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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