Crevices and Anonymity
Gonzales is the consummate bureaucrat. With the moral direction of a cockroach, he skitters around in the footnotes of the law, avoiding fundamental principles, in an effort to survive. Let’s remember: this is the man who told Arlen Specter that there was no affirmative right to habeas corpus in the Constitution, only a prohibition against its suspension. Let’s admit: that’s technically correct and meaningless. His brilliance comes in his extraordinary ability to remain determined, unflappable, and dilatory in the face of withering criticism. There’s no smoking gun with Alberto; in fact, by intention, there’s no there there. And that’s how he eludes being stampeded out of the government.
His brilliant moment in Taxi to the Dark Side comes when he is being grilled by Senator Carl Levin and Senator John McCain about the rules of evidence proposed by the administration in its version of the Military Commissions Act. Sen. Levin recites a litany of torture techniques – including waterboarding and forced nudity – and asks Gonzales if testimony obtained through these techniques would be admissible in the military commissions proposed by the Bush Administration. “Well sir, I think most importantly, I can’t imagine such testimony would be reliable,” says Gonzales. He cleverly sounds like he has answered the question, but he hasn’t, and so the proceedings move along.
Then John McCain asks Gonzales if testimony obtained through illegal inhumane treatment would be prohibited. After this question, Gonzales pauses, starts to speak, stops, seems to search for mendacious inspiration – does he hear the words “my precious”? – tries to speak again and then finally, after a chilling pause of 20 seconds he answers, “The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is what does it mean, how you define it?”
Brilliant! Torture: it depends on how you define it. The answer is insipid, immoral and obscene.
But, in a Machiavellian context, it is not wrong.
I still think Alberto does his job exactly according to the parameters set. There shouldn’t be oversight, there should be no identifiable control. In the perfect bureaucracy, at the end of the day, no matter what has happened, no matter what has been produced, no one has done anything. It was anonymous faces; people were consulted; decisions arrived at; No individual stopped the buck, accountability can’t be set because no individual did any complete act.
This is the Bush style. He trusts Gonzales to do what he wants.
It is much like Hilter trusted his lackeys to carry out his plans. Hilter rarely gave direct orders, he hinted, he nudged, he made sure his opinion was known. He rarely said do this but rather said this is the final goal. Most of the Nazi bureaucracy was destined to support that model. The results speak for themselves.
Alberto Gonzales does his job perfectly. Like Donald Rumsfeld, the Jedi master of the interview, Gonzales says nothing and does seems to have done even less. I would say he moves not with the moral direction but the quiet presence of the cockroach. Always in the corners and under the table. Watching and waiting for the appropriate crumb to fall. Only to scurry out into the light and disappear again.
Disappearing into the crevices and anonymity of the bureaucracy.