The Long Knives Are Out for Gonzales

Over the past 24 hours it has become clear that there is an internal struggle within the White House over the fate of the hapless Attorney General. Yes, it is true that the only man who truly counts, President George W. Bush, is firmly behind his old friend Alberto R. Gonzales. But a few pay grades below, the battle roils on. Yesterday, we were told by some in the pro-Gonzales camp that the Attorney General indeed has a spine and was even willing to stand up to his boss on the issue of an investigation into the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. But this morning, the anti-Alberto faction struck back. The New York Times has a big and important story reporting that Gonzales recently argued against closing the Guantanamo Bay terror detainee facility even though the new Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, suggested that it be done.

Here is how the Times put it: "Mr. Gates's appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush's publicly stated desire to close Guantánamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo's continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said. Mr. Gates' arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said." So it was Gonzales and Cheney versus Gates and... Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who also pushed to shut down Gitmo.

If you were a betting man or woman, which quinella would you be betting on these days at the White House? Gates-Rice? Or Gonzales Cheney? Me too. If you had a choice between trying to move us all past Gitmo, and the ugliness it suggests, or keeping us mired there, which would you choose? Me too.

The fact that the Times story would be leaked by "administration officials" at this juncture in the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors tells me that there is a strong anti-Alberto faction within the White House that wants to disarm Gonzales' so-called charm offensive before it gathers any momentum. As part of that offensive yesterday, pro-Gonzales folks at the Justice Department sought to reassure us all that the Attorney General did not try to block an internal probe into the NSA's controversial spy program. Fair enough and good for him. Unfortunately for him, though, and for us too, Gonzales' friend the President ended up rejecting the Attorney General's advice. From this episode we learn that even when the Attorney General exercises independent and sound judgment he isn't able to persuade his client to do the right thing.

Here is the text of the letter the Justice Departement released yesterday: Dear Senator: This responds to your letter of March 15,2007, regarding allegations made in a National Law Journal article ('Aborted DOJ Probe Probably Would Have Targeted Gonzales') published the same day. The article discusses an Office of Professional Responsibility ("OPR) investigation into the conduct of Department of Justice lawyers relating to certain specific NSA activities publicly confirmed by the President (hereinafter, the 'Terrorist Surveillance Program'). Within the Department of Justice, OPR sought assistance in obtaining security clearances to the Terrorist Surveillance Program to conduct its investigation. This request reached the Attorney General. The Attorney General was not told that he was a subject or target of the OPR investigation, nor did he believe himself to be. The Attorney General did not ask the President to shut down or otherwise impede the OPR investigation. The Attorney General recommended to the President that OPR be granted security clearances to the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The President made the decision not to grant the requested security clearances."

The subpoenas are locked and loaded. The long knives are out. The advocacy groups are out in force. And so another week of scandal ebbs with a defiant president, an outraged Congress, and a battle wthin and without the White house itself for the hearts and minds of the American people in their perceptions of the man the president and others called "Judge."

By Andrew Cohen |  March 23, 2007; 8:03 AM ET agag
Previous: The Alberto Gonzales Magical Mystery Tour | Next: Gonzales And His "I Did Not Have Sex With That Woman" Moment


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The President, if nothing else, is as loyal as they come. He will stave-off firing the Attorney General as long as he absolutely can.

And, the Attorney General does not seem disposed to fall on his sword for the President.

Which only makes things worse for the White House. Especially with the press focusing more on Karl Rove than on Attorney General Gonzales.

If the heat gets to be too much the President may be faced with a loyalty choice between Rove and Gonzales; although the "damage point" may already have been passed. If he can't bring himself to remove the Attorney General like somebody removed those eight U. S. Attorneys (still wonder who signed the removal letters), then it may take the equivalent of Goldwater coming down from Capitol Hill to the White House to tell President Nixon that he had to resign for everybody's good.

Who on the Hill can play Barry Goldwater? John Warner? Richard Lugar?

Posted by: Nor'Easter | March 23, 2007 01:02 PM

Krauthammer wrote an op ed piece today saying that Gonzales should go. The last time he wrote something urging an administration appointee or candidate to leave or be removed was when he suggested Harriet Miers withdraw herself from SC nomination, which she did within days. If you are a member of this administration and lose support from even Chucky, one of the most vocal Bush apologists, you have a real problem.

Posted by: CJVA | March 23, 2007 01:03 PM

Too bad the Congress did not have the stones to do what the President (and Presidential Enabler Gonzales) stopped OPR from doing: a thorough investigation into the legally questionable NSA domestic spying program.

Posted by: ExAUSA | March 23, 2007 03:46 PM

Karligula is about to get his comeuppance. `Al` as W like to call him will be collateral damage. By allowing the quashing of the Guam investigation into Jack A`s deals there by replacing a prosecutor his dad installed in back in 1991, Mr. President is going to learn that [just like it says on the US State Dept. web site] `Rule of law means that no individual, president or private citizen, stands above law. Democratic governments exercise authority by way of law and are themselves subject to law's constraints.` And the bigger they are, the harder they fall...

Posted by: braultrl | March 23, 2007 04:12 PM

According to Olberman one of the President's nicknames for the Attorney General is "Fredo."

Keith, wisely advised him "Don't get into the boat!"

Posted by: Nor'Easter | March 23, 2007 05:38 PM

Once again our drugstore cowboy, wannabe fighter pilot and linguistic disgrace is drawing the line in the sand. "No, I will not allow the dance team of Rove and Meirs to testify in public, under oath and with a transcript for the public record.

May I respectfully suggest to our "sagebrush clearer extraordinaire," that he works FOR the people of the United States and not the other way around.

Posted by: lcdagobear | March 23, 2007 07:18 PM

No Oaths For His Petulance

War Mouth I is attempting to hide behind the doctrine of executive privilege, an extra-Constitutional notion of historically dubious merits to the courts. Constitutionally challenged, the best His Pugnacity can do is spew an ill-drawn platitude about the separation of powers.

See the Petulant Infant, the Puer Aeternus, salivating contempt for the People who would question his pet Dobermans Rove and Miers.

See Peter Pan turn Chucky as his narcissistic sense of entitlement is punctured by the inquiring minds of Congress whose responsibility is to find out and to represent us -- the People for whom War Mouth drools contempt.

See Congress question, under oath and on the record, the ethics and practices of the Attorney General, the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs.

Boys and girls, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States Government is not above the law.

Fellow citizens, as I indicated in my post last night, I saw the video of the speech, just like you did. Those facial antics are reminiscent of the wincing histrionics of OJ Simpson. I now think exactly what I thought then: He's lying through his teeth.

For my part --to represent my interests as an American -- those flaccidities in Congress must, at long last, get it on and do their job.

Posted by: Ticia | March 23, 2007 10:39 PM

Note how all this has drowned out any mention of Scooter Libby from the press, and with it, any mention of the White House betrayal of national security by exposing a covert agent, Valery Plame. The longer they let Gonzalez twist in the wind, the more they can direct the news cycle. At Gonzalez*s loyal expense of course.

Posted by: Leschatdeux | March 24, 2007 03:14 AM

My theory is that the Gonzales will be punished for timidity in having let the Scooter Libby case go down the wrong road. Dems are drawn in to do the nasty work with the complete consent of passively willing Reps who put up sham resistance.

The more fundamental statement this event makes about politics is that individual loyalties are crumbling way ahead of the end of the present administration.

The substance of the issue of the eight who were replaced does not represent enough of an event to make for this kind of attention. It's stale news anyway, getting unnaturally steamed up by the media. Only other motives can truly explain how this process scrutiny eclipses vital national issues. That's the way it looks far away from the DC den of vipers.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 24, 2007 08:37 AM

...and, to state the painfully obvious, Abu Gonzales has replaced Valerie Plame which has replaced the real story which is, of course, the Atrocity in Mesopotamia and the forthcoing Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law.

IMHO, the IHL is what it's really all about. Watch this 'benchmark' pass as Chevron, BP and the other sharks drool with glee.

I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: Ninbus | March 24, 2007 10:10 AM

On the plantation,

There is some wisdom to this statement:

"That's the way it looks far away from the DC den of vipers."

But if you think for a moment that the vipers are only on the Hill, and the angels are in the White House, including the President himself, I'd say be careful.

I'd recommend checking out James Madison Federalist Paper #51 ("If men were angels"). That document touches on at least one aspect of this current issue.

If you think Madison meant "some men" you are misunderstanding his meaning.

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #76 touches on another angle of this USAs issue (e.g. the removal of the "advice and consent" role of Congress from last years renewal Patriot Act). This should raise some questions as well.

"It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entire branch of the legislature."

One of the justifications for removing Senate approval was that, in the time of a terrorist attack, this new authority might be necessary. We'll, to the best of my knowledge Bud Cummins US Attorney in Arkansas was not killed in a terrorist attack. But the administration felt it was time to give the new authority a "test drive" anyway.

Hamilton points to why that might be a problem. But of course, George W. Bush and his team would never be ruled by private inclinations. They tell us all the time how moral and truthful they are. So of course, it must be true.

Posted by: JP2 | March 24, 2007 11:50 AM


Vipers all, Hill and WH, recognizing that some are mere infants and therefore vipers in training.

While [ so-called ] Patriot Act removal of Constitutional powers of Congress and the People appears to be the presently standing law, subject to more tests by the courts plus better public understanding of what happened here, and perhaps even a future enlightened AG, there are quite obviously huge systemic imbalances which cannot be long tolerated within any sort of honest republic deserving that designation. It's equally obvious that the model of government we display for international export is of declining quality.

Ultimately, I trust the American public to regurgitate the capricious changes and interpretations since 9/11 which they have been spoonfed through a compliant media all to eager too keep broadcast licenses and access to power, and which in consequence radically diminish the politically recognized integrity of the individual in this nation.

I repeat, DC is the New Rome. The strategy of the American patriot needs to be to contain it and starve it, until it returns to a mosquito infested swamp which nature meant it to be.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 24, 2007 12:49 PM

On the plantation,

There are certainly grounds for skepticism. I am in more of a wait and see mode. The next several months will offer a decent barometer of the State of the Nation and its people.

Not so sure about the Rome comparisons. They're valid up to a point, but Rome didn't have a potential counterbalance like China or India, or even the EU. If more recent history is a precedent, empires don't die, they just diminish in significance and influence. Russia is one example. Britain, France, Italy, and Spain are other examples from the not-so-distant past.

Posted by: JP2 | March 24, 2007 01:34 PM


". . . but Rome didn't have a potential counterbalance . . ."

It's a matter of timeframe. Consider Constantine, Genghis Khan, Venice, and in more modern times the ultimate colonial powers of Belgian, Spain, Portugal, France, and England. It's not a question of waiting for some particular force to blow us over; it's more like termites in the studs and rafters. Need one add the similarities to Rome in terms of political incompetence and decadence.

I don't believe any present-day counterbalancing power would have either the motivation or the ability to reconstitute a failed state in our size. (But, of course, like Iraq, or like classical European colonialism in Africa, it could always be broken into pieces.) Letting our institutions devolve and then picking the victims clean would be the more direct and less costly means to exploit the prey.

The economic and political structure of America is unstable just under the force of gravity once we cannot float more dollars in the global market, the jig is up. The Jihadists have figured this out. Then again, an alien-state state strategy possibly is as elemental as simply repopulating America with its chosen folks. However, this perhaps this is painting too definitive a plan; our major corporations out of their own executive greed are already advancing the preliminary work to undermine the working stiff's life in America in league with gleeful foreign forces.

"Wait and see" is a fine individual attitude, and I could join you on that for as long as I last. It's just not a sufficient basis for making social and national policy.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 24, 2007 02:32 PM

On the plantation,

In reference to: "Consider Constantine, Genghis Khan, Venice, and in more modern times the ultimate colonial powers of Belgian, Spain, Portugal, France, and England."

I've considered them and I come to another conclusion. The "ultimate" colonial powers simply diminished in influence, but are still around.

As far as the implosion of the U.S. economy or political structure goes, that's always one possible outcome. The likelihood of which may increase over the span of 50, 100, 200 years. But who really knows?

As far as the Jihadists go, I don't think they've figured out that much. History's graveyard is filled with idealists and fools who have chased after Utopia. It takes a lot more vision to spend 4 months hammering out the outlines for a government that endures for 200 years+, then it does to figure out that you can fly airplanes into office buildings.

We are definitely getting far afield here.

I enjoy speculation too, but I'm not too tied to any particular theory about what the future holds. Who knows?

Not an especially relevant discussion on a blog that focuses more narrowly on the American legal system.

Onto the next topic.

Posted by: JP2 | March 25, 2007 06:18 PM

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