Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bush's Muddy Mess

Yesterday, President Bush mourned the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales, charging that Gonzales's... "good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons." (WaPo)

So, let's review why it was past time for Gonzales to go.

"There have been no verified civil liberties abuses in the four years of the act's existence." December 15, 2005, op-ed piece by Gonzales, urging Congress to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act.

FACT: Internal FBI documents show that Gonzales had been informed of at least a half-dozen instances of legal or procedural violations of the Patriot Act. In May 2007, Gonzales's former deputy, James B. Comey, disclosed that he and several colleagues had concluded that the program was so illegal that he and other officials at Justice and the FBI were ready to resign unless it was altered.

"There has not been any serious disagreement, including -- and I think this is accurate -- there's not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed." Gonzales, February 6, 2006, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency.

FACT: There was a nighttime showdown over the program in March 2004 in the hospital room of then Attorney General Ashcroft.... Gonzales, as White House counsel, tried to get an ill and "barely articulate" Ashcroft to certify that the program was legal.

"We never had any intent to ask anything of him if we did not feel that he was competent." Gonzales, July 24, 2007, Senate testimony about the visit to Ashcroft's hospital room.

"I have not been involved, was not involved in the deliberations over whether or not U.S. attorneys should resign." Gonzales, March 26, 2007, interview on "NBC" Nightly News.

FACT: Three days later, Gonzales's former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, testified that he had conferred with Gonzales at least five times about the plan to remove federal prosecutors and that Gonzales had attended the final meeting on the topic.

"I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation and department investigations." Gonzales, April 19, 2007, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the U.S. attorney dismissals.

FACT: Gonzales's former senior counselor, Monica Goodling, testified before Congress that in early April, Gonzales ..."laid out for me his general recollection" of the "process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys... and then he asked me if he thought - if I had any reaction to his iteration.... I did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what happened...."

"I don't recall - I don't recall exactly when the decision - I made the decision." Gonzales, April 19 Senate Judiciary hearing on the firings, at which Gonzales said nearly 70 times that he did not know, could not recall or was unsure about various information.

So...although Gonzales repeatedly insisted.... 70 times.... that he could not recall key events in the prosecutor dismissals including a meeting he held with Bush and adviser Karl Rove..... and, although Gonzales testified that there were no internal Justice Department disagreements over a domestic surveillance program, even though top Justice and FBI officials had judged it illegal and threatened to resign unless it was altered.... it was all just dirty politics according to Bush.

Even the conservative National Review in March said of Gonzales, "We have never seen evidence that he has a fine legal mind, good judgment, or managerial ability.... Nor has his conduct at any stage of this controversy gained our confidence." (WaPo)

Gonzales legacy will be that he lied before Congress, interpreted the law to match his boss's political wishes and the White House perception that the Constitution gives the president much more authority than Congress or the judiciary.

He contended that international treaties like the spurned Geneva Convention are subject to "situational" adherence, and signed off on harsh treatment of U.S. detainees. He crafted legal memos that allowed for torture and authorized military tribunals that the Supreme Court later ruled weren't legally authorized, and defended transfers of detainees to harsh interrogation nations.

And, lest we forget, it was Gonzales's U.S. attorney who prosecuted and imprisoned two border agents trying to apprehend a drug runner from Mexico.... giving the drug smuggler immunity to testify against the agents.

A perversion of justice Bush refuses to overturn, although he commuted the sentence of VP Cheney's chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby even before Libby had served a day of his sentence for what passes at the White House as business as usual.... perjury and obstruction of justice.

Gonzales excuses lawbreaking and violent Latino gang members as "individuals who have run into a spell of tough luck," and approved immigration reform legislation that included putting them on the fast track to citizenship on their word that they had renounced gang activity.

While our president mourns the loss of his legal political enabler Gonzales.... we mourn that Bush's Justice Department, the safeguards of our Constitution and the rule of law lay broken at his feet.... trampled into the mud by the actions of his own administration.

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