By Mary Lyon
These days must be sheer torture for Alberto Gonzales. George Bush’s loyal pug-nosed pet lawyer surely doesn’t like having to answer uncomfortable questions. The Attorney General of the United States doesn’t even answer them when he is “answering” about the extremely fishy-smelling sacking of eight U.S. attorneys. “Mistakes were made.” Hmmm… typical. Always in the passive voice. Admitting something flat out, to all this president’s men, is like touching something really icky. Mustn’t come into direct contact with it – you might leave fingerprints.
But rest assured. Mr. “Torture’s Okay” still insists he takes full responsibility. But it’s his definition of responsibility, not the kind that would call for mature, respectable contrition. He likens himself to a CEO. CEOs who preside over debacles that waterboard their company’s integrity sometimes take the only honorable option left – and resign for the good of the outfit. However, Gonzales can’t possibly take REAL responsibility because, golly gee, there are just all these thousands and thousands of people in the Justice Department and how can he hope to know what they’re all up to? Ironically, this administration is into EVERYBODY’S business these days. Tapping our phones whenever it suits them, reading our mail without explanation, snooping into our emails, our records, the works! They can just help themselves without bothering with a court order or any such oversight. Our friend Alberto has made sure of this. Could it be that those hundred-thousand or so Justice Department workers serve under some sort of double-secret waiver that exempts them from this wholesale violation of privacy? I guess that must be it. That would explain why Mr. I-Love-a-Wiretap couldn’t keep track of them. Tortured logic, I guess.
But he evidently knew enough about the U.S. attorneys who were either not leaning hard enough on Democrats or nailing too many republi-CONS not to have any problem with firing them. Or, excuse me, floating above it all while his lieutenants did the heavy lifting, so he then could tell a gaggle of reporters he had no idea what was going on. Or maybe the terrorists have gotten to him, now, too. Messed with his mind? Scared him stupid? Stuck him on the bottom of some naked human pyramid, maybe? It was an “overblown personnel matter” last week and an “incomplete” ‘fess-up to Congress this week. It wasn’t wrong, it was just handled poorly. And Alberto promises he’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. God help whoever he decides needs to be punished for this. Plus, while we’re being told that “mistakes were made” (by somebody-to-be-named-later), we’re also informed that the U.S. attorneys were fired for good reason (which was…?). If Gonzales knew that then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers had recommended the unprecedented changing of all 93 U.S. attorneys midstream but basically handed it off to an underling, what was it that he preferred to do with his time instead? Any halfway decent manager expects at least an update or two when he or she delegates authority to a subordinate, particularly when it involves an extremely unusual and controversial purging. What was Gonzo busy doing? Buffing his shoes with the Constitution? Blowing his nose on the Geneva Conventions? Devising new ways to torture – or better yet, new euphemisms for it?
Gonzales will be plenty busy trying to stay out of his own private Gitmo over this. We do, however, have numerous tortured souls on the rack already. A previous punching bag, Harriet Miers, is back in the spotlight again, despite skedaddling out of there in a hurry at the end of January. Maybe she knew this was coming, that the Democrats were starting to pry into things they weren’t supposed to know about, and asking a lot of nosy questions. Perhaps she suspected that this whole house of cards was on the verge of falling apart - that the jig was up and it was time to get outta Dodge. Hmmm… reminds me of General Tommy Franks and Ari Fleischer, but then that’s another story. Loyal Alberto, on the other hand, refuses to cut and run. He doesn’t have to, anyway – at least not yet. He’s secure enough inside the Green Zone of this White House inner circle that he even has his own Scooter Libby by now to protect himself and the omnipresent Karl Rove. This time, the designated fall-guy-du-jour is Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ now former chief-of-staff.
Even so, our poor A.G. has tasted some of the heat. It must have been virtual extraordinary rendition for Alberto to face reporters this week, and have to tap-dance his way around their questions. Yeah, yeah, Gonzo. We know every last one of the petty, vindictive, law-flouting lot of you “serves at the pleasure of the president.” Do tell. So what does that say about the president, then? That he’s pleasured by this? Junior, himself, claims he’s “not happy” about the mushrooming Justice Department scandal. A more gullible soul might accept that at face value, which is just what we’re all expected to do. But I think the real reason Bush is “not happy” is because yet another world-class mess on his watch (and, possibly, his own involvement in it) has been blown wide open for everyone to see.
The unhappiness visible now, as our Attorney General tries to save his own hide (and Bush and Rove try to hide, period) stems from that administration-wide jones for secrecy. For them, evidently, it’s near torture to have to operate out in the open. This entire cabal was built upon maneuvering in secret, under the cover of “national security” and unitary executive privilege. Oh yeah – and don’t’ forget that perennial favorite cover: the “war on terr.” This bunch of rogues prefers the shadows and closed doors. They like things that keep you and me from knowing what they – ostensibly OUR public servants – are doing with OUR government, OUR Constitution, OUR laws and system of justice, OUR tax dollars, and in OUR name. They claim as they reward cronies, revenge-seekers, and incompetents and penalize only whistle-blowers, truth-tellers, and fact-finders, that they’re doing our business, but that it’s none of our business. They’re probably equally upset that we now know the firings of the US attorneys were justified by a shady little item slipped quietly into the Patriot Act. That would be the same Patriot Act that was rammed through Congress so fast that hardly anyone had time to read it before being forced to vote on it. Hopefully, some Democrats will investigate that, too. If this one snuck in when no one was paying attention, what else is in there that’s starting to stink up the joint?
Hopefully, Gonzales, Miers, Rove, Sampson, and the rest of them will be hauled in before House and Senate inquisitors – under oath – and compelled to come clean. With a little luck, take-no-prisoners hearings, and some genuine justice, Gonzo will have to give it up. Voices in the Senate from Clinton to Sununu are demanding his resignation already.
There is one small downside to Alberto’s removal, however. Just think back a few years. We had to endure the prissy, holier-than-thou fear-monger John Ashcroft as Attorney General. We were finally rid of him. And look who we got to take his place: Torture Boy. If Gonzales is shown the door, I shudder to think who’ll be tapped for his replacement. And that will very likely be torture for us all.
Then go DO something about it.