The Administration

Attorney Firings Were Clearly Based on Politics, Not Performance

A lot of media time has focused on the U.S. attorneys scandal and players such as Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, staffers who suddenly hit the spotlight. When I read the 33-year-old Goodling’s bio of being educated at a very conservative school in Pennsylvania, Messiah College, and the law school founded by Pat Robertson, Regent Law, in Virginia Beach, bells went off in my head.

I remember reading several articles about the sudden change in the Justice Department’s recruiting of lawyers early on in the Bush administration. Under John Ashcroft, many of the new lawyers were not chosen on the basis of competence, performance, legal training or law school record, but rather by their ideology and their politics.

Destroy Gonzales-ism

Thomas Paine once wrote that in absolute governments, the King is law, and in free nations, the Law is king.

The fundamental problem is not that Alberto Gonzales lied, prevaricated, misrepresented or played Pinocchio when he falsely stated he was not involved in the decisions to fire the U.S. attorneys. Those actions were wrong and appropriate grounds for removal, but there is much, much worse.

Alberto Gonzales is a basically decent guy, a second-tier-quality lawyer elevated to great heights by blind obedience to the concept of absolute power and the unwise president who claims it for himself on matters that grossly violate the American notion of the rule of law.

Gonzales-ism is the problem, not Gonzales.

Bush Throws Tantrum In Rose Garden

President Bush has had his embarrassing moments. But none surpass the childish temper tantrum he pretended to throw yesterday in the Rose Garden.

Surrounded by lights, cameras, props and podium, Bush staged a great show of political theater — in order to accuse the Democrats of “playing political theater.”

He accused Democrats of forcing troops to extend their stay in Iraq — when, in fact, he has kept troops in Iraq for over four years, forcing many of them to return for a second or third tour of duty.

Leaving the Reservation

We barely had time to react to Matthew Dowd’s bomb of a confessional Sunday when another one exploded on Monday. Vic Gold, longtime friend of President George H.W. Bush and the Cheneys, has also left the reservation with a big, hot blast.

“For all the Rove-built facade of his being a ‘strong’ chief executive, George W. Bush has been, by comparison to even hapless Jimmy Carter, the weakest, most out-of-touch president in modern times ... Think Dan Quayle in cowboy boots.” These are not the words of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) but of Gold in his new book, Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP.

Jack Danforth for Attorney General

Congress should promote and the president should appoint former Sen. John Danforth to replace Alberto Gonzales -- now.

Jack Danforth is one of the most respected and admired Americans in public life.  He is a lawyer of premier intellect and stature, a minister of unquestioned integrity and faith, and a Republican who is admired on both sides of the aisle in the Senate.

When I worked for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Danforth was a friend and collaborator of Bentsen's and I saw his work up close. He is truly outstanding on every level.  While Sen. Bentsen has left us, I feel very confident suggesting that he would volunteer to be at Sen. Danforth's side, introducing him at confirmation.

While confirmation hearings for any Attorney General will and should raise hard and controversial issues, hearings for Danforth would elevate bipartisanship and civility.

Sen. Bentsen accomplished many great things. One issue we talked about often and at great length, which we could not accomplish, was his passionate judgment that the Attorney General should be an independent figure of stature, far above partisan politics.

If ever there were a president who needed an Attorney General of universal crediblity and independent legal stature, it is George Bush. Yes, there are many scandals to come, from the years of one party Republican rule and a president who believes his personal whims and ideologies take precedence over the time-honored requirement of faithfully executing the law.

The President is on extremely dangerous ground right now and personally engenders profound levels of partisanship, anger and even hate among far too many Americans and among America's friends around the world. 

Will Alberto Gonzales Take the Fifth?

When we take the dress off the pig, today Kyle Sampson said Alberto Gonzales is a liar.

The attorney general told the Congress and the nation he was not involved in the firings of U.S. attorneys. We can dress this up nine different ways, we can use the weasel words of official Washington, but this is clear:

Alberto Gonzales lied.

Here is the problem for the President:

He wants to replace Gonzales but has extreme problems finding a successor who is both honest and will accept the job.

The president is afraid of an honest attorney general because the trail of wrongdoing would be exposed by an AG who faithfully executes the law.

The president cannot get an AG who will play the cover-up game, because the cover-up AG candidates won’t accept the job for fear of being indicted.

This is an administration full of Scooter Libbys protecting Dick Cheneys.

Enemy at the Gates

I just watched President Bush join his Republican congressional allies at the White House to denounce publicly, once again, the Democrats' attempts to load the supplemental with pork and force a withdrawal date of U.S. forces from Iraq. There's no question the White House is in full throttle on this effort, and when you have the bully pulpit, you command attention.

But I fear the enemies/the terrorists/al Qaeda have already won. Think about it: By trying to legislate what nearly every American is feeling — bring the troops home — we have signaled to the insurgents that we admit defeat. I'm not trying to be Pollyanna-ish about this — that's the statement! Why am I so sure? Because terrorist organizations prey on uncertainties and indecision, and America is definitely full of that today. To the terrorists in their bombed-out shells of buildings in Basra today, perception governs reality. And the image they will peddle throughout the Islamic world is that they are on the verge of winning, however "winning" is defined, but winning nonetheless.

Ask Not

The question is: As the sun sets on the era of George W. Bush, which the American people deeply want to conclude, what comes next?

My proposal: the spirit and leadership in the tradition of JFK, not only in word, but in deed, asking not only what is easy, but what is hard.

When Congress returns, I hope to initiate a modest enterprise here on The Hill.

In the print edition I'll be writing a column with a panoramic view of the calls to action that JFK might issue were he with us today.

Who Does She Think She Is?

Let me get this straight: We now have a second-tier staffer pleading the Fifth? Of course, no one WANTS to testify before Congress on "Prosecutor-Gate." Especially when you know that what you have to say can bring down your boss or your boss’s boss. In this case, the AG is as good as gone anyway but what about Karl “the man” Rove?

Monica Goodling, the Justice Department liaison with the White House, knows a lot. She has also hired one of the best trial lawyers in the country, John Dowd. But her boss Kyle Sampson will testify this week. Why can’t she? Hard to believe she has more at stake than he does. I can see why Karl and Harriet Miers want to pass on making the truck up Pennsylvania Avenue, but pleading the Fifth when you are “the other Monica” doesn’t make much sense to me.

Dowd is trying the Libby defense — watch out, you can get prosecuted for lying. Duh! After all, wasn’t that what the anti-Clinton Republicans were screaming about for three years?

Let’s hope that Ms. Goodling does not lead a parade of Fifth Amendment pleaders in this cover-up. Of course, we all know what that does to the end result — the truth comes out … eventually. And the longer they drag this out the worse off they all will be.

Bush Taking It in The Teeth

If President Bush’s people read the newspapers for him, since he insists he does not, they know he is taking it in the teeth this week. “A President All Alone,” blared the headline of Robert Novak’s column yesterday. We know a certain someone who is close to the president is a regular Novak reader, or at least a Novak leaker.

Also, the news that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is backing off his filibuster policy on the Iraq debate is remarkable. “We need to get the bill on down to the president and the veto out of the way,” said McConnell, ordering bulldozers to the political barricades of procedural votes that have protected Bush since the surge began. His colleague, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) seconded the notion, telling The Washington Post “We’re part of the problem if this doesn’t work … let him and the commanders in the field figure out a way to win.” It didn’t end there; a Republican House member was quoted saying the party has toed the line long enough. “Republicans are sick of defending an ungrateful president,” the member said.
Bush is having a GOP powwow at the White House Thursday to thank Republicans for opposing the Iraq spending bill and to encourage them to hang in. He better be inspiring.