"A Very Strong" AG? White House Should Prove it

White House tribunes declared Friday that President George W. Bush still has confidence in Alberto Gonzales as "a very strong attorney general" and sees the upcoming "no-confidence" vote on Gonzales in the Senate as merely a "political stunt." This pronouncement occurred on the same day, maybe even perhaps around the same time, that Gonzales himself was being hammered in a private session with his current crop of U.S Attorneys, by now famously culled (at least partially) to include only the most "loyal Bushies" hand-selected by the White House and people like Monica Goodling. The White House's still-game-for-Gonzo message came following a week in which Republicans were shedding themselves of the hapless Attorney General as quickly as they could scramble to a microphone and clammer for attention. And it came one day before former president Jimmy Carter publicly declared that the Bush Administration is the "worst in history."

So, who you gonna believe when it comes to Gonzales' competence? The President or the U.S. Attorneys? We know why the federal prosecutors are angry with Gonzales. The Washington Post reported Saturday that: "More than a dozen U.S. attorneys spoke during the [Wednesday] morning session, most of them expressing concern to Gonzales about the scandal's impact on their own offices and the overall image of the department, several participants said. 'People were very plainspoken,' said one U.S. attorney, who along with others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was private. 'The overwhelming majority of the comments were about the controversy and how people are still not happy in the way things were going.'" What we do not know is why, precisely, the President continues to have his flaks say that the Attorney General is "very strong" despite the overwhelming weight of evidence to the contrary. Gonzales' tenure at Justice has even made a hero out of his predecessor, John Ashcroft, and you could have gotten long odds two years ago for that proposition.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, two tepid pols went positively Shakespeare on the Gonzales mess as the week drew to an end. The Rocky Mountain News reported Saturday in a page-two story story that Democratic Senator Ken Salazar declared that "with a heavy heart" (heavy with what? He should be furious with Gonzales for blowing it) he had personally called upon the Attorney General to resign. If Salazar was Harry V, then Republican Senator Wayne Allard went Hamlet on the world by letting us know that he is now weighing whether to himself call upon the Attorney General to leave. Weighing what? The case for Gonzales' departure is painfully clear. The case for Gonzales' continuing perch as Attorney General is not apparant.

So I would to hear from Sen. Allard or the President precisely why they believe that Gonzales is a "strong" Attorney General (heaven help us if we ever get a "weak" one). I would like to hear from Sen. Allard and the President why they believe that Gonzales' conduct during the Comey-Ashcroft-NSA affair was conduct becoming a high-ranking government official. I would like to hear from those men why they believe that an Attorney General with a pattern-- a habit-- of failing to lead deserves to be able to continue to hold a leadership position. I would like to hear more than empty platitudes. Because just saying that the guy is doing a good job when he obviously isn't is truly a "political stunt."

By Andrew Cohen |  May 19, 2007; 10:14 AM ET agag
Previous: No Confidence in His Competence | Next: Gonzo Just a Memory by Memorial Day?


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The mother of all political stunts was naming this subpar human as AG in the first place.

Posted by: Jim Tewes | May 20, 2007 09:31 AM

The mother of all political stunts was naming this subpar human as AG in the first place.

Posted by: Jim Tewes | May 20, 2007 09:31 AM

Essentially all of the discussions regarding Gonzales truly miss the point. Of course Bush won't demand that he resign...he has performed exactly as directed....Yes, he needs to go...but more importantly, it is way past time to hold the people who directed his actions fully accountable.

Posted by: Phil craine | May 20, 2007 09:39 AM

Just get on with it already! Hold the vote of no confidence, which he'll lose, unless he resigns before the vote. After he loses, give him a week to resign then start the goddamn impeachment proceedings!

Ashcroft from his hospital bed: "I was hoping the President would send me a (C)ard, but I had no idea THIS is what he had in mind."

Posted by: Armin Tamzarian | May 20, 2007 10:16 AM

If he can be impeached he needs to be sent packing immediately -- at the very least, it should be done for the sake of the position's future inhabitants -- Congress needs to state clearly that such behavior will never be tolerated by Congress even if it is tolerated by the White House.

Posted by: JM Parras | May 20, 2007 10:19 AM

Bush calling anything a political stunt would be funny if his entire tenure as President was a political stunt. We are still culling through all his statements for truth, the elusive thing that Cheney/Rove/Bush could care less about. Rove stunts are all trhis President has done since day 1.
What is astounding is that none of these criminals has been brought up on Impeachment charges. It mirrors the Iraq war, no matter how much proven reality is shown. nothing will happen in either case, getting out of Iraq or impeaching the criminal trio mentioned above. What will it take, a tape of Bush in the White House admitting crimes? Undisputed proof that this Evil Trio planned all the lies?

Posted by: Joseph Herpers | May 20, 2007 11:35 AM

How is DOJ going to function w/ this cloud hanging? To avoid appearances of partisanship or being subservient to WH, they will have to second-guess themselves in any cases that may tie to corruption in Congress, WH, state offices, DNC, RNC, businesses who have ties to DNC/RNC, lobbyists... GWB has continued his excellent track record of destroying federal offices. From NSA, DOJ, CIA, State, Defense, EPA, FEMA ... Maybe that's his way to resolving state/federal conflicts by gutting federal.

Posted by: Roger Y | May 20, 2007 11:37 AM

What happened to the federal investigation of Senator Menendez (D-NJ). After the election, the investigation was no longer useful and the U.S. Attorney from New Jersey came off the firing list.

I will be skeptical of all charges brought by any U.S. Attorney in the future. All 93 of them (with the possible exception of Patrick Fitzgerald) are 'loyal Bushies'.

Posted by: carollt | May 20, 2007 11:53 AM

Knowing how W speaks truthfully and yet disingenuously his statement that Gonzo is a "very strong AG" more than likely means Gonzo can bench press his own weight and that's about all.

Posted by: Katman | May 20, 2007 12:01 PM

Let me save everyone months of speculation: Bush is sticking by Gonzales for the same reason he claims that Iraq is going great and victory is just around the corner: because to say anything else would be an admission of fallibility and Bush would incinerate the world before he would admit the smallest mistake. But hey, that's "character," right?

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 20, 2007 12:42 PM

Let me save everyone months of speculation: Bush is sticking by Gonzales for the same reason he claims that Iraq is going great and victory is just around the corner: because to say anything else would be an admission of fallibility and Bush would incinerate the world before he would admit the smallest mistake. But hey, that's character, right?

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 20, 2007 12:44 PM

Who can blame Mr. Bush for not wanting to appoint an attorney general who actually believes in the Constitution? He and Mr. Rove and others have planned for years to infiltrate this and other departments with loyalists who will propagate their ideology indefinitely into the future.

Posted by: frodot | May 20, 2007 12:55 PM

I say it again: the only person more hapless than the Attorney General of the United States is the man that appointed him, the President of the United States. How Al Gore can wake up every morning and not want to shoot himself for the agony that his loss has inflicted on this country is beyond me. The day Richard Nixon was elected, I cried for three days; but this crowd makes him and his administration look like FDR and the New Deal. What a pathetic state of affairs. Jimmy Carter was right; this is the worst administration in history.

Posted by: Mike | May 20, 2007 01:20 PM

The real question for the timeframe is when is the next Congressional recess? A recess appointment gets Bush a new AG for the rest of the term without having to go through a confirmation hearing, which is probably the main thing keeping Gonzo in office right now...

(Kinda ironic, too, since the worst part of the whole USA scandal was the idea of pushing through replacements without confirmation hearings in the first place)

Posted by: Michael | May 20, 2007 02:22 PM

Gonzales, Rove, Goodling, Sampson, and others have brought a stain on the DOJ that touches everyone there. It seems that USA Steven Biskupic in Wiscosin is dirty. How many others kept their jobs by abusing their power for partisan ends? We just don't know.

Posted by: Andrew Yeckel | May 20, 2007 02:43 PM

What is notable about the convocation of U.S. attorneys, many of whom scorched Gonzo last week, is the fact that some of them reportedly tried to minimize the problem.

These presumably "loyal Bushies" must be the one who lined up behind Gonzo in matching kneepads to display their abject fealty to our Republican failure in the White House.

Posted by: mikeasr | May 20, 2007 03:14 PM

Armin Tamzarian--

You wrote:
"Ashcroft from his hospital bed: 'I was hoping the President would send me a (C)ard, but I had no idea THIS is what he had in mind.'"
Now THAT is funny!

Posted by: nat | May 20, 2007 03:26 PM

We are witnessing the meltdown of the most corrupt administration in U.S. history.

Bush defends Gonzales with empty rhetoric, the same empty rhetoric that he has been using for the past six years to attempt to distract us from his deception and incompetence.

Bush will not fire Alberto, because the Bush Administration has never been dedicated to competence and doing what is in the best interest of our nation. This is an administration founded on cronyism and narrow self interest. JFK said "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Dick Cheney says "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for ME!"

Fortunately, our founders envisioned a day when the republic would be hijacked by a corrupt cabal and they provided us with a remedy to save it. It's time that we use it. If not now, when?


Posted by: War4Sale | May 20, 2007 04:01 PM

Gonzales is very strong.

As long as the president is holding his hand and congress does not impeach. our beloved attorney gerneral is untouchable.

I believe that is what bush was referring to.

Posted by: strongman | May 20, 2007 04:11 PM

So, is calling the Gonzales a "stong AG" the same as saying "heckva job Brownie?"

Posted by: Dean | May 20, 2007 04:32 PM

Gonzo did get into Harvard Law School, which is hard without affirmative action for a poor Texas Hispanic kid, but getting out with a law degree is easy. As for his Texas Supreme Court tenure of two years, it was an honorary appointment as W's lackey. His other significant achievement is his partnership at Vinson & Elkins, best known for their most famous client Enron. What a buffoon this little fellow with a squaeky voice is!

Posted by: JTSpangler | May 20, 2007 05:05 PM

The "no confidence" vote is a BAD idea. Ours is not a parliamentary system, and should not be pushed toward one. There is too much potential for mischief in it.

No, the Congress needs to get some guts and impeach the AG. That's how our system is supposed to work.

Posted by: Jake | May 20, 2007 06:03 PM

The irony here is that the poster boy for cronyism, incompetence, and undeserved loyalty, former FEMA administrator Michael Brown, turns out to have been at least engaged in his job if over his head, hardly the buffoon we were told. But Brown is stellar compared to Gonzales, who between what he delegated and what he forgot seems to have no idea what his job description is .. just some hasty generalizations about catching sexual predators an' terrorists. Dickens couldn't write this .. Kafka couldn't write this.

Posted by: Chris Fox | May 20, 2007 06:06 PM

I suspect that insulting, humiliating and denigrating the honorable prosecutors in the US Justice Department: those who have been trained and have shown gifts at unraveling criminal conspiracies-- will prove to be a terrible tactic.

Time to bring this enterprise down. It might be the most important prosecution ever.

Posted by: wrb | May 20, 2007 08:04 PM

"The 'no confidence' vote is a BAD idea. Ours is not a parliamentary system, and should not be pushed toward one. There is too much potential for mischief in it.

No, the Congress needs to get some guts and impeach the AG. That's how our system is supposed to work."

But, it's very difficult for Senators to vote in favor of confidence in Gonzo at this point, while it would be easy to vote for acquittal as actual lawbreaking hasn't been fully proven yet ,at least not in the public eye. Get them to vote for no confidence now, and if he doesn't take the hint and resign, when a smoking gun does emerge in the coming weeks those senators who have voted 'no confidence' already will be hard pressed to vote to acquit at that point.

Posted by: Michael | May 20, 2007 09:02 PM

Michael wrote: "it would be easy to vote for acquittal as actual lawbreaking hasn't been fully proven yet ,at least not in the public eye".

Impeachment does not require actual lawbreaking, but that's not the point. The point against "no confidence" is that it IS too easy -- the bar for this sort of thing needs to be set quite high.

We cannot have Congressional "no confidence" votes going on every time the WH and the Congress are controlled by different parties. Too destructive.

Posted by: Jake | May 20, 2007 09:23 PM

That would be true if it were anything more than symbolic, which is all it is at this point (it's not even Censure, for crying out loud). True, Impeachment does not require actual lawbreaking (as we found out in the 90s) but it is at least in theory supposed to be about lawbreaking, which is why so many Dems back then could hide behind a vote to acquit even while they derided Clinton's conduct. If they're already on the record disapproving of his conduct, and then actual evidence is put on the table, it's pretty hard for them to then vote to acquit. I also am pretty sure that such a move would be declared a partisan stunt if it ended in a party line vote, which is why I don't think this will set a precedent to occur all the time. There will be at least 5 Republicans voting in favor of such a resolution, and I bet at least ten or so will abstain. There's not many left who will put their neck on the line in defense of Gonzo, and Bush is only doing so because he doesn't percieve his neck as being on the line.

Posted by: Michael | May 20, 2007 10:36 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Gonzales Bush's personal lawyer before Bush appointed him to the Texas supreme Court? If so, Gonzales must have detailed knowledge of any legal and ethical lapses committed by Bush over a period of years. That's reason enough for Bush to protect Gonzales at all costs. If Gonzales ever turns against his benefactor, look for some REAL fireworks!

Posted by: PKC | May 20, 2007 10:57 PM

In interpreting BushSpeak, it helps to remember that Bush considers himself a "strong leader," and it is in that sense that he considers the feckless Gonzales also "a strong leader." It was in the same vein that Vice President Cheney told us that Donald Rumsfeld was "the greatest secretary of defense in history," just as Cheney considered himself the greatest vice president in history. The men in charge of our government consider it a sign of "strength" and "leadership" to persist in failed policies in the face of widespread rejection of those policies by the rest of the world. The more the world tells them they are wrong, the more they believe they are right. Some people see the source of Bush's intransigence in his perceived special relationship with God, the 'other Father' who OK'd the invasion and occupation of Iraq that had been earlier eschewed by his biological father. When one has a special pipeline to an approving God, of course, one needn't pay much attention to the rest of us who are, if not exactly diabolical, are at least benighted. With this kind of a mindset, Bush will become even a 'stronger' leader as his approval ratings sink from 28% to 18% or to 8%, and the more Gonzales is reviled and disrespected by his subordinates in the Department of Justice and in the broader society, the stronger a "leader" Gonzales will be as he drops trou and moons the DOJ, the Congress, and everyone else.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | May 21, 2007 08:58 AM

"I suspect that insulting, humiliating and denigrating the honorable prosecutors in the US Justice Department: those who have been trained and have shown gifts at unraveling criminal conspiracies"--

uh, WRB, 'fraid I'll have to disagree with you there on THAT statement: Federal prosecutors have had NO supervision for so long, working under US Attorneys who are so overly-politicized, that many of them, (and in some US Attorneys'Offices in particularl) the "honorable" prosecutors you speak of conduct themselves little better than street thugs.

Yes, that's right, that's what I said-federal prosecutors conducting themselves like street thugs.

Exhibit A would be the prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia-McNulty's and Comey's former stomping grounds (smile)

Let's just say that DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) keeps itself REAL busy these days! (quite apart from investigating the US Attorney firings, btw!)

But wait until Monica Goodling testifies on Wednesday, I'm sure she's going to have a LOT to say, that will be of great interest to everyone! (grin)

Posted by: | May 21, 2007 10:16 AM

"what we do not know is why the President is having ...say the Attorney General is 'very strong'" from Andrew:

The president's response in this context should reveal BEYOND DOUBT a fundamental, perhaps, governing characteristic of the president:
Whatever the evidence, one always can hold onto their image, delusions, faith.

He likely also believes that by stating the label he ACTUALLY CONTROLS what others think (remember Powell's incentive to him of one who knew him well when pitching the Iraq war: "You will be the proud owner of 25 million people, of all their hopes and aspirations. You'll own it all" or "I am the decider" or "I'm keeping you safe")
Yet his statements are otherwise given credence and taken seriously, and remains in office making momentous decisions.

Posted by: Alf | May 21, 2007 11:57 AM

Note that the president didn't, despite the evidence and situation, even say something like "we support him", as poor as that would be, or "are disappointed". He says (or is one bizarrely to believe that somehow the president's spokespeople aren't speaking for him?!)the AG is ... "VERY STRONG"! That should open anyone's eyes which haven't been so previously.

Carter,in talking about GWB's foreign policy saying that he "is the worst president in history", is sharply chastised by the WH (to the point where he feels the need to say his wording may have been "careless")for making a "personal attack". Who in GWB's body is the one with the responsibility for his decisions? Some other self? an abduction by a bodysnatcher? He certainly has no identity problem taking credit in his own person.

And,yes, "irrelevant". Not that a former president's statements are false, but in making them he becomes "irrelevant" (and well known that Ford privately said the same thing as Carter, but didn't want it to be known before his death). Revealing and yet more confirmation of our criteria of government now.

Posted by: Mort | May 21, 2007 12:34 PM

Katman, I didn't think of that. The admin is quite capable of that, knowing fully that wasn't the question.

Posted by: Ebe | May 21, 2007 12:37 PM

I'm wondering if it is the prevailing Democrat idea is to softpedal this affair so as not perceivedly to turn off voters, and "just wait till the election". If so, what really is a turn-off is that kind of insincere and paternalistic (towards the public)calculatingness apparently absent of the courage of valid principles, which places its hope in a hoped for all-resolving final result (of which attitude there has been much evidence before) , and may in the end be ineffective as well.

If something important is wrong now, and is factually confirmed, REDRESS IT NOW, on principle alone, at the very least, for its own sake. If attention to a clear reality is deliberately averted on one thing, then it may well also be on something else important when it especially matters , and many (rightly so)deep down don't trust such equivocation even though for the time being, it is on their side.

Posted by: Abe | May 21, 2007 01:00 PM

Of course to verify, Armin, that statement fromm Ashcroft regarding a card, wasn't a real quote ( I actually searched for it!), but something funny you made up, right?

Posted by: John | May 21, 2007 01:09 PM

When one acts first, and "takes responsibility" as an empty posture after without anything otherwise changing after (or at best, and insultingly I think, paid), what do the inevitable mistakes (if we are lucky enough to even have them, when not covered up, come to the surface in time) even mean? If all is assumed empirical and only verifiable in action after, why even think reasonably and have any material basis before "deciding"?

Just visualize, mechanically plan, get allies for your cause(can always get them for any side, they are your "friends" now), and "just do it"/go for it! Not to mention the myriad techniques "to sell"/disguise to the public anything one feels like visualizing. Ah, America!

Posted by: Franklin | May 21, 2007 01:26 PM

I can attest that getting into and through HLS of itself hasn't meant much for quite a while (and GWB of course has a degree from HBS). Frankly the intellectual and moral decadence which is nationally now quite conspicuous I am convinced can be traced to the prostitution and decline of the education system at various levels. But that's another subject, and not something many wish to believe.

Posted by: Edward | May 21, 2007 01:35 PM

To JT: I'd rather not asperse AG's capability, wherever that may be (besides many of their persuasion believe that training makes the person, that anyone can be trained for anything and dressed for the "role"). Kerry in 2004 criticized Bush for mismanagement and incompetence. But I don't think that venal competence would be anything to acclaim, just as long as it didn't make any mistakes, and always won.

Flagrant violations are the innate consequence of deeper-set warped attitudes(which one isn't able to smokescreen 100% of the time)we should be grateful even emerge at all, as there are so many ways in the accepted technocracy today to disguise/justify any mistakes that do see the light of day(indeed there seem to be whole belief/behavioral systems apparently set up to do just that, even to oneself).

I'd prefer, rather than a super"functional" technocracy, an administration which acted with good faith, and honestly investigated and redressed its mistakes (inevitable as no one has perfect knowledge of the future,but which would in fact be relatively minor ones of circumstance or execution, not conception, because the decisions would be honestly considered from what information was available), rather than being anxious to dominate (perhaps as a reflection/hope as a symbol of self-worth/importance).

Posted by: Gabe | May 21, 2007 02:04 PM

The longer this goes on, the fewer voters will support any republican for office, the more energized the non-radical right will be, the less energized the radical christians will be and the longer the republicans will be in political exile. It sure will be hard to defend a 100% supported GW record. It will take decades to fix their mess.

Posted by: thebob.bob | May 21, 2007 11:47 PM

Just for clarity, I have no problem at all with doubt of qualifications, but rather with the emphasis on "competence" as an good in itself. This emphasis could then justify a winning, "competent" but unethical regime. (e.g. the Democrat big mistake with emphasizing GW's ineffectiveness in protecting against "terror", or foreseeing 9/11, which he in fact explicity used to justify "necessary measures" so that he wouldn't be criticized-he actually said this was a primary reason!)

Posted by: Gabe | May 24, 2007 04:15 PM

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