Bush Announces New Attorney General

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On this auspicious occasion, the nominee for America’s Attorney General is announced, I cannot help but notice the lack of enthusiasm in the voice of the President of the United States.  As the George W. Bush introduced Michael B. Mukasey, it was obvious, he felt no connection to the man he met for the first time only weeks ago.  

George W. Bush solemnly noted with little passion the “remarkable” record of the man that stood before him and the nation.  Expressionless,  the President apathetically proclaimed the Judge brings impressive credentials to the office of Attorney General.  Mister Bush selected a candidate that was able to assure allies and appease foes.
Bush attested to the vital role an Attorney General plays in protecting the nation, particularly in a time of war.  He offered the Mukasey biography and stressed the significance of the resume as it relates to terrorism.

Judge Mukasey Was Appointed By President Ronald Reagan To Serve On The United States District Court For The Southern District Of New York, A Position He Held For Over 18 Years.  Judge Mukasey was a strong leader during his six years as Chief Judge of this court, one of the country’s most important and prestigious Federal district courts.  His distinctive service earned him the Federal Bar Council’s Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence in 2004 and an honorary degree from Brooklyn Law School in 2002.

  • Judge Mukasey Presided Over The 1995 Trial Of 10 Individuals Accused Of Plotting Terrorist Attacks In New York City – Including Omar Abdel Rahman, The “Blind Sheikh” Involved In Planning The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.  Judge Mukasey sentenced Rahman and another man, El Sayyid Nosair, to life in prison, a decision that required him to keep armed guards with him for protection.
  • Judge Mukasey Issued The First Ruling On Jose Padilla’s Challenge To His Detention As An Enemy Combatant.  He found that the Government had the right to hold Mr. Padilla as an enemy combatant without charging him for a crime.  Judge Mukasey also granted a defense motion to allow Mr. Padilla to meet with his attorneys.
  • A Former Prosecutor, Judge Mukasey Served For Four Years (1972-76) As An Assistant United States Attorney For The Prestigious And Demanding Southern District Of New York Office.  While in the United States Attorney’s office, Judge Mukasey demonstrated strong leadership and management skills as the Chief of the Official Corruption Unit.
  • Many noted Mukasey was not, and is not an inner circle crony.  Possibly, it was for that reason George W. Bush droned on as he delivered what for him may have felt  as an obligatory speech.  I could not be certain.  Nevertheless, the confluence was striking.  Here is a qualified Judge, a Conservative, a Jurist that ruled in Bush’s favor and yet, the President seemed less than satisfied.  I was intent.  I wanted to understand.  I was mesmerized by the tone the tenor of this tentative overture.  

    The President spoke in an almost monotone voice.  None of the characteristic cadence was evident.  Where was the smile, the smirk, or the silly side comments that are standard Bush?  I was captivated as I heard and observed the man that often is as background in my life.  Something was very, very, very wrong with this picture.  I waited and watched.  I did not do as I typically do, go about my day while the President expounds.  I stood in front of the television until I understood.

    A Justice Department mired in controversy was about to see some relief.  Morale so low among lawmakers could rise again.  A President hindered by a distraction, by many an unwanted diversion, possibly will be able to truly move forward.  Yet, the President of the United States is somber.  

    Finally, the light shined through.  The spark in Bush’s voice returned.  His face lit up as he shared the story of the soon to be former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.  Some of the fire in his eyes stemmed from fury.  A fraction was the expression of heart-felt love for a man that the President has long called “my friend.”  Glowing with pride and pleasure, while furious with the flame of rage Mister Bush said . . .

    When he takes his place at the Department of Justice, he will succeed another fine judge, Alberto Gonzales. From his days as a Supreme Court Justice in Texas, to his years as White House Counsel and as Attorney General of the United States, this honorable and decent man has served with distinction. I’ve known Al and his family for more than a decade. He’s a dear friend and a trusted advisor. I will miss him and I wish Al and Becky all the best.

    Mister Bush has many dear friends.  They follow him, and have, just as a posse adheres to the wants of its leader.  The Bush flock is as a herd that trails behind its shepherd.  Perhaps, that has long been the problem.  President George W. Bush and his minion Attorney General Gonzales were too close.  The supposed subordinate had ample power, the ability to change America in ways that destroyed the Constitution and he did.   His constant contact with the Chief, blind faith in the Commander, ultimately broke the will of the  Republican Gonzales backers, just as it devastated morale at the Justice Department.

    Justice Department morale at low point over Gonzales
    By Philip Shenon and Jim Rutenberg
    New York Times. San Francisco Chronicle
    Saturday, July 28, 2007

    (07-28) 04:00 PDT Washington — Daniel Metcalfe, a lawyer who began his government career in the Nixon administration and retired from the Justice Department last winter, said morale at the department is worse under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales than during Watergate.

    John Koppel, who continues to work at the department as a civil appellate lawyer in Washington, wrote this month that he was ashamed of the department and that if Gonzales told the truth in recent congressional testimony, “he has been derelict in the performance of his duties and is not up to the job.”

    Even though they worry that it may hinder their career prospects, a few current and former Justice Department lawyers have begun to add to the chorus of Gonzales’ critics who say that the furor over his performance as attorney general, and questions about his truthfulness under oath, could do lasting damage to the department’s work.

    It is a view that is widely shared on Capitol Hill, even more so after the grueling questioning of Gonzales on Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which his credibility was repeatedly challenged. After the hearing, several Democratic senators called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate whether he committed perjury.

    Lawmakers and senior congressional aides from both parties said Gonzales had lost almost all ability to influence the administration’s agenda in Congress, denying the president what should be an important voice on issues including terrorism, immigration, and civil rights.

    “The attorney general’s loss of credibility not only harms him personally, it diminishes the Justice Department and undermines the president’s ability to move some of his most sensitive legal issues through the Hill because the trust factor doesn’t exist with his attorney general,” said Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, a Gonzales critic who is chairman of the House Republican Conference.

    Gonzales is expected to be sidelined from any significant part in the debate on Capitol Hill this summer over legislation eagerly sought by the administration to update terrorist surveillance laws.

    Administration officials and close allies acknowledge that some of President Bush’s aides might be eager to see Gonzales go, but they say the attorney general continues to have the confidence of Bush, who has repeatedly shown that he resists making personnel decisions under political pressure.

    In separate interviews, White House officials used virtually the same words in describing why Gonzales might remain at the department indefinitely: “Only one person matters” — the president.

    The President, for years, remained loyal to his good friend Alberto Gonzales.  George W. Bush, when confronted with concerns about any of those he thought prized, consistently stated he had confidence in his appointees.  Nonetheless, the claims of incompetence continued to haunt the President.  Ultimately, his buoyancy, his decision to bolster the ineffective and less than authentically qualified waned.

    Bush’s herd of loyal Texas advisers continues to thin
    By Dave Montgomery
    McClatchy Newspapers
    August 27, 2007 08:04:36 PM

    Washington — They were fiercely loyal, unfailingly disciplined and, as a unit, offered the president a comforting touchstone from his home state.

    Now, Team Texas is moving ever closer to extinction. The already thinning cadre of advisers who followed George W. Bush from Austin to Washington is unraveling even further, with Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove heading toward the door.

    Although Texans are still dotted throughout the administration, most of the influential Lone Star transplants who’ve worked at Bush’s side since his days as Texas governor either have left town or removed themselves from day-to-day influence at the White House.

    Gonzales, a steadfast loyalist who served as Bush’s counsel in the governor’s office, announced his resignation as attorney general Monday after enduring a months-long uproar over his stewardship of the Justice Department. Rove, the architect of Bush’s victorious presidential campaigns, will leave at the end of the week.

    They join a parade of other departed Bush insiders from Texas, including White House adviser Dan Bartlett, former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Joe Allbaugh and White House lawyer Harriet Miers, who Bush briefly nominated to the Supreme Court before a conservative backlash forced him to withdraw the nomination.

    Perhaps, Americans might learn from the Bush example.  While many Americans criticize the President for his faithful devotion to friends, even when they fail to prove themselves worthy of deference, citizens of this country do the same in respect to their President.  

    George W. Bush has shown that he does not have the people’s best interest at heart.  This Commander-In-Chief, has lied, cheated, and stolen the Constitution.  Yet, we cling to the charade that he is our protector.  Numerous Americans say they do not see him as such.  Nonetheless, actions, or more accurately inactions speak.  Few dare to insist that we impeach this Administration.  

    George W. Bush remains the “decider.”  Indeed, often we hear that this President has protected us from further terrorist attacks.  Rarely do Americans consider that worldwide our national leaders are seen as “insurgents” and “occupiers.” Assaults are ample.  They are evident on the tattered parchment we call the Constitution.

    Americans, as a whole, may also wish to accept what a few of the Bush cohorts learned to appreciate.   It is possible to separate our selves from this President and still survive intact.

    Some of the originals that remain in Washington District of Columbia are able to function with less fanfare and nary a word of farewell.  Constituents do not disparage the deeds of those that chose to disconnect themselves from their guru.  Those that stay in the Capital understand what the common folk seem to dismiss.  George W. Bush may have been brought them to this place; however, they, and we, need not stay with him and allow him to do us harm.  

    Perchance, Americans might do as those that were once considered part of the clan.  For safety and sanity, some of the original Texas team acknowledged that they could make it on our own.  Possibly, citizens might acknowledge the same.

    Karen Hughes, one of Bush’s most trusted advisers in Austin and during the early days at the White House, remains in town but is focused on her current duties as a top State Department official charged with bolstering the U.S. image abroad.

    Three other vintage Bushites are still in Washington but, like Hughes, they’re largely focused on their own turf: Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, the author of Bush’s education initiatives in Austin; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, Bush’s former neighbor in Dallas; and former Bush college roommate Clay Johnson, who serves as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

    The departures are to be expected toward the end of a second term. For the most part, many of Bush’s original teammates chose to stay on long past the traditional tenure in a city known for burnout and destroyed families.

    “The only surprise is not that any of the Texans have left but that they stayed so long,” said Mark McKinnon, a former Bush media consultant who’s now the vice chairman of Public Strategies of Austin.

    The longevity of many Texas transplants — particularly those who remained at Bush’s side deep into his second term — in many ways reflects the mutual loyalty that bonded the former Texas governor and those who joined him at the outset of his political career in the mid-1990s.

    Loyalty, while a lovely trait can create much chaos.  Indeed, it has in the Justice Department and by extension throughout the United States of America.  In this country, as Alberto Gonzales proclaimed the President has powers awarded in times of war.  Thus, privacy is righteously lost.  Telephone trolling is no longer a temptation for those in “authority” that wish to spy on average citizens; it is law.  Habeas corpus is denied, and Rules of the Geneva Convention are deemed quaint.

    David R. Gergen, professor of public service at Harvard University and an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan and Clinton, said Mr. Gonzales “will be remembered as riding shotgun with Dick Cheney on the expansion of presidential power.”

    Mr. Gergen and other legal analysts and former government officials said Mr. Gonzales came to stand for the government-by-fiat approach adopted by the Bush White House after the Sept. 11 attacks.

    “You can’t just change government through strong-willed policy,” said Stanley Brand, an ethics lawyer in Washington and a former House Democratic counsel.  “People who ride into Washington on a high horse of ideology or ignorance are inevitably headed toward a blow-up.”

    That may be true; however, it seems the high horse in recent years was a stallion like no other.  Its stance was firm; it conviction strong, and oh that saddle.  The polished leather placed on the back of the Bush, Cheney steed carried quite a load and maintained its balance for seven long and difficult years.  While Alberto Gonzales may have seemed to ride along side for a time, he was never off course.  History demonstrates that frequently the now resigned Attorney General held the reigns.

    Mr. Gonzales’s role — and particularly his derision of some provisions of the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” in one memorandum — led to a bruising confirmation battle in 2005 after Mr. Bush had tapped him to become the country’s first Hispanic attorney general. Even then, Mr. Gonzales and his senior aides were well aware of the perception, unfair though they thought it was, that his first loyalty was to the president, not to his position as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

    “I will no longer represent only the White House; I will represent the United States of America and its people,” he told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing in January 2005. “I understand the differences between the two roles.”

    For Gonzales, the distinction may be similar to what the President experiences.  George W. Bush understands he is Commander-In-Chief and appointees serve at his pleasure.  Bush and his Cabinet work to represent and protect the American people.  However, the President understands that he serves a higher authority.  His purpose is providence.  George W. Bush serves his savior, Jesus Christ and the Lord guides him.  Apparently, Gonzales understood, he walked a similar line.  

    Though few knew it at the time, John Ashcroft, Mr. Gonzales’s predecessor at the Justice Department, had shown a willingness to stand up to the White House at critical times — most famously in a March 2004 visit to his hospital room over the wiretapping program, when he refused efforts by Mr. Gonzales to certify its legality.

    By naming Mr. Gonzales as Mr. Ashcroft’s successor in November 2004, the White House was apparently seeking to assert its control over the department.  Mr. Gonzales brought several important aides from the White House, and in the view of many Justice Department veterans, never adequately established his independence of the president’s political circle in the new job.

    After the wiretapping program was publicly disclosed in December 2005, Mr. Gonzales’s handling of the controversy exacerbated those concerns.  He became the most prominent public defender of the program, but his legal explanations were often ridiculed by lawmakers who accused him of stonewalling by refusing to turn over crucial documents.

    Republicans remained publicly supportive of Mr. Gonzales while they were in power on Capitol Hill.  But with the Democrats’ takeover of both chambers this year, Democrats feasted on his political vulnerabilities by mounting an aggressive investigation into the United States attorneys affair, and Republicans soon joined in.

    The first flash point in the episode, turning the dismissals from a low-grade nuisance to a front-page scandal, came on Feb. 7, when Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said at a Senate hearing that at least one of the ousted prosecutors had been moved out to make way for a former aide to Karl Rove.

    Each week seemed to bring new evidence and batches of e-mail suggesting that the removals might have been politically motivated, and Mr. Gonzales’s honesty came under sharp attack in an April 19 Senate appearance that was widely panned by Democrats and Republicans.

    Possibly, then Bush might have realized what he reluctantly ultimately accepted only weeks ago.  It was time to cut his loses.  However, he did not.  George W. Bush could not, would not remove a member of the Executive Branch.  Bush was certain to do so would be wrong.  He did not wish to put the country through such a proceeding.  The President held on tight to his commitment, just as the American people do.  However . . .

    Mr. Gonzales’s testimony “was very, very damaging to his own credibility” and his continued presence had hurt the Justice Department as a whole, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said at the time.  “Charges are being made that the Department of Justice was the political arm of the White House,” Mr. Specter said.

    After an April appearance before the Senate on the United States attorneys controversy, one critic counted 74 times that Mr. Gonzales had said that either he could not recall events or did not know the answer.  Even conservative icons like Robert H. Bork, the former solicitor general, thought Mr. Gonzales had mishandled the dismissals.  “The way he responded made a nonscandal a scandal,” Mr. Bork said Monday.

    The testimony in May of James B. Comey, deputy attorney general under Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Gonzales, about the 2004 confrontation in the hospital over the wiretapping program further undermined Mr. Gonzales, who had testified previously that there had been no disagreement over the program.  Officials later said the disagreement was chiefly over the security agency’s data mining, not its closely related eavesdropping, but Mr. Gonzales’s legalistic distinction was rejected as misleading by some senators who had been briefed on the secret surveillance.

    By then, Mr. Gonzales was daily fodder for political cartoons and television comedians.  With Congressional leaders calling for a perjury investigation, the controversy over the visit to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room appears to have become the final blow to Mr. Gonzales’s already shaky status as attorney general.

    Finally, the President understood what the American people refuse to grasp.  The Attorney General could not function any longer.  Gonzales, just as Bush, is considered the source for comic relief.  However, laughter does not relieve the pain.  George W. Bush did not appreciate this truth; however, he could not change it.

    This morning the President may have reminded us of ourselves.  We may love to hate the Commander-In-Chief.  We may wish to blame him for all the nation’s ills.  Perchance, some of us think there is not enough time to release him from his service.  Hearings would take time and destroy the country.  We must attend to deeds that are more important.  

    Yet, might we consider what we witnessed today and accept the analogy.  George W. Bush loves Gonzales, his loyal disciple, for whatever reasons, good or bad.  Yet, he did not wish to let go.  Even as he did so, it was evident his heart was not in it.  

    Some of us might realize we, in our reluctance to accept that this Administration needs to be removed, are as Mister Bush.  We got used to the “good old boy,” torn and tattered as he may be.  George W. Bush was familiar with his friend.  We are well acquainted with him.  

    Some loved Mister Bush when he was first elected.  They would hate to think they might have been wrong.  None of us wish to believe that a vote for George W. Bush, or an endorsement for the war in Iraq would place this country in the terrible quagmire it is in.  

    President Bush certainly was unable to admit to the error of his appointment.  Americans may declare their error now, belatedly; yet, they do nothing to correct the circumstances.  We, the people wait, just as George W. did.

    To this day, Mister Bush  defiantly praised his earlier choice.  As disciplined as the President pretended to be as he introduced his new nominee, he could not, would not, separate himself from the man that helped fashion his favor.  Perhaps, we might see ourselves in George W. Bush.  Might we think that if we dared impeach, that admission, admonishment of the Executives, would lead this country into chaos.  Perhaps, Americans think we would appear weak.  I invite each of us to ask, why are we unwilling to break free from the man that shaped our course, and continues to stay it?

    I welcome reflection.   On this day of induction, we must be realistic.  An Attorney General, Michael Mukasey. Whether he is as Conservatives fret, too liberal, or if he is a others express, the New York Jurist is prudent, a perfect balance.  This single man cannot do what we, the people have not done.  We can hope as we read assessments.  Slate Magazine, Journalist Emily Bazelon states in Measuring Mukasey . . .

    Given the administration’s past go-it-alone mentality (known more formally as the “unitary executive theory”), it’s certainly reassuring that Mukasey thinks that Congress, not the president, has the constitutional authority to make the sweeping changes he advocates.  At least we won’t have a new special court by executive order.

    Nonetheless, we have what we have.  If Congress approves a man that respects the Constitution, he alone cannot restore the document to its original form.  

    I can only hope it is not too late.  Time is an interesting construct.  It heals nothing.  What we do in time moves us forward, or backward.

    From my own perspective, I look at the number of days that George W. Bush remains in office and I shutter.  Four hundred and ninety days is quite a term.  One amenable, fair, and just Attorney General alone cannot possibly give the country back to the American people.  A single man with an impressive record cannot alter the course of a war gone wrong.  Only we the people can do this deed.

    I muse; might we consider impeachment of the Bush/Cheney clan.  Perhaps, there is a chance, justice will be served, if we do as the President has done.  Let us resign ourselves and reluctantly admit, it is time.  Some that stayed in the White House must go.

    Gonzales Goes; Will Justice Return, or Will Bush/Cheney Continue to Reign . . .

  • Transcripts; CNN Newsroom.  Cable News Network. September 17, 2007
  • Ex-Judge Is Said to Be Pick At Justice, Democrats Likely To Accept Him as Attorney General. By Michael Abramowitz and Dan Eggen.  Washington Post. Monday, September 17, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Ex-Judge Is Said to Be Pick At Justice, Democrats Likely To Accept Him as Attorney General. By Michael Abramowitz and Dan Eggen.  Washington Post. Monday, September 17, 2007; Page A01
  • Bush’s inner circle Cable News Network. 2001
  • President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General. Office of the Press Secretary. September 17, 2007
  • Justice Department morale at low point over Gonzales By Philip Shenon and Jim Rutenberg. New York Times. San Francisco Chronicle. Saturday, July 28, 2007
  • Bush’s herd of loyal Texas advisers continues to thin. By Dave Montgomery.  McClatchy Newspapers. August 27, 2007
  • pdf Bush’s herd of loyal Texas advisers continues to thin. By Dave Montgomery.  McClatchy Newspapers. August 27, 2007
  • Gonzales, Loyal to Bush, Was Firm on War Policies, By Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane.  The New York Times. August 28, 2007
  • pdf Gonzales, Loyal to Bush, Was Firm on War Policies, By Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane.  The New York Times. August 28, 2007
  • No shying away from God Talk in campaign, By Mary Leonard.  Boston Globe. December 23, 1999
  • George W. Bush and the G-Word, By Al Kamen.  Washington Post. Friday, October 14, 2005; Page A17
  • pdf George W. Bush and the G-Word, By Al Kamen.  Washington Post. Friday, October 14, 2005; Page A17
  • Measuring Mukasey, He’s No Pushover, But Will Bush’s Pick for AG Rein In The Administration On Executive Power? By Emily Bazelon.  Slate. Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, at 11:54 AM ET
  • Fact Sheet: Michael Mukasey: A Strong Attorney General.  The White House.