Why Alberto Gonzales Did a "Good" Job
by Mary Lyon
I guess I'm pretty jaded by now. I suppose I should be surprised at the reaction of George W. Bush to the resignation of his little pet Gonzo. With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales deciding to hang it up (perhaps trying to avoid being hung out to dry), Dubya's response has been downright hilarious. He's publicly lamented the "months of unfair treatment and harmful distraction at the Justice Department." The pitiful Oval Office occupant pouts that "it's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."
Yep, this is how Dubya sees it. For months, he's stuck like epoxy to his embattled A.G. Bush answered recent Press Corpse questions about that lamination by saying there was nothing to see here. He wondered aloud how he could possibly reprimand or fire someone who hadn't done anything wrong. In the Bizarro World of George W. Bush, that was the whole "truth" and nothing but the "truth." And that's the essence of the dismal downward slide onto which he, his outgoing friend Fredo, and the rest of the population of Planet Bush have dragged the rest of us. They genuinely think Gonzales did a good job.
Their definition of "good job" as it applies to governing is an extreme version of the "less is more" philosophy. Remember, these are the folks who embrace the dreaded Prophet of Shortsighted Selfishness, Grover Norquist, as their own personal Isaiah. They don't like government basically because it gets in their way and impedes their greed, and because there's no money in it. They're card-carrying members of the "ME Society." Everything is for Me, and Screw You. My late father, only semi-jokingly, used to refer to it as the philosophy of "IGMFU," as in "I Got Mine, F-U." That's the heart of these CONservatives'
darkness. They're all just fine, thank you very much. They got theirs and they're hellbent on keeping it. Sharing is for chumps and suckers and liberals. You want some, too? Well, good luck and have a nice day - you're on your own. If you're down on your luck, well, tough. That's the only time these kindly souls start believing wholeheartedly in Charles Darwin. Accordingly, they're loathe to view government as a function of a "WE Society," a broadbased, border-bridging force for good that helps those who can't help themselves, and handles the big jobs that overwhelm communities, cities, and states by themselves. No, these self-congratulating cheapskates think government is bad. It should be cut back, starved, and shriveled until it's small enough to drown in the proverbial bathtub Norquist enjoys referencing.
This is also the essence of Junior's view that Alberto Gonzales did a great job. Indeed, "important work." People like George W. Bush come into government aiming not to use it for the greater good, but to dismantle it, weaken it, and render it useless. They have to do it that way, because most of America is invested to one degree or other in gaining something from the feds, such as a Social Security check, child care credits, student loans, disability payments, etc. They'll tell pollsters they don't like big intrusive government, either, but they sure like the help that same big intrusive government sometimes sends them. These are the same voters who'll scream bloody murder when their entitlements (or as they're now referred to, earmarks) are threatened, or angrily call their representatives with their grievances, insisting that "there ought to be a law!!!" That kind of deep-seated trend is mighty difficult to reverse when there's a reliable benefit that is suddenly placed at risk by cost-cutting bureaucrats.
What to do, if you're a Cheapskate CONservative with a pennywise/pound foolish belief system? You know you won't get the votes if people think their government assistance will be cut back. You recently may also have learned the hard way, for example, that everybody thinks Social Security has problems but nobody really wants it touched or meddled with. What to do? Go stealth. From the inside. You want to turn people against their government? Then show them just how shoddy their government is. If it's working pretty well, then for heaven's sakes, fix it! If you want to show the public that government is broken and therefore undesirable, make sure you break it so you can then prove it's a failure. The most vivid illustration of this is the contrast between the efficient and highly effective James Lee Witt FEMA during the Clinton era and the horrendously disgraceful and wasteful "Brownie" FEMA under Bush 2. If
you're the guy who gets to choose the department heads, make sure they share your opinion that government is bad and should be done away with, and they'll come up with the evidence to back that up. Then, maybe, you'll have an easier time convincing voters that your way is best, and your Anti-Government Cheapskate CONservative philosophy is the salvation of the world. Sell the masses on the idea that the federal government isn't worth their support, and they'll join you in not supporting it.
What Michael Brown was to FEMA, Alberto Gonzales was to the Justice Department. Bring in the person who's guaranteed to muck up the works so thoroughly that all confidence in his/her agency or department is destroyed. Thus hobbled, that agency or department is then rendered inert, neutered, all credibility lost, an object of derision and distrust, and thus, no longer a problem. Gonzales, however, went further in using the Justice Department as a tool of the new Era of Terror - to keep the public cowed and controlled through the threats of wanton wire-tapping, dismissal of time-honored and internationally-supported Geneva Convention codes, the shredding of the Constitution and individual privacy rights, torture, extraordinary rendition, and the use of once-independent and highly-respected US attorneys as tools of political power-gaming, vote-caging, and election-rigging. The Justice Department, of all departments, is supposed to be above all that. It's supposed to be about the law, the whole law, and nothing but the law - NOT the promotion of some political party or
Alberto Gonzales turned every bit of that on its ear. His Justice isn't merely blind. His Justice has had her eyes put out with burning cigarettes after being waterboarded, then led by a leash around the neck to join the nearest naked human pyramid while low-level fall-guys laugh, point, and pose for pictures. Just more evidence of another arm of the federal government that is SO perverse and disgusting that it proves our case about government being an exceedingly UN-necessary evil. "Important work," indeed, when you're a self-involved political cheapskate who doesn't want to share, balks at following the rules, and cares nothing about the greater good.
That's why it doesn't matter much who Junior anoints as his next Attorney General. If a prospective hire gains his trust then it's because that potential successor shares the same belief and willingness to promote and enable it. You didn't like John Ashcroft and couldn't wait to see him replaced? Look who we got next. How'd he work out for ya - except to accomplish the impossible and make Ashcroft look semi-principled and nonpartisan? Heaven save us from the
person who takes the baton from Gonzo and runs with it. He or she is bound either to be hamstrung by continuing Congressional investigations, or so adept at that "important work" that Gonzales may actually wind up looking pretty good. And one heckuva job will have been finished on what remains of the Justice Department as America once knew and revered it.
Then go DO something about it.