Justice Served: Mr. President, Tear Down This Wall genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Tear Down This Wall

There is something terribly frightening about an Attorney General who makes the argument that he needs to stay on in his position in order to fix the Justice Department’s image. Isn’t he the same man who sat at the helm when it ran afoul? In fact, isn’t he the man who most likely steered the Justice Department into the poison waters of political partisanship?

From The Washington Post:

In a prepared statement for the hearing released today, Gonzales says allegations that some of his aides used political considerations in hiring career employees were "troubling to hear," but he said he was staying in his job to initiate reform.

"I could walk away or I could devote my time, effort and energy to fix the problems," Gonzales said in his prepared remarks. "Since I have never been one to quit, I decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems. That is exactly what I am doing."

The statement indicates that Gonzales will continue to portray himself as largely detached from many of the controversial personnel practices that were carried out during his tenure. Gonzales' former senior counselor, Monica M. Goodling, has testified that she "crossed the line" by weighing political consideration in hiring career employees. Others have said former Gonzales chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson was in charge of assembling a list of U.S. attorneys targeted for firing.

"I will not tolerate any improper politicization of this department," Gonzales said in the 25-page statement, which focuses primarily on other Justice Department issues. "I will continue to make efforts to ensure that my staff and others within the department have the appropriate experience and judgment so that previous mistakes will not be repeated."

Before one can understand the absurdity of Gonzales’ statements, one needs to understand the backdrop. As of this moment, the bulk of the relevant testimony suggesting that the hiring and firing of U.S. Attorneys was politicized has come from Monica Goodling, 33, who most recently served as senior counsel to Gonzales as well as the Justice Department’s White House liaison, and from Kyle Sampson who served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Counsel to Gonzales prior to his prompt resignation in March.

Goodling received her undergraduate degree at Messiah College, a Christian college in Pennsylvania and her law degree from Regent University in 1999. Regent University was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, a strong supporter of President Bush and a fellow evangelical.

So when Gonzales tells Congress and the voting public that he feels bad and wants to repair the image of the Justice Department, one must consider the merits of his ongoing employment. It seems to me that there are two relevant considerations. One, he either directed and participated in the politicization of the U.S. Attorney appointments and the associated hirings and firings…or two, he placed that authority in the hands of those he felt would be capable of such duties and then failed to oversee and guide them in the proper conduct of their duties.

Whichever conclusion one chooses should disqualify Gonzales from further employment. If he directed the inappropriate actions, he should be replaced. If his management of the Department was so lax that proper protocol was abandoned in favor of partisanship, he is an incompetent manager. Either way, Gonzales seems deficient.

While the actual facts remain uncertain…primarily due to a refusal to provide the necessary documentation and testimony…I’m of the opinion that all of the explanations being offered are antithetical to the closely held and highly orchestrated management style that has been the hallmark of the Bush administration. Are we to suddenly believe that this was just an inadvertent woops moment? It may be plausible but I doubt it is probable.

The House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday on whether to hold current and former White House officials in contempt of Congress, signaling that Democratic lawmakers intend to press toward a constitutional showdown with the Bush administration over last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

Today's announcement by Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) puts House Democrats on a legal collision course with the White House, which said last week that it would not allow the Justice Department to pursue contempt charges brought by Congress.

Conyers said the decision to move forward with contempt proceedings was made reluctantly, but asserted that the committee had few options in the face of the refusals by the White House to comply with committee subpoenas.

Now I’ll admit that human nature is a complex beast but there is something inherently contradictory about the words and actions of Attorney General Gonzales. On the one hand, he sounds contrite and disappointed at what happened as well as determined to repair the damage…but on the other hand he is opposed to providing Congress with the testimony and documentation essential to understanding, examining, and evaluating the specifics circumstances that led to the apparent abuse of authority.

The contradiction lacks a reasoned explanation which suggests that something else must be at play. The obvious answer is that the facts will not bear out the statements previously made by Gonzales and his staff and that requires the administration to refuse to cooperate. I find it ironic that the Justice Department is at the center of an effort to ascertain justice from injustice…as well as the tool being used to obstruct that very determination.

Perhaps that helps explain the utter disdain being exhibited by voters in polls gauging the approval of government officials and the direction of the nation? As both parties jockey to win the moral high ground with proclamations of their devotion to faith and values, their actions suggest that the only thing they value is the accumulation of power. At the same time, they have the audacity to ask the American public to keep the faith.

I never expected to be quoting a Republican president to make my final point…but we live in strange times. In the words of Ronald Reagan, its time for voters to issue a challenge to our obstructionist leader…Mr. President, “open this gate". Mr. President, “tear down this wall".

Tagged as: Alberto Gonzales, George Bush, John Conyers, Kyle Sampson, Monica Goodling, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Attorney

Daniel DiRito | July 23, 2007 | 3:42 PM
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