Gonzales’ 10.0 Performance
The Democrats eviscerated him; most Republicans stopped just short of calling for his resignation. He showed an absolute lack of contriteness and seemed paradoxically unprepared to be able to justify the firing of all the United States attorneys even after weeks of prep time. His memory was so lacking that concrete recollections seemed as rare as a virgin in a red light district.
And yet, one person was impressed. The only person that matters – George W. Bush. (Well maybe Barney liked it too, but he’s not talking to anyone but George W.)
From the Washington Post,
President Bush said his confidence in Alberto R. Gonzales has grown as a result of the attorney general’s testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as the administration moved to end speculation that Gonzales would step down after a performance criticized by senators in both parties.
“The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment and answered every question he could possibly answer, in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job,” Bush told reporters in the Oval Office yesterday. “Some senators didn’t like his explanation, but he answered as honestly as he could.”
Soon after Bush spoke, Gonzales said he has no plans to resign. “I will stay as long as I feel I can be effective,” the attorney general said at a news conference called to discuss identity theft. “And I believe I can be effective.”
The article goes on to quote Bush saying, “And as the investigation, the hearings went forward, it was clear that the attorney general broke no law, did no wrongdoing.”
Of course Bush is purposely missing the point. No one is actually claiming laws were broken and whether there was wrongdoing seems to have disappeared into the black holes that are Alberto Gonzales’ memory and the e-mail servers at the Republican National Committee.
The point is that at the DOJ, under Gonzales, there has been little or no right doing.
Gonzales, from his handling of the Guantanamo inmates, to the firing of 8 people for whatever reasons, to the overwhelming lack of success in pushing the Administrations number one legal priority, actually bringing voter fraud cases to prosecution, has presented one managment trainwreck after another. One could even start attacking him for not being vidulent enough on cracking down on licensed arms dealers selling to gun traffickers in America.
But none of that matters because of the one thing Gonzales does get right – he backs the president. He always backs the president and the executive branch.
I think Dahlia Lithwick got it absolutely right yesterday in Slate,
So, I’ve changed my mind. On sober second thought, it occurs to me that when I find myself in enthusiastic agreement with “White House insiders” and the National Review that Alberto Gonzales disgraced himself yesterday, I may have missed something important. Assuming the president watched so much as 10 minutes of his attorney general being poleaxed by even rudimentary questions from the Senate judiciary committee, it strains credulity to believe that Gonzales still has Bush’s “full confidence.”
Until you stop to consider that the president wasn’t watching the same movie as the rest of us and that Gonzales wasn’t reading from the same script. Perhaps what we witnessed yesterday was in fact a tour de force, a home run for the president’s overarching theory of the unitary executive.
The theory of the unitary executive is a radical vision of executive power in which the president is the big boss of the entire executive branch and has final say over everything that happens within it. At its core, the theory holds that Congress has very limited authority to divest the president of those powers. An expanded version of this theory was the legal predicate for the torture memo: “In light of the president’s complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president’s ultimate authority in these areas. … Congress may no more regulate the president’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.”
In the case of Gonzales, there seems to be bipartisan support to see this gentleman catapulted back to Texas in a high arc. And the most amazing thing is that the president just doesn’t care. He has gone from ignoring a Democratic minority in a rubber stamp Republican Congress to ignoring a Democratic majority allied with an increasing group of unruly Republicans in a hostile Congress.
It is clear that Bush will veto his second piece of legislation when he shoots down the pending legislation funding Iraq due to pass House and Senate this week. He will weather out the storm – not because it is the right thing – but because to give in would be to yield power back to the legislative branch. That is what he and his supporters, including Gonzales as well as Rove, Cheney, etc. have been trying to change for 5 years. Now they are seeing whether it will work.
Lithwick’s parting comments ring as true as they do haunting,
Viewed in that light, Gonzales did exactly what he needed to do yesterday. He took a high, inside pitch to the head for the team (nobody wants to look like a dolt on national television) but hit a massive home run for the notion that at the end of the day, congressional oversight over the executive branch is little more than empty theatre.