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Rough Justice - The Case Against Alberto Gonzales--WaPo

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spindrifter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Mar-14-07 10:43 AM
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Rough Justice - The Case Against Alberto Gonzales--WaPo
By Andrew Cohen

Part II: Alberto Gonzales, Presidential Enabler
The career of Alberto R. Gonzales, before he ascended to the office of Attorney General of the United States in early 2005, is marked particularly by three episodes that link directly to the quality and nature of the job he has performed since taking office. In each instance, history has not been kind either to Gonzales' actual substantive work or to the ethical and moral judgment he exercised on behalf of his client at the time. In each case, the advice Gonzales offered, legally dubious to begin with, created not just political embarrassment and backlash for his bosses but unfortunate, even catastrophic results for the nation.

These three strands of Gonzales' professional DNA, pre-Justice Department, turn out to be remarkable predictors for his troubled and disappointing role as Attorney General. And, indeed, many people did predict two years ago that Gonzales as Attorney General would be just as pliant to the wishes of George W. Bush as they believed him to be as White House counsel and, before that, as counsel to then-Texas Governor Bush. For example, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), then ranking member of the Senate Judicial Committee, looked Gonzales in the eye at the latter's confirmation hearing in January 2005 and said: "My concern is that during several high-profile matters in your professional career you've appeared to serve as a facilitator rather than as an independent force in the policy-making process."

Gonzales reassured Sen. Leahy--and anyone else who cared to lodge the same complaint back then-- that he knew the difference between the two roles-- and it is likely that he did and does. But let us judge him by his deeds and not his words. The Attorney General's record at the Justice Department strongly suggests that he has still acted as a docile and dogged "facilitator" for White House initiatives rather than as a wise, high-minded legal counselor willing and able on occasion to exercise independent judgment and power. And the road to the current scandal over the dismissal of federal prosecutors, and to the Justice Department's rabid support for warrantless domestic surveillance, and to its tepid defense of civil liberties for resident aliens, all are paved with the stones that Gonzales and Bush laid down before the former took the oath of office in early 2005.

For the first two examples, I lean heavily upon the distinguished work of Alan Berlow, who brilliantly chronicled in the July/August 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly Gonzales' appallingly unprofessional work on death penalty cases when he was counsel for Governor Bush. According to Berlow, Gonzales "repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence" (emphasis in original) in a series of memoranda Gonzales prepared for the governor's review as part of the state's clemency process. Berlow believes that this was not mere negligence on the part of Gonzales--that would have been bad enough-- but rather part of a concerted effort by both men to ensure for both political and ideological reasons that there would be no clemency petitions granted. The dice were loaded, you might say, by the man who now is the nation's top lawyer.


For Part I of the series, see
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