Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How Alberto Gonzales' incompetence became a defense for his wrongdoing

Slate Magazine: By Dahlia Lithwick

A few months ago, just after Alberto Gonzales turned in about the most dismal performance in the history of Senate testimony, I observed that he might have—oddly enough—done just what his boss had expected of him. Musing over his lame defenses for the partisan firings of nine U.S. attorneys—defenses ranging from 'I had no idea what my subordinates were doing' to 'I can't recall my middle name' to 'I didn't actually bestir myself to prepare for this hearing'—it occurred to me that Gonzales was the perfect attorney general for this administration. Way better, really, than John Ashcroft.

Viewed in that light, Gonzales' performances in the House and the Senate this past spring were in fact a tour de force. Why? Because if you accept as truth the great myth of the Untouchable Unitary Executive—and Gonzales surely does—it must also be true that the highest form of fealty to that Unitary Executive is to thwart congressional oversight any way you can. If you must behave like Beavis or Butthead in order to achieve that constitutional effect, so be it. Alberto Gonzales has it in him. ...

It's difficult to ascertain the precise moment in the Bush administration in which confessing not to have been doing one's job at all became the best defense against the claim that one did one's job badly. But given the choice between admitting to perjury or incompetence, you can bet that Gonzales will easily, indeed gleefully, cop to the latter. From the very beginning of the U.S. attorney scandal, he has admitted to being checked-out, hands-off, apathetic, and incurious. It's enough to have gotten him fired from a job at Dairy Queen, yet all part of a day's not-work, it seems, from the perspective of the White House. ...At the end of it all, the bargain the president seems always willing to accept is a tragic one: The lunatics are running the asylum, but at least the asylum is all his.

This Administration has entered its bunker for the duration. Let's hope the rest of us find a way to survive. Where is Nurse Ratched when we need her?

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