One of the saddest indications you can draw from the voluminous information which has been shared through the U.S. Attorney/AG Gonzales hearings and investigations, has been the revelation that some members of the administration place a higher priority on politics than on the law. When those people are inside the Department of Justice, for crying out loud, there are very good reasons to be concerned.
There it was again yesterday, in Monica Goodling's admission in her opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee that she violated civil service laws in the selection process for the replacement U.S. Attorneys by illegally questioning candidates to determine if their political loyalty to the President was assured.
And here it was as well, on March 8, 2007, when Goodling cried in career DOJ administrator David Margolis' office. Margolis told Congressional Investigators:
"She came down about 8:00 and she started by saying, "Has Kyle [Sampson] talked to you?" And I said, "Yeah, he came by earlier." And then she proceeded for the next, it seemed like forever but it was probably only about 30 or 45 minutes, to bawl her eyes out and say, "All I ever wanted to do was serve this President and this administration and this department," and then cry more, and more, and more, and more, and talk about -- talk about how she came to Washington, you know. Personal stuff....
"All I ever wanted to do is serve this President and this administration and this department."
When were high-placed Department of Justice officials like Goodling, whose responsibilities included the important task of assisting in the selection and hiring of U.S. Attorneys, allowed to shift their priorities away from serving the law and the Constitution and the people of the United States, and allowed to direct their efforts towards insuring the political sovereignty of the Republican administration instead?
Under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' leadership, that's when.
Gonzales must go. The Department of Justice, under the leadership of AG Gonzales, has shown serious signs... highly-placed signs -- that it no longer is interested in serving the American people first. It's clear that Gonzales' own loyalty to the President has allowed that to happen, and Gonzales must go.
David Iglesias, one of the fired "Gonzales Seven", and the gentleman who served as U.S. Attorney for New Mexico from October 2001 to February 2007, wrote the following in the "A" section of yesterday's LA Times print edition (before Goodling testified):
What has become clear already is that the "loyalty uber alles" mentality has infected a wide swath of the Bush administration. Simple notions like right and wrong are, in their eyes, matters of allegiance, not conscience.
The chilling congressional testimony given by former Deputy Atty. Gen. James B. Comey last week provided a graphic example of loyalty run amok. Comey recounted how, in 2004, former White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and then-White House counsel Gonzales visited a hospitalized Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, who had undergone surgery for pancreatitis. Undoubtedly under the influence of powerful painkillers, Ashcroft had just enough presence of mind to refuse, as Comey already had, to approve the extension of the illegal warrantless wiretap program. Comey was right there in the darkened hospital room but was ignored by Card and Gonzales, even though both knew he was the acting attorney general while Ashcroft was critically ill. Where was the compassion, conservative or otherwise, in that dark, silent room? Where was the humanity? Subsumed by loyalty.
Loyalty is a virtue with limits. That was one of the many hard lessons from Watergate. In that scandal, some of President Nixon's staffers carried their loyalty to the president all the way to federal prison.
All federal prosecutors take a public oath when they assume office. I personally swore in about 30 new federal prosecutors during my tenure as U.S. attorney for New Mexico. The oath is to the U.S. Constitution, not to the president or his Cabinet.
And what of the embattled attorney general? Will Gonzales stay on to be the only Cabinet officer to receive a no-confidence vote? I once said that I found Gonzales to be a personal inspiration. No one can deny him his life's story, which is the American dream writ large. It began in Humble, Texas, born of impoverished Mexican American parents. He, like me, is a veteran of the U.S. military. He went to some of the best schools in America, including Harvard Law. Yet, somewhere along the line, he drank the loyalty Kool-Aid. Watching him testify before the Senate and House was painful for me. He had been a trailblazer for the Latino community, and then, in the space of a few hours of tortured testimony, he became just another morally rudderless political operative.
Will he "cowboy up," as we say in New Mexico -- that is, find the courage to do the right thing? Or will he make the Senate go right up to the precipice of a no-confidence vote?
To be sure, the Justice Department is "dysfunctional," in the words of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), but it is also in desperate need of leaders who place loyalty to the Constitution on a higher level than politics. We don't need latter-day Haldemans, Ehrlichmans or Colsons going to jail. The nation needs leaders who take ultimate responsibility for the wrongful actions of their subordinates; leaders who do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Mr. Attorney General, it's time for you to cowboy up and do what's best for the American people you serve.
Will Gonzales "cowboy up," and do the right thing? I suspect not.
I suspect the realization on Gonzales' part that his resignation will damage the President's standing in this nation, coupled with Gonzales overriding loyalty to President Bush, will prevent Gonzales from doing what's right for the People of the United States.
He is no doubt, to this day, still unwilling to put the people of the United States above his own loyalty to a political leader, and for that reason as well -- Gonzales must go.
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