If the members of the Bush administration which acted immorally while in office had any understanding of the difference between right and wrong they hopefully would not have conducted themselves as they did in office. Therefore it comes as no surprise that some of them fail to understand why their actions are receiving criticism. The Wall Street Journal quotes Alberto Gonzales as asking during an interview, “”What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?” At least he didn’t claim he was just following orders.
Think Progress summarizes some of the major things which Gonzales did which were wrong:
Approved torture: In 2002, Gonzales “raised no objections and, without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war,” approved an infamous August 2002 memo giving CIA interrogators “legal blessings.” Gonzales witnessed an interrogation at Gitmo in 2002 and approved of “whatever needs to be done” to detainees.
Lied about warrantless wiretapping: Gonzaled lied to Congress multiple times about the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program, saying there wasn’t “any serious disagreement” about the program (there was).
Distorted pre-war intelligence: Last month, the House Oversight Committee revealed evidence showing that Gonzales lied to Congress in 2004 by claiming that the CIA “orally” approved Bush’s claim that Iraq sought uranium from Africa.
When historians look back upon the disastrous tenure of Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States they will ask not only why he merited the job in the first place but why he lasted in it as long as he did. By any reasonable standard, the Gonzales Era at the Justice Department is void of almost all redemptive qualities. He brought shame and disgrace to the Department because of his lack of independent judgment on some of the most vital legal issues of our time. And he brought chaos and confusion to the department because of his lack of respectable leadership over a cabinet-level department among the most important in the nation.
He neither served the longstanding role as “the people’s attorney” nor fully met and tamed his duties and responsibilities to the Constitution. He was a man who got the job not because he was supremely qualified or notably well-respected among the leading legal lights of our time, but because he had faithfully and with blind obedience served President George W. Bush for years in Texas (where he botched clemency memos in death penalty cases) and then as White House counsel (where he botched the nation’s legal policy on torture).
For an administration known for its cronyism, and alas for an alarmingly incompetent group of cronies, Gonzales was the granddaddy of them all. He lacked the integrity, the intellect and the independence to perform his duties in a manner befitting the job for which he was chosen. And when he and his colleagues got caught in the act, his rationales and explanations for the purge of the U.S. Attorneys were so empty and shallow and incoherent that even the staunchest Republicans could not turn them into steeled spin. Devoid of any credibility, Gonzales in the end was a sad joke when he came to Capitol Hill.
Even before the Justice Department was exposed under his reign as a politicized den of ideology, Gonzales’ work as Attorney General was unacceptable and unworthy of high office. He defended the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program even though many conservative and liberal legal scholars alike considered it to be a violation of the law. He endorsed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which did away with important rights not just for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay but for legal aliens within the borders of the United States. Thus did Gonzales fail to exercise any sort of independent check and balance upon the White House’s most controversial legal policies.
Meanwhile, according to the National Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, big-city murder rates have risen by 10 percent over the past two years — a period that coincides precisely with Gonzales’ time as attorney general. The Federal Bureau of Investigation puts the violent crime increase at 3.7% for January-June 2006 and drug use (and production and sales) apparently are on the rise in the nation’s heartland. And the Justice Department’s record of terror-related prosecutions is a mixed one at best. Thus did Gonzales fail to succeed at the most fundamental task of chief law enforcement official — to make crime less not more prevalent.
And all the while, Gonzales’ Justice Department was crumbling from within, devastated by a cynical strategy of minimizing the role of career nonpartisan professionals within the Department in favor of young ideologues, mediocre attorneys and just plain party hacks. The U.S. Attorney scandal is just the most publicized example of this daring effort to make the Justice Department a house organ for the Bush administration. Less visible career attorneys were pushed out at the expense of rank partisans willing to toe the company line. Even the internship programs for law students were schooled to favor “right” thinking attorneys at the expense of others. One law school, founded by Pat Robertson and rated among the worst in the nation, became a feeder school for the Department. And it was all part of a plan.