Lynne Lieberman | March 23, 2007 03:15 PM

You bring up an excellent point- just who did sign those letters terminating the US Attorneys????
If they serve at the pleasure of the President how come the President wasn't in the loop.
Who was in the loop beside Sampson, Gonzales' Chief of Staff?
Is anyone making the big bucks, with the big titles and the big perks running this country??????

Posted by: Lynne Lieberman | March 23, 2007 03:19 PM

Yeah! Road Trip! It sure worked well for his boss,W running around South and Central America having Mayan priests perform cleansing ceremonies to drive out the evil spirits after he left...

Posted by: braultrl | March 23, 2007 04:16 PM

Because of this scandal, the reputation of the porsecutors who are still working, has benn greatly tunished. Now, they are damaged goods. It is unfair but that is how it appears.

Posted by: Hbiswas | March 26, 2007 01:44 PM

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