As much as it would be nice to see Alberto Gonzales step aside to attend to “family matters” or to “pursue other opportunities” as so many others in the Bush administration (see Card, McClellan, Rumsfeld, “Brownie”, Fleischer, Miers and a whole slew of others) have – unfortunately this one isn’t going to happen.
While I seriously hope to eat my words, the fact is that Gonzales is probably more important to this administration than either Cheney or Rove in terms of what a resignation would look like. Impeachment alone probably won’t get him to step down – it would take impeachment and conviction to get him out of office.
Why do I say this? Well, there are many reasons, but in a nutshell, it is Gonzales who is the lynchpin to everything that this administration has done and probably many things that we don’t even know about from Bush’s term as Governor of Texas. For Gonzales to step down would be an admission that all of the power grabs, all of the lies, all of the crimes that were “justified” and all other actions are now seriously on the table (not that they weren’t to begin with).
As far as background, Gonzales’ history and relationships with Bush go back further than pretty much everyone else in this administration. The two men are pretty much inextricably linked on so many levels professionally going back more than a decade. They are literally partners in crime.
It was Gonzales who drafted the extremely narrow interpretations of clemency in Texas – allowing Bush to pardon one out of around 150 death penalty cases:
What kind of counsel did Gonzales provide? According to Berlow, he "repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence."
Berlow writes that the memos reflect "an extraordinarily narrow notion of clemency." They appear to have excluded, for instance, factors such as "mental illness or incompetence, childhood physical or sexual abuse, remorse, rehabilitation, racial discrimination in jury selection, the competence of the legal defense, or disparities in sentences between co-defendants or among defendants convicted of similar crimes."
It was Gonzales who got Bush out of the sticky situation where he would have had to admit to a drunk driving arrest and conviction while Governor of Texas.
It was Gonzales whose memorandum to Bush in January 2002 laid the foundation for the exclusion of certain “enemies” from the Geneva Conventions. It was Gonzales whose staff developed a 50 page legal justification as to what exactly constitutes torture and how far the “interrogation techniques” can go before they are actually deemed to be torture, as well as working closely with John Yoo to create numerous documents related to torture.
It is Gonzales who lied to Congress about the illegal wiretapping program. He also PERSONALLY APPROVED the warrantless wiretapping program in violation of federal law.
Even if he didn’t lie under oath, he is the nation’s top attorney and he should know better. Now, I am not a lawyer, but can’t attorneys get disbarred due to ethics violations? Surely lying about breaking federal laws would fall under these ethics violations.
It is Gonzales who helped draft the Military Order establishing the Military Commissions which was reported to mandate that the US military commit crimes under the War Crimes Act. It is Gonzales who justified this administration’s suspension of habeas corpus by telling Congress that he doesn’t believe that the US Constitution provides an express right to habeas corpus.
It is Gonzales who gave then-White House Chief of Staff Andy Card a twelve hour headstart about the document preservation request from the DOJ before it was announced to a wider audience – thereby raising the possibility of a document destruction effort.
It is Gonzales who has helped stonewall investigation after investigation of this administration, and it is Gonzales who lied under oath about Senate confirmations for US attorneys. It is Gonzales who said he was “ too busy to answer subpoenas” from Congress.
And of course, it is Gonzales who worked hand in hand with Bush with respect to the US attorney purge.
All of these are horrific – especially for an attorney. Even moreso for the nation’s top attorney. Many of these are crimes in and of themselves. But all of these are tied DIRECTLY to Bush himself. And to have Gonzales gone is akin to having Bush repudiate his entire administration and everything it has done.
I hope and pray that I am way off base here and we get an announcement that Gonzales is stepping down. But this is a man who Bush owes his entire career to. This is a man who presented the legal justification for every crime that was committed by this administration. This is a man who helped change the laws to suit a power grab that would have been illegal before the law changes.
Which makes it all the more important for him to be impeached, convicted and imprisoned.