Friday, May 11, 2007

Abu Decoy

He's not even a clay pigeon:

Today's attorney general breezes into the chamber with the certain knowledge that having bottomed out in April, he has nothing left to prove. His only role in this scandal is as decoy: He's the guy who runs out in front of the hunters and draws their fire so nobody pays any attention to what's happening at the White House...

Since the career attorneys actually run the department, Gonzales is freed up to have no opinion about whether the DoJ should produce documents Congress is seeking ("I am recused from that decision"). He also needn't bother discussing this matter with his deputies, former deputies, or superiors. He can similarly accept full responsibility for decisions that he cannot begin to explain. He also shifts ground, in small but telling ways. He tells Mel Watt, D-N.C., that John McKay, former U.S. attorney in Seattle, was fired not so much because he "pushed an information-sharing system," (the old pretext) but for "the manner in which he pushed the information-sharing system." He tells Brad Sherman, D-Calif., that he stands by his ultimate decision to dismiss the eight attorneys, then insists that if the process had been more rigorous, different people would likely have been fired, which he apparently also would stand behind.

Finally, the AG proves himself to be as defiantly incurious as his boss. He tells the committee at various times that he didn't read the CRS report detailing how previous administrations handled U.S. attorney dismissals. He didn't read the University of Minnesota study that broke down the disparity in investigations of Democrats over Republicans He tells Maxine Waters, D-Calif., that he still has not read the fired U.S. attorneys' personnel files. He notes several times that he hasn't much read the newspapers. He tells Sanchez that he still doesn't know who at Justice had more than "limited input" into these decisions. The most revealing moment, perhaps, is when Gonzales inadvertently confesses that some members of this secret cabal of senior leaders may not have even "known that they were involved in making this list." Poor James Comey thought he was making cocktail-party conversation, when in fact Kyle Sampson was using his judgments on U.S. attorneys as ammunition against them.

Robert Wexler, D-Fla., finally loses his temper and starts hollering: "You did not select Iglesias for the list." (No). "Did Sampson select him?" (No). "Did Comey?" (No.) "Did McNulty?" (No.) Did the president? (No.) "Did the vice president? (No)." Then Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., follows up with one of the best queries of the day: "If you don't know who put Iglesias on the list, how do you know the president or the vice president didn't?"

Long silence. Pause. "They wouldn't do that," hems Gonzales. "The White House has said publicly that it was not involved in adding or deleting people from the list." Someone needs to tell that to Kyle Sampson. And as for Gonzales, he has made himself immortal by merely willing himself to be so. That must be what accounts for his Zenlike state today. It's an ingenious strategy. Instead of letting the president throw him under the bus to protect Karl Rove, Gonzales just lies down in the road, then giggles as the bus runs over his head.

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