Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Now Bush Loses Gonzales

The Bush Texas 'dream team' who followed him to Washington is now in ruins, and thread bare. Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, one of President Bush's closest friends, and most trusted colleagues, has announced his resignation.

It's been a remarkable journey from Texas to the White House, for Bush and for Gonzales, but as will the president's departure, Gonzales evacuation from Washington is lashed by outrage, disgust, disappointment and controversy.

In the pages of America's history books, where even Attorney General's are lucky to score a few paragraphs to sum up their achievements, Gonzales is likely to most remembered for torture memos and the stream of spying-on-Americans scandals, with his role in the establishing of rules of detention, and interrogation, for Guantanamo Bay as a grim footnote.

It's hard to know where the cheers will be sounding the loudest in America tonight. In the halls of the Justice Department? The FBI? The CIA? The ACLU? The backrooms of the Supreme Court?

Of course, those who cheer the loudest may be chilled the most if the rumour that Michael Chertoff is to replace Gonzales becomes a reality.

As they say, be careful what you wish for...

From the New York Times :

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation for months, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, a senior administration official said.

Mr. Bush repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Earlier this month, at a news conference, Mr. Bush dismissed accusations that Mr. Gonzales had stonewalled or misled a congressional inquiry. “We’re watching a political exercise,” Mr. Bush said. “I mean, this is a man who has testified, he’s sent thousands of papers up there. There’s no proof of wrong.”

Mr. Gonzales’s resignation is the latest in a series of high-level departures that has reshaped the end of Mr. Bush’s second term. Karl Rove, another of Mr. Bush’s close circle of aides from Texas, stepped down two weeks ago.

A senior administration official said today that Gonzales, who was in Washington, had called the president in Crawford, Tex., on Friday to offer his resignation. The president rebuffed the offer, but said the two should talk face to face on Sunday.

Gonzales and his wife flew to Texas, and over lunch on Sunday the president accepted the resignation with regret, the official said.

On Saturday night, Gonzales was contacted by his press spokesman to ask how the department should respond to inquiries from reporters about rumors of his resignation, and Gonzales told the spokesman to deny the reports.

Gonzales stonewalls reality right to the end.

From Alberto Gonzales resignation statement :

Thirteen years ago I entered public service to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And during this time I have traveled a remarkable journey, from my home state of Texas to Washington, D.C...

Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government service as attorney general of the United States effective as of September 17th, 2007.

It is through their continued work that our country and our communities remain safe, that the rights and civil liberties of our citizens are protected, and the hopes and dreams of all of our children are secured.

I often remind our fellow citizens that we live in the greatest country in the world and that I have lived the American dream. Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days.

The condemnation of Alberto Gonzales, as he leaves the post of Attorney General in absolute disgrace, continues to flow thick and fast :

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job. He lacked independence, he lacked judgment, and he lacked the spine to say no to Karl Rove. This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House." — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"It has been a long and difficult struggle but at last, the attorney general has done the right thing and stepped down." _Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

"Long overdue. The president must nominate an attorney general who is a lawyer for the American people, not a political arm of the White House." — New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson.

"It's about time ... Gonzales now joins a long list of Republican officials resigning under a cloud of scandal, but these resignations cannot purge the Bush administration of its problems. The true problem rests with the Bush White House itself, which continues to put what's best for the Republican Party ahead of what's best for America." — Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean
The killer quote comes from Senator Ted Kennedy :
"He has exhibited a lack of candor with Congress and the American people and a disdain for the rule of law and our constitutional system. I strongly urge President Bush to nominate a new attorney general who will respect our laws and restore the integrity of the office." — Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

A summary of the lows and lows of Gonzales big torture-friendly adventure in Wash. DC :

After arriving in Washington with President Bush in 2001, Alberto Gonzales stood out for his unflappable nature and intense loyalty to the president. With what some called his willingness to interpret the law to fit his boss's priorities and his long political ties with Bush, Gonzales was among the president's closest confidants.

It is for good reason that Bush sometimes referred to Gonzales as " mi abogado" and kept him close by. In 1996, he helped then-Gov. Bush avoid jury duty where he might have been forced to reveal a 20-year-old charge of driving while intoxicated, which later surfaced anyway. Dozens of Gonzales memos to Bush supported the governor's desire to implement the death penalty in Texas.

And as White House counsel and later as attorney general, Gonzales endorsed the creation of the controversial legal framework that guided the administration's war on terror, strongly backed by the Vice President and legal conservatives but opposed by many scholars and partly overturned by the courts.

"He had very much a one-to-one relationship with the president," said David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter. "That is where he started and that is where he finished."

Liberals...were skeptical of Gonzales for his role in crafting legal memos that some human rights advocates say allowed the torture of terrorism suspects and created the atmosphere for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

....it was Gonzales, as White House counsel and later as Attorney General, whose name appeared at the bottom of some of the most controversial classified documents justifying harsh CIA and Defense Department treatment of U.S. detainees suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Two months after the 2001 terrorist attacks Gonzales and Addington jointly drafted an order authorizing those captured on the battlefield in the counter-terror fight to be tried by military tribunals instead of civilian courts. Under the Pentagon's initial tribunal rules, conviction would come from a two-thirds vote, appeals would be extremely limited, and all facts and legal issues would be adjudicated by the military.

The Supreme Court said last June that the tribunals were neither authorized by Congress nor required by military necessity, and it blocked them from proceeding. The court also repudiated a second Gonzales legal claim, made in a Jan. 2002 memo embraced by Bush, that the president had the authority to exempt detainees captured in Afghanistan from the human rights protections mandated by the Geneva Conventions.

Gonzales had sought to justify his position by claiming the counter-terror effort made the convention's strict limitations on detainee treatment "obsolete," a viewpoint that outraged then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard B. Myers and other senior military officials. A Defense Department panel would later conclude that Bush's decision to accept Gonzales's advice played a key role in the establishment of abusive interrogation practices at for the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

When the Supreme Court ruled this position illegal last June, it affirmed that the Geneva Conventions must be applied to detainees held by the United States anywhere.

Gonzales also was closely associated with a controversial loosening, in Aug. 2002, of the U.S. definition of what constitutes prohibited torture. The underlying legal opinion was written for the CIA by the Justice Department, but it was briefed twice to Gonzales at the White House before its final adoption. Those sessions included detailed descriptions of the suffering that detainees would experience during CIA interrogations that incorporated such methods as simulated drowning.

Under the new definition, only physically punishing acts "of an extreme nature" were considered prosecutable, and those using torture with express presidential authority or without the intent to commit harm could be considered immune from prosecution. These conclusions were later cited approvingly in a Defense Department memo authorizing "exceptional interrogations" at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where FBI agents claimed that abuses were occurring.

As the attorney general, Gonzales continued to serve as a reliable advocate for White House policies. He publicly questioned the reliability of FBI accounts of abusive interrogations at Guantanamo; he also defended the practice of "extraordinary rendition," the process under which the United States sometimes transfers detainees in the war on terrorism to nations where they may undergo harsh interrogation, trial or imprisonment.

Gonzales did what he was brought to Washington to do. Take the legal fall for the most extreme of Bush-Cheney policies, whether it be firing attorney generals who didn't submit to the Bush White House, or the sexual torture and rape interrogation tactics used in Abu Ghraib.

Gonzales final major of subservience to his masters was to absorb most of the blows from Congress over the Bush-Cheney dream being allowed to spy on any and all of their own citizens, regardless of whether they have any connection to possible terrorists or not.

Like we said above, history will not be kind to Alberto Gonzales.