Monday, August 27, 2007

NYTimes Editorial about Gonzales

I hate to admit it, but they wrote a durn fine editorial. The choice quotes:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice. He has resigned. But his departure alone cannot remove the dark cloud that hangs over the Justice Department. President Bush needs to choose a new attorney general of unquestioned integrity who would work to make the department worthy of its name again — and provide the mandate to do it. Congress needs to continue to investigate the many scandals Mr. Gonzales leaves behind.

When Mr. Gonzales was appointed, it seemed doubtful that he would be able to put aside his years as Mr. Bush’s personal lawyer, which stretched back to the Texas governor’s office, and represent the interests of the American people. He never did.

In many ways, Mr. Gonzales turned out to be the ultimate “loyal Bushie,” a term his Justice Department chief-of-staff used so incredibly inappropriately to describe what his department was looking for in its top prosecutors.

It was just that kind of craven politics — the desire to co-opt the power of the government to win elections — that was the driving force in Mr. Gonzales’s Justice Department. Dedicated and capable United States attorneys were fired for insisting on doing their jobs with integrity — for refusing to put people in jail, or shield them from prosecution, simply to help Republicans win elections. Lawyers were hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party enrollment and campaign contributions, and top members of Mr. Gonzales’s staff attended pre-election political briefings at the White House led by Karl Rove and his aides.


There was a more basic problem with Mr. Gonzales’ tenure: he did not stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law, as an attorney general must. This administration has illegally spied on Americans, detained suspects indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” run roughshod over the Geneva Conventions, violated the Hatch Act prohibitions on injecting politics into government and defied Congressional subpoenas. In each case, Mr. Gonzales gave every indication of being on the side of the lawbreakers, not the law.

Mr. Gonzales signed off on the administration’s repugnant, and disastrous, torture policy when he was the White House counsel. He later helped stampede Congress into passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which endorsed illegal C.I.A. prisons where detainees may be tortured and established kangaroo courts in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to keep detained foreigners in custody essentially for life. He helped cover up and perpetuate Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping programs, both in the counsel’s job and as attorney general. The F.B.I. under his stewardship abused powers it was given after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the name of enhanced national security.

Mr. Gonzales will hardly be a tough act to follow, but the standard for the next attorney general should not be set that low.


The next attorney general will have two critical tasks. First, he or she must get to the bottom of the scandals hovering over the department. Mr. Gonzales played defense, as if it were Congress’s job to discover what laws his department may have broken, and his job to thwart it. The next attorney general should appoint a credible, independent investigator to look into the prosecutors’ firings and likely Hatch Act violations and make clear that the investigation will be permitted to follow the facts where they lead — including, as appears likely, to the White House.


Mr. Gonzales, for all of his undeniable deficiencies, merely reflected the principles of this administration. His resignation is a necessary but hardly sufficient step in restoring the nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

No comments: