The Price of Blind Loyalty

For months now we've talked about how the scandal at the Justice Department would have a terrible impact upon the government's ability to adequately and accurately enforce and ensure the rule of law. Now we are beginning to see precisely how this is happening. No longer can anyone claim that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' lack of leadership and candor hasn't hurt his troops "on the ground" -- in the federal courts.

In this morning's Los Angeles Times, Richard Schmitt tells us: "Defense lawyers in a growing number of cases are raising questions about the motives of government lawyers who have brought charges against their clients. In court papers, they are citing the furor over the U.S. attorney dismissals as evidence that their cases may have been infected by politics. Justice officials say those concerns are unfounded and constitute desperate measures by desperate defendants. But the affair has given defendants and their lawyers some new energy, which is complicating life for the prosecutors."

Yesterday, in the Washington Post, came the news about "vacancy problems" at the Justice Department caused in part by the scandal and also by the White House's reaction to it. And in the Sunday New York Times came the thumbsucker piece about how the subpoenas issued last week to former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political director Sara Taylor are going to cause a legal showdown over executive privilege.

Were these problems and confrontations avoidable? Absolutely.A strong and independent attorney general never would have let such partisanship seep into the Justice Department from the White House; never would have given creative defense attorneys another argument to make in court against the government. (And the fact that some of these arguments will never succeed is beside the point; that federal prosecutors now have to defend themselves and their political motives drains time and energy and resources away from legitimate business.)

Nor would a competent head of the Justice Department have allowed the scandal to mushroom into what it has become today. By failing to give complete and candid answers to the Congress, the attorney general and several of his former colleagues all but guaranteed the looming battle over executive privilege. Someone, after all, came up with and approved and coordinated the compilation of that list of U.S. attorneys who were to be professionally whacked -- and the fact that we still don't know the full story about that is not the fault of Democrats, or the media or anyone other than those in the administration who know the truth but who refuse to tell it. They are the ones who have picked the subpoena fight to come.

And at the bottom of it all-- or at the top of it all, depending upon your view -- is the president of the United States. His failure to fire his buddy Gonzales, and his failure to demand (sincerely and not just for the cameras) that all of his subordinates cooperate with the investigation, has brought us to this unhappy place, where smart lawyers don't want to work at the Justice Department, current prosecutors have to defend their political persuasions in court, and the judicial system has to now gear up for a constitutional showdown that long ago could have been avoided. All of this is the price all of us are paying for one man's blind loyalty to another.

By Andrew Cohen |  June 18, 2007; 8:13 AM ET agag
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Can someone explain to me the term "thumbsucker piece" used in the third paragraph?

Posted by: Fred P. | June 18, 2007 10:43 AM

A "thumbsucker piece" is an article in a newspaper or magazine that contains no real news on the story but is rather a "rumination" on the various issues the story raises.

Posted by: explainer | June 18, 2007 11:42 AM

It's not just the fired US Attorneys problem-it's far more endemic than that: it's the problem with the "thug" career prosecutors-esp. those over at "thug central" the US Atty's Office, Alexandria, VA, -those prosecutors who mislead a jury and judges as easily as they blink their eyes, there's no effort in it, and no one is doing anything about it, least of all the judges, who should be holding these prosecutors accountable.

You see, when there's no one minding the store at DOJ, when everyone is afraid to do the right thing because it might bring further adverse publicity to the Department, (and when I say "everyone" I do mean EVERYONE, both OPR, AND the DOJ-IG), to investigate, sanction and discipline federal prosecutors for fear of the backlash it will cause, then, you have a problem.

And Houston, we DO have a problem, and it IS over at the USAO EDVA.

Michael Elston, Paul McNulty's Chief of Staff, who just resigned because he was "strong-arming" fired US Attorneys into being "silent?" This is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of what I mean. Elston, of course, did come from the EDVA, he followed the liar and concealer of information Paul McNulty to Main DOJ.

Chuck Rosenberg's syndicate (the USAO EDVA, I mean!) is sparing NO measure to go on the offense, but we'll see what else comes out in the dirty laundry over there! (smile)

I do believe the great concealer, the DAG, Paul McNulty, is, once again, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today-I hope they nail his ass.

Welcome to "thug life" DOJ style.

Posted by: | June 18, 2007 12:24 PM

The Alberto Gonzales saga alone should lower George Bush's approval rating to zero (who ARE these people who still support Bush?). The resources that Bush has employed to keep the principals in this issue from testifying (recently adding NINE attorneys), affirms that something truly sinister is afoot. Bush has no loyalty to Gonzales or anyone else; Gonzales remains because he and Bush are inextricably linked in their illegal activity. I appreciate that Andrew Cohen keeps us on top this story.

Posted by: Gardenia | June 18, 2007 12:28 PM

Gardenia is most certainly correct: Bush has no loyalty to Gonzales or anyone else. They are simply inextricably linked because of their complicity in so much nastiness. Their 'loyalty' to each other is the loyalty of scorpions locked in a deadly embrace. Whoever lets go first sets himself up for a deadly zap from the other. I suspect that nothing would please Fredo more right now than to get as far away from Washington and the White House as possible but his 'friend' Bush and his 'friends' Cheney and Rove won't set Fredo free. He's got to continue to occupy the AG's office as long as possible, ideally till the end of the term, to avoid (a) the wholly unacceptable costs of a confirmation fight over a successor, and (2) the legal and political risks of an honorable AG at Justice. Some 'loyalty.'

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | June 18, 2007 01:35 PM

Iglesias reported after his phone call that he felt Elston was "prepared to threaten him further" if he did not agree to keep his mouth shut. What a pity the phone call ended at that point, we will never know if Elston was going to threaten Iglesias with the abduction of his children or the murder of his wife. Would anyone be suprised?

Posted by: Chris Fox | June 18, 2007 01:40 PM

Gardenia poses: "who ARE these people who still support Bush?"
Pretty easy question if you've spent a lot of time on political message boards. The remaining Bush supporters are the ones who harbor hatred for imagined enemies; they hate caricatures of liberals who they see as elitist bluenoses. They don't care how much damage does to the nation or the world as long as liberals are outraged. A Bush supporter is a reflexive liar and is someone for whom fact and opinion are indistinguishable. In any rational society they would have no political influence but here in America we have some great egalitarian ideals that have failed in implementation.

Posted by: Chris Fox | June 18, 2007 01:55 PM

Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for a concise explanation of what is at stake in the crisis at the Justice Department. Let the unraveling continue!

Posted by: H5N1 | June 18, 2007 02:09 PM

Do not forget to add the Civil Rights Division being turned into the Religious Rights Division, without Congresional oversight or approval. This is another example of how the president Sees the DOJ as his own legal aid society.

Add Voting Rights as well and you have a trifecta.

Not Justice for All Just Us!

Posted by: Patrick | June 18, 2007 02:29 PM

Can someone tell me what "rumination" means?

Mr Cohen, you are probably right. And, the DOJ deserves all the grief it can get for Gonzo's mismanagement. If defendants want to claim prosecutorial political bias as a defense, then so be it! Gonzo and his gang of legal misfit brought this upon themselves so I feel no pity for them as their subordinates defend their motives.

We all know DOJ needs as much light shined on it as possible right now.

Posted by: Frank | June 18, 2007 02:30 PM

George and Laura Bush are the purveyers of an unprecedented nightmare of emotional distress and disgust at home and around the world. Forget Fraudo Gonz and the rest of the Republican Administration in Washington and concentrate on the reasons why they are what they are, George and Laura Bush. Write, Write, Write directly to George and Laura Bush individually at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave Washington D.C. 20500. Flood the The White House lawns with your letters, cards and toilet paper and other non-violent missives. Garbage would be good. It would act as an air freshener against the stench emanating from George and Laura Bush.

Posted by: russell | June 18, 2007 02:32 PM

Chris: Answer? No. Not at all. And I mean that most sincerely.

Posted by: chiaramente | June 18, 2007 02:34 PM

Blind Loyalty? Ha.

Bush will never fire Gonzales. We now know that his very appointment of Gonzales as Attorney General was an enormous act of chutspah and a gigantic "*# you to Ashcroft, the rule of law and to the American people.

Remember, Gonzales had got sent on that hightly improper visit to Ashcroft's hospital room on March 10, 2004, to request that Ashcroft reconsider the refusal of Acting Attorney General James Comey to reauthorize the secret surveillance progra. Ashcroft refused to reauthorize the program and indicated that the acting Attorney General Comey was the person to whom Gonzales and Card should direct their request. If Bush did not send Gonzeles to that hospital room, he certainly knew that he went. As many as 30 Department of Justice senior staff were prepared to resign immediately, protesting both the underhanded effort to go around acting A.G. Comey to get the program re-authorized, and also in protest of the Bush Administration's effort to continue the warrantless search program without change.

So who does Bush appoint when Ashcroft resigns in Nov 2004? Gonzales. It is crystal clear from that appointment, just how far Bush is willing to go.

Posted by: | June 18, 2007 02:40 PM

Perhaps that NYT article should be labeled as a sucker of something other than a "thumb..."

And even though defence attorneys might argue that the DOJ is biased, in so many cases, who are they going to be making that argument to? A judge that was appointed by Bush the Second, or First, or Saint Ray-gun, or even Dicky Tricks. How biased is the bench, anyway? Whenever there's a story on a federal legal decision, every judge who's quoted should have an "R" or a "D" behind his name. Let's drop the prtence of neutral "justice."

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | June 18, 2007 03:07 PM

chiaramente: You'll have to connect the dots for me, I'm not a Bush supporter and I'm hung up on things like grammar and logic and "making sense."

Posted by: Chris Fox | June 18, 2007 03:36 PM

The modus operandi of the Bush boys is and always has been: we've got the power and we're going to use it and abuse it because there is nothing you can do to stop us. Bush will exploit every possible power of the presidency to protect his loyal Bushies like Gonzo and Harriet, et al. I doubt Bush and Cheney give a damn about the 2008 elections because, politically, they're done. Cheney will go back to Wyoming to shoot caged quail--and anyone who gets in his way--and Bush will trip on back to Crawford and pretend he's Reagan playing in the underbrush.

Posted by: cody mccall | June 18, 2007 03:44 PM

Cohen seems to imply that defense lawyers are playing the "political" card as a dodge. I will bet that there have been some shady political biased cases coming out of this DOJ. That is one of the sad legacies of this whole debacle.

And to think of all that talk about Associate (or Chief) Supreme Court Justice Gonzo.....

Posted by: WOW | June 18, 2007 04:19 PM

I think you're misleading yourself by talking in terms of "blind loyalty." It's not blind at all, and it's not really loyalty. Bush has not fired Gonzales simply because the Democrats are now in control of the Senate, and any new Attorney General would need to be approved by the Judiciary Committee there. There is no way that is going to happen without opening the door to further investigation of the White House. Bush doesn't want this. The longer Gonzales can hold on, the more limited the investigation will be.
Allowing your enemies to use your friend as a punching bag to keep from getting beat up yourself is not really a sign of loyalty, blind or otherwise.

Posted by: Jon Webb | June 18, 2007 04:23 PM

Mr. Cohen -- I give your musings 5 stars frequently. They are normally enjoyable and insightful BUT this one's off the wall!

Of course we could have avoided the legal showdown over executive priviledge if someone -- hell, anyone -- in the White House had told the truth! How far back do you want to go -- to the Downing Street Memo? the '02 State of the Union Address?

What we're witnessing is predictable when criminals take over the prison or, in this case, the Justice Department!

Legal showdown indeed! IT'S THE COVERUP, STUPID!

Posted by: rdrover | June 18, 2007 04:47 PM

"will bet that there have been some shady political biased cases coming out of this DOJ..."

WOW-oh, you've NO IDEA how true THOSE words are!

Posted by: chiaramente | June 18, 2007 05:02 PM

P.S. Sorry, Chris, your "grammar" and "logic" aren't "making sense" to ME, so I don't know what YOU mean!

Posted by: chiaramente | June 18, 2007 05:05 PM

chiaramente: and yet you see nothing wrong with the Puppydog model of terrorism .. "they'll follow us home." And no I don't expect a Bushevik to get the irony.

Posted by: Chris Fox | June 18, 2007 05:30 PM

Blind faith, like blind nationalism, is a powerful thing. So powerful that, as we've seen, entire nations upheave and impose thier views on others to the point of absurdity. WWI, WWII are both examples that we should have learned that lesson from.

I really wished, really, really wished that this country stood back and took a look at the power of that faith, and whether or not we had the right goals in mind, especially with leadership that is heavily biased by faith of another type - religious faith - to carry out our collective nation's objectives.

Strange how in our western world we chide the countries so heavily influenced by Islam, while we boldly, and commonly go with the faith of Christ into the conflict without so much objection.

I see this "faith" as part of the conflict.
I also see the faith among political allies as a complication that must be SEPARATE from state.

Otherwise, we're no more democratic than our adversaries. We're teetering on a religiously led person's whims, and those, like Gonzales, who would want to ally based upon a common religious faith.

It should give a person a cause to pause and contemplate just how well thought-out any leadership can be when is it heavily influenced by a common religious faith.

I claim that it does not serve the may peoples of the United States effectively.

I don't think that's what the Founding Fathers had in mind.


Posted by: p gibson | June 18, 2007 05:39 PM

Posted by: | June 18, 2007 05:56 PM

re: above link for WOW

Harpers website seems to be having trouble.

you have to go to, scroll down to the bottom, and click on

"U.S. Attorneys Scandal--Birmingham and Montgomery"

on the right

Posted by: | June 18, 2007 06:21 PM

Alberto Gonzales know so many of the Bush Administration's skeletons he will never be fired. No one fears AG more than Bush.

Posted by: feareverything | June 18, 2007 06:34 PM

Uh, Chris, whatever you were saying, I don't "get it" so I guess your grammar and logic is beyond my ken.

I don't think you've been reading my posts very carefully if you are inferring that I am some sort of "Bushie" or WHATEVER you are saying-that is rather comical, indeed!

However, you mustn't make the mistake of thinking that ALL the ills of the DOJ are solely attributable to the White House direction of same-they most assuredly are not- they are due to no one minding the store at DOJ, no strong and unpoliticized leadership, and thus, the political appointees in the Department, as well as the "career prosecutors" are free to run amok-because those hired by the political appointees have no experience in criminal or litigation matters, and are overly politicized to begin with-but it's the top political appointees, Gonzales, McNulty, certain politicized US Attorneys, etc., that are causing the problem-and those mid/lower level appointees/hirings generally do not have that many dealings, if any, with the White House, but are solely "thugging" away for their bosses in the Department and in the US Attorney's offices.

This is about as opposite a Janet Reno led DOJ as you could possibly get.

Posted by: chiaramente | June 18, 2007 06:56 PM

You continue to miss the point, and the story. As a member of the media, it's convenient for you to insist that the media plays no role in the ongoing travesties at Justice, but that's just wrong.

There's been a clear pattern here that is not explained by Gonzo's "incompetence." Gonzales is nothing of the sort; he has perfectly executed the task assigned, which was to prevent Democrats from voting through bogus charges of voter fraud. That hardly strikes me as "incompetent." Incompetence would have been if Rove told Gonzales to disenfranchise blacks and hispanics, and he purged white evangelicals by mistake.

Further, his acquiescence on torture as White House counsel was also consistent with his charge from Cheney et al: find a legal justification to abuse prisoners. He did it. Explain to me how effectively doing what you're told to do constitutes incompetence? And spare me the old-fashioned "shocking!" claims that justice is supposed to be impartial in the US. Do you guys actually live in DC?

If there's any incompetence here, it's in the inability of "thumbsucking" columnists like Andrew Cohen to pursue the obvious story embedded in these events: a White House that has completed a coup and is no longer governed by the Constitution.

Get out from under your desks and go do some reporting. If Sy Hersh and Josh Marshall can do it, so can you.

Posted by: mateosf | June 18, 2007 07:23 PM

Gotta love Harper's, but like I've been saying the IED's are the Bushie judges.

Posted by: | June 18, 2007 08:40 PM

Gosh, now I REALLY am feeling that I miss Nixon and the Good Old Watergate Days.

Ahhh, life seemed so simple then....


Posted by: JoJo | June 18, 2007 11:03 PM

The Justice Department now needs nothing less than a Watergate-style repair; the only question is whether it will begin before the end of 2008, or most belatedly thereafter.

Posted by: G. Hall | June 19, 2007 02:01 AM

Being an 'interested party' allows me the opportunity to comment with some degree of knowledge. You are not only off base, you are out of the park and still trying to play the game. I just hope you sit down 'before' you find out what is really going on.

Posted by: Interested Party | June 19, 2007 12:16 PM

By virtue of being an American citizen who pays taxes, and who has a stake this public trust I too am an "interested party". This scandal won't go away until Team Bush comes clean. Serious issues at stake here that go beyond the 2008 election.

Posted by: JP2 | June 19, 2007 12:39 PM

P gibson: Much agree with most of what you say about the inappropriateness of blind faith/delusion influencing much of the country now, but please don't give this post 1970 abject BS (one sentence I know out of most else valid that you say)about WW1 and WW2 being examples of "nations imposing their views on others". Those wars were about other things entirely (territorial expansion as the primary means of ECONOMIC growth for small countries, for one), nothing whatsoever to do with imposing views.
The current inanity is unprecedented.

Rather than faith I would say the problem is preemptive PARTISANSHIP (covers much of the same area as the "faith" you mention, but some distinctions):CHOOSING A SIDE FIRST (whatever the situation or facts)out of circumstantial affiliations etc (which is, after all, artificial and ex ante), and then putting one's resources in life, actions, abilities behind that SIDE and to that end. This way of acting, and even more importantly, of THINKING is a habit with a lot of people, and in many areas.

The thing though, is that before many people would have had significant reservations; now they are, amazingly, ENCOURAGED to do this, as if doing this gives them some bogus "identity" (even while being indoctrinated that after identity was supposed to be genetically determined, now it is "constructed") and "integrity"/rigidity (likely as a reaction after the nihilistic relativism of the 80's), and also that inhibition/hesitation in anything is the ENEMY, convinced reaction (whatever one's knowledge) whatever the consequences is
to be encouraged.

As I say, this sort of inanity is artifical and wholly unprecedented for good reason (yes, maybe "effective" to some extent, but isn't what democratic society is supposed to be about).

Posted by: Ehud | June 20, 2007 12:10 PM

This stuff about the White House having made a coup is distracting. Yes they act in a delusional, irresponsible, idiotic (as characteristic of much of their peers)way, but they are going to be out in 2008. Let's keep some proximity to reality.

Posted by: Breastlover | June 20, 2007 12:19 PM

Anon 12:24 (and it's obvious who you are, unless you have a clone):

I'd probably believe you, but can't you give more real life instances (and not only your case)rather than declarations of the DOJ's "thuggery", esp. if it is prevalent?

Posted by: Rosco P | June 20, 2007 12:27 PM

This is to the guy that said to mail garbage to the White House....not that its a bad idea, but with so much CRAP coming out of there, why would I want to heap it on? That White House isn't his, its ours!

My thought is, if we make it to 2009....I say keep the mailing of garbage going to King George after the door hits him on the way out. I think he should be tarred, feathered, stoned, and pelted with eggs by everyone LONG after he leaves, lest his little brain forget the travesty of his incompetent administration.

Posted by: Suzanne | June 22, 2007 10:07 AM

if you a criminal, you look at the crooks in the "white" house and you realize that ANYTHING goes and the law is a joke and only bozos let themselves get caught or take any responsibility for ANYTHING!

Oh, at that you never have to be mentally fit or competent in any way to govern.

so the government is a joke and ANYTHING goes.

Thanks george jr., fredo, bullseye dick, turdblossom, harriet, karen, sarah, monica, kkkyle, tony and all you shockingly arrogant "public" servants, we are ashamed of you.

someday, the law may persevere anyway. maybe not. hope you know what you have wrought and that somehow you pay by spending time behind bars.

even that thought brings no comfort, considering how you have skewed the DOJ, justice has no corner there.

Posted by: pre-Amerikkkan | June 22, 2007 08:10 PM

Hey Rosco P, are you A DOJ employee, or just another idiot reporter or blogger looking for information? (smile)

And just exactly what DO you know about "my case" as you put it, huh?

Because if you really knew about "my case" then you'd be reporting on just what "my case" is, wouldn't you? (smile)

And as for the "thuggery" at the DOJ-I'd advise perhaps doing a little READING, that might improve your intelligence, (doubtful, with the exceedingly obtuse, there's just no chance of that!) and maybe, sharpen your perceptions somewhat as to what is in fact going on at DOJ.

Just as ONE example: Chuck Rosenberg's DOJ syndicate can teach the so-called "crime syndicates" out there a thing or two about deceiving and misleading federal judges, while "strong-arming" those whom they want to "silence" which they do in a variety of ways.

But you'd have to be WAY obtuse not to get that right off the bat-oops! already said that! SO sorry for that hit of reality-I know it DOES hurt!

Posted by: | June 23, 2007 01:03 PM

P.S. I'd say idiot blogger, who's not nearly as perceptive, (not to mention well-versed in legal issues) as he thinks himself to be, in which case, that would have to be a Post reporter on politics OR ANDREW COHEN HIMSELF-yeah, think that last one's on the mark!

Posted by: | June 23, 2007 01:38 PM

Anon 1:03 and 1:38 (Chiapet etc..) Your wild fantasies of intentions through the computer screen and defensive false suppositions aside (the thought of Cohen styling himself Rosco Peko is quite hilarious), it was a simple straightforward question.

To any reader of this blog in the last few months it is obvious that you think you have a personal claim against Mcnulty and Chuck Rosenberg, but you repeatedly only throw out allegations as if they are given fact, and not much more than that. I can understand if to do so may overly reveal your identity/ and apparently "case", but otherwise to a bystander you're not giving much else to substantiate (we know about Mcnulty in this Goodling matter, but for your more serious claims of "thuggery"-your word- a third party doesn't have much to go on esp. as I said if it's widespread as you say that means other instances beyound your personal gripe- link to factual articles for instance).

What I wrote (e.g. "I'd probably believe you" since you've posted so many times on this, and under different names)was about as straightforward and unobjectionable as could be. Your ready suppositions and insults are totally unwarranted, look rather paranoid (maybe there is some wya you have cause but you haven't shown this as far as I can see) don't help any support or interest in whatever you repeatedly rant about (Cohen certainly isn't obligated to report on something for you, where you use his blog as the forum for your personal affair, and throw out ill-mannered wild insults in addition!).

I think it's reasonable if you want any further attention to a personal matter rather than frequently throwing out irrelevant rants to give something more substantial.

Posted by: Rosco P | June 28, 2007 11:47 AM

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