Friday, March 16, 2007

The Curious Case of Alberto Gonzales’ Credentials

A  couple of interesting commentaries have surfaced lately, since Gonzales was caught flat-footed in the middle of the fired U.S. Attorneys controversy. One of them is by CBS News legal analyst, Andrew Cohen, another by James Moore, co-author of Bush’s Brain.

Bushgonzales It rather seems he doesn’t have any. Unless, of course, you include presidential friendship a credential.
All the more amazing, it seems Alberto was briefly considered by Bush (in the same incredible talent pool with Harriet Miers) for the Supreme Court. Although he has never tried a case and appears to be way out of his depth on constitutional matters, Bush’s Attorney General actually served under a Bush appointment, on the Texas Supreme Court.
But almost anything is possible in Texas.
No photo that I can find shows Bush in the saddle, as he is no horseman. A 'rancher' who can't ride. But he gallops a crony-pony up and down the corridors of the executive branch of government. (If you prefer the biking metaphor, he’s appointed a hoard of three-speed talents to ten-speed positions). That’s the main reason the man is so fearless; White House personnel depend, including the far-flung agencies under the executive, upon his whim. All of them dependent, all fiercely loyal. including Alberto Gonzales.
A  couple of interesting commentaries have surfaced lately, since Gonzales was caught flat-footed in the middle of the fired U.S. Attorneys controversy. One of them is by CBS News legal analyst, Andrew Cohen, another by James Moore, co-author of Bush’s Brain. In the first instance, Cohen argues that
Gonzales was brought into the President's cabinet amid oft-stated concerns that he was a mere crony and "facilitator" for the President, and with a controversial record as White House counsel and counsel to then-Texas Governor Bush…
...In fact, whether it is the legal war on terrorism or garden-variety issues of crime and punishment, it is hard to identify a single area of unchallenged success…
...Gonzales' failures aren't just on substantive matters. He has continued to fail, some legal scholars say, to break free from the widespread and long-held perception that he is so beholden to the President, on both a personal and professional level, that he is cannot exercise the independent judgment necessary to properly fulfill his duties at the Justice Department.
The unavoidable conclusion of that indictment is that Alberto hovers at the other end of Karl Rove’s phone, taking direction as required.
Eliotrichardson Attorney Generals are traditionally presidential appointments, but they are charged, first and always with enforcing the laws of the land and that includes advising their president when he is legally able and when unable to act. Richard Nixon suffered the honorable resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and (following that) Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus when they refused to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation.
James Moore, appearing on Keith Obermann’s MSNBC Countdown, said
'I mean, we‘re talking about a guy who sort of suffers from the heartbreak of ineffectuality.  He didn‘t really exist until he hooked up with Bush.
'And the thing you have to understand about this relationship is, George Bush moved in a world where he wasn‘t really exposed to ethnic minorities.  And so he was always reaching out to develop these relationships.  And this one, for Al Gonzales, turned out to be a relationship of utility as well.  He was an average individual who saw a chance to hook up with somebody who was going somewhere.
'And he ultimately became George W. Bush‘s legal houseboy and followed him all the way to Washington by doing the things that he knew George Bush wanted done.  The problem is that along the way, he turned the law into something political, which is precisely what it‘s not supposed to be.''
Gonzales1 Whether or not legal houseboy is a little harsh, Gonzales has an almost unblemished record of giving his president flawed legal advice, including
  • Failing to adequately insulate his attorneys from political pressure (ultimately firings) from the White House and Congress.
  • Vigorously defending the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program in violation of both the Constitution and federal statutory law. A federal trial judge last August formally declared the program unconstitutional.
  • Refusing to share with Congress the details of the president’s deal with the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to allow a measure of supervision over the illegal program. Refusing to share with Congress!
  • The Justice Department's flawed prosecution of alleged terrorists, because basic  evidence was so compromised and pressure for conviction such a priority for the   embattled White House, became a comedy of error and failed convictions.
  • Gonzales was the principal architect (without denial) for development within the White House and Pentagon of the egregious disregard of the Geneva Convention and torture of anyone the government chose to accuse of terrorism.
  • The insertion in last year’s reauthorization of the USA Patriots Act of a single sentence, giving the president the right to replace any U.S. attorney without Senate confirmation.
And with that, the ship has run aground.
Moore, responding to Obermann’s question about the Gonzales legal reputation
"I don‘t think he had a reputation until he hooked up with George W. Bush.  And then, he grew it into something.  And if you look at a lot of the things he did, such as on the death penalty in Texas, where we executed, in Bush‘s administration, I think, 150-some people, we executed the first woman since the Civil War during Bush‘s terms.
"And what happened was that essentially Mr. Gonzales knew that the governor was going to run for president on a conservative—an appeal to conservative fundamental principals, and the death penalty was one of them.  So he constantly wrote the memos that supported those kinds of things.
"And then, when you see what‘s happening now, I can assure you that this whole scheme to get rid of these AGs, when Karl Rove came up with it, and he thought, Look, I can get rid of the people who are attacking Republicans with their investigations, and in the process, I can also lard the bench for the future.  I can put these people in positions where they will be ready to be appointments to the next Republican administration.  They‘ve all probably been vetted and asked the important questions about Roe v. Wade and gay marriage. 
Gonzales is the perfect guy for Karl to go to and say, Here‘s the plan, let‘s find a way to work it out.  And he would, because he has that kind of loyalty to Bush.
Those loyalties may come to grief in a newly Democratic controlled Congress.
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