Gonzales’s Fall, Bush’s Impeachment?

Lew Rockwell suggested yesterday that I do a piece on the Gonzales meltdown and how it could affect Bush.   Every now and then, I am not immune to good ideas, so I wrote it and he posted it on LewRockwell.com today. 

I appreciate all the comments I received on the Gonzales blog entries in the past week.     Going back and forth with folks helped me understand some of the angles and implications of the Attorney General implosion. 

  Here’s the piece:

Gonzales’s Fall, Bush’s Impeachment?

by James Bovardby Jam

Allberto Gonzales will soon be ejected from the Justice Department. Bush’s Attorney General has been caught in too many flagrant lies and abuses. The real question is whether Gonzo’s fall will signal the beginning of the end of the Bush reign.

Gonzo’s fall will be widely seen as a result of shenanigans and deceits involving the firing of 8 U.S. attorneys. The White House and top Justice Department officials seem to have colluded to deep-six attorneys who threatened Republican congressmen or appointees. The pending congressional testimony by Gonzo’s former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, could create new problems for the White House.

But Bush is probably in much greater danger from the derailing a Justice Department investigation into Gonzo’s possibly criminality. Murray Waas, one of the best investigative journalists in DC, has a new piece on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s role in derailing a Justice Department investigation of his own possible criminality. Waas reported last Thursday at the National Journal web page.

Shortly before Attorney GeneralAlberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews. Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

The Justice Department investigation could have exposed on the role of Bush and his top advisors in masterminding a program that some of the federal government’s top experts considered to be clearly illegal. Waas noted, “According to accounts that Gonzales and his aides gave to others in the department, Gonzales did advise Bush on the issue of the OPR inquiry.”

Thus, Bush may have knowingly derailed an investigation that could have exposed his own criminal conduct. This may be even too brazen an abuse of power for many Republicans to stomach.

It is ironic that Gonzo will probably get sunk for his role in firing and lying about U.S. attorneys, considering that he had so many worse offenses. It was only a few months ago that Gonzales notified a shocked Senate Judiciary Committee that the Constitution did not guarantee habeas corpus, despite explicit language to the contrary.

In early 2002, Gonzo wrote a memo to Bush effectively urging him to scorn prohibitions in federal law and in the Geneva Convention banning torture. Gonzales, then serving as White House counsel, revealed: “The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.”

On June 22, 2004, Gonzales publicly declared that Bush possessed “commander-in-chief override power” over the Constitution and the federal law in the conflict with Al Qaeda. This “override power” is something that exists in the minds of conservative absolutists, not the Constitution.

In January 2005, after Bush nominated him to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General, Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) asked what, in most hearings, would have been considered a slow-pitch question: “Do you believe there are circumstances where… the War Crimes Act would not apply to U.S. personnel?”

Gonzales responded as if he had been asked to solve the riddle of the Sphinx: “Senator, I don’t believe that that would be the case. But I would like the opportunity – I know I want to be very candid with you and obviously thorough in my response to that question. It is sort of a legal conclusion, and I would like to have the opportunity to get back to you on that.”

Durbin later asked: “Can U.S. personnel legally engage in torture under any circumstances?” Gonzales again struggled: “I don’t believe so, but I’d want to get back to you on that and make sure I don’t provide a misleading answer.” Torture was obviously going to be the hottest topic of the confirmation hearing, and yet Gonzales repeatedly sounded as if it was a novel topic that he would need to visit a law library to learn about before forming an opinion.

Gonzales will be difficult to replace – in more ways that one. The Senate Democrats will probably not confirm some obvious hatchet man. Bush has “benefitted” from two Attorney Generals who were profoundly dishonest and demagogic. No matter what the Bush administration did, they could be counted on to rubberstamp it as legal – or “close enough for government work” legal.

If the next Attorney General is halfway honest and opens the files of what has been done since 2001, even damn moderates will be shocked. There are bombshells waiting to detonate on the torture scandal, on Iraq, and other dishonest and illegal gross abuses. For instance, the ACLU released a CIA letter in November confirming the existence of “a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees.” This confirms a May 2004 email from the FBI’s “On Scene Commander” in Baghdad regarding a secret “presidential Executive Order” permitting extreme interrogation techniques considered illegal by the FBI including “sensory deprivation through the use of hoods,” stress positions, and military dogs.

The Justice Department has so far blocked release of Bush’s secret order. If this Bush order becomes public, it may be akin to a 1972 memo from Richard Nixon specifying the exact methods of lock-picking the Watergate burglars should use. Bush’s involvement in the torture scandal may be far deeper than Nixon’s involvement in Watergate.

The Bush administration has survived because it has succeeded in keeping the lid on so many scandals. Any change in top personnel raises the risks of lids slipping. New appointees will not want to put their heads on the chopping block to cover up crimes that occurred before they got the corner office.

Democratic subpoenas are beginning to darken the D.C. sky like the English arrows at Agincourt. The subpoenas and scandals generate congressional testimony which spur the number of political appointees who could be indicted for perjury. The scandals are accelerating while support for the Bush administration seems to be collapsing.

At best, Bush may need to award more Medals of Freedom this year than ever before. At worst, he may need to resurrect Gerald Ford and his all-inclusive “from the first day to the last day” pardon for himself and his nearest, dearest co-conspirators.

March 20, 2007


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20 Responses to Gonzales’s Fall, Bush’s Impeachment?

  1. Joe March 20, 2007 at 9:16 am #

    I think the Democrats are unlikely (at present) to attempt to impeach Bush because of the line of succession. Would the Democrats have gotten close to impeach Nixon if Agnew was still the VP? And how many Senators at Clinton’s impeachment voted NO because they considered the alternative of “President Gore”? I think the best we can hope for is that GWB and RBC will be neutralized for the remainder of their term.

  2. Jim March 20, 2007 at 9:28 am #

    It all depends on how many scandals take off, how many secret abuses explode like mushroom clouds when exposed.

    I doubt that the public sentiment currently exists to support impeachment. But, as with the Iraq war, the public turned against the war long before Congress did. Exposes could increase anti-Bush sentiment far more than Washingtonians expect…

    But it certainly is not a sure thing.

  3. John Lowell March 20, 2007 at 11:46 am #

    Bush telephones support to Gonzales this morning; the Republicans are said to rally around their leader. As much as I’d love to see the guy get the bum’s rush, and particularly so together with Bush if a torture memo actually surfaces, I think they’ll tough it out. No one’s asking what AIPAC wants and I really think someone should. After all, they’re in charge, eh?

    John Lowell

  4. Jim March 20, 2007 at 11:52 am #

    I don’t think AIPAC is in the driver’s seat on this issue.

    If disclosures continue, it will become less relevant what Bush or Congress wants. The scandal will take on its own momentum.

  5. John Lowell March 20, 2007 at 7:41 pm #

    With all respect, your expectation that events will carom out of control with the emergence of new disclosures presupposes the vitality of some context or structure that’s larger than the political exchanges that are now being heard. One imagines that you see the Constitution serving as that context. You’d be the one of the last commentators I’d be apt to see as attributing much life to the US Constitution so I’m struck with the optimism. I don’t share it, frankly. If there is a context at this point in time its in raw economics and in those registers AIPAC sings the loudest. They have real interests here, particularly in the maintenance of a comity of outlook between Israel and the United States in what they see as a joint undertaking against “Islamo-fascism”. And these interests extend to tactics, that is to say torture, pre-emption, and the like. The loss of Gonzales would mean a chastened President and greater caution in circumstances where AIPAC just might like to see caution thrown to the wind. They run the Congress and while their influence might be somewhat more veiled in circumstances like these, in my view it’s likely to be decisive.

    I note tonight the President digging in his heels on subpoenas. We’re dealing with a Hitler look-alike in this instance, someone who’d be more likely to bite into a cyanide capsule than back down. And he’s got very powerful friends. We may come to see that fighting AIPAC is like facing the Yankees in the ninth inning. You never win.

    John Lowell

  6. Jim March 20, 2007 at 9:29 pm #

    John, if AIPAC was that powerful and all-controlling, a semi-nitwit like Gonzales probably never would have been chosen as Attorney General in the first place. The dude makes FEMA’s Michael Brown appear almost Mensa-like.

    I also strongly disagree on Bush being a Hitler look-alike. He has time left and some allies – and some courts that will defer to him. I don’t think we are close to the final act.

  7. Tom Blanton March 20, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    Bush was petulant and agitated at his press conference tonight – he also seemed nervous and a little desperate when questioned. He says his boy Gonzo is going to explain the truth about the firings. I think Bush needs some new meds – maybe a whole new psychiatric team. The C-SPAN train wreck is here:


  8. Orville H. Larson March 21, 2007 at 12:17 am #

    Bush is, if anything, the most “impeachable” President in a long time. He lied us into a war against a nation that didn’t attack us, and he’s wiped his ass with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He’s done this, and God only knows what else.

    All that, and he hasn’t been impeached.

    Ideally, I’d like to see him tried a la Nuremberg at the International Criminal Court. Of course, that’s not going to happen. My point is, if Bush’s monstrous depredations haven’t caused his impeachment by now, what will?

  9. Jim March 21, 2007 at 12:53 pm #

    Tom – thanks for posting the link to the video. I don’t think this performance will make the highlights clip for the 2nd term. On the other hand, this might be a high water mark – Bush might really be derailing next speech.

    Imagine how Bush would hold up for a 3 or 4 hour deposition like the type Clinton enjoyed in 1998….

  10. Dirk W. Sabin March 21, 2007 at 2:17 pm #

    Comparing this President to Hitler is like comparing Pastor Haggee and his Apocalypalooza Train to the sanguinary Spanish Catholic edifice of Torquemada. This President aint professional enough, he’s a Hee Haw version of Fascism. One of the reasons he’s been cossetted all these years by his loyal staff is they know he can’t take even minimal criticism because he folds his cards and upends the table.The boy is frozen at 13. He was forced into answering questions during his Latin American trip that he is normally buffered from and so he’s now forced to keep coming out to engage this debate, which in fact, is over a minor “mistake” within the context of his pantheon of malevolence. These guys are at least honest, they call their methodical plans “mistakes” when they’re outed .

    Unfortunately, the Boobarchy’s loyal citizens accept his cornpone hoohaw at face value. Push this boy enough though and he’ll erupt and the Oz curtain will finally be pulled away. In fact, I was surprised that one of the terrorist attacks that fellow recently confessed to was not Poppy’s dented garbage cans when Shrub wanted to go mano a mano, poco a poco. I know that Ayrab wuz drivin. All anyone has to do to this hall-monitor all growed up is start smirking back at him because he’ll blow in the face of impudence. When he does blow, it’ll be hilarious. They’ll likely have to chase him around the room.

  11. Jim March 21, 2007 at 4:45 pm #

    FYI – a notice on this blog’s protocol

    There have been quite a few non-germane ethnic/national/religious references in comments lately.

    Such comments are susceptible to being deleted without notice. (Comments from three people have been struck in the last couple days).

    I’m critical of Bush & his foreign policy. But there is more to political reality (and the current abuses) than a single lobby.

    I appreciate the effort folks put into their comments here. Endless repetition of any point throughout the comments deflects from the fresh thoughts people post here.

    And – as Nixon would say – “Let me make this perfectly clear” – I welcome critical comments, harsh & otherwise, on my own positions & writing. That makes for zesty reading – part of the reason I sometimes post hate mail I receive.

  12. John Lowell March 21, 2007 at 5:11 pm #


    What you may mean by “non-germane ethnic/national/religious references in comments” I can’t say but if by “there is more to political reality (and the current abuses) than a single lobby” you are referring to the comment I’d made above, I’d suggest that you reach for the Alka-Seltzer. Someone disagrees in a respectful way with your take on things and you turn censorious? And we’re worrying about Gonzales?

    John Lowell

  13. Jim March 21, 2007 at 5:17 pm #

    John – I am not “censorius” because I am blocking no one from commenting anywhere else on the web.

    This blog is not a public utility.

    And no one is being conscripted to comment on this blog.

  14. John Lowell March 21, 2007 at 6:25 pm #


    Uh huh.

    And I see no reason whatsoever to revise my appraisal.

    John Lowell

  15. Original Steve March 21, 2007 at 6:28 pm #

    Thanks Jim. Thats all I can say. You and Josh Marshall continue to do a fantastic, level headed job on this and other stories.

  16. Jim March 21, 2007 at 6:31 pm #

    Steve – Thanks – but Josh Marshall is in a class by himself on this atty firing scandal. He and his team have done a great job of advancing the story when the major papers did their usual snoozeathons at the crime scene.

    It is good that he put the Wash. Post and NY Times and other places to shame.

  17. Lawhobbit March 21, 2007 at 9:03 pm #

    I’m just trying to wrap my mind around Jim conscripting people to post in his blog. I picture two big (bigger than me) guys showing up at my office – two men with a common middle name of “the” – and them intoning, “Mr. Bovard wants 125 words out of you on the Rindepest For Congress issue, and he wants it on his blog before noon. And they had best be arranged in coherent sentences and 50% of them need to contain at least two or more syllables.”

    It staggers the imagination.

  18. Jim March 21, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    So the guys did arrive, or you are doing a hypothetical here?

    If the guys did arrive, I hope your thumbs heal real soon.

  19. Original Steve March 22, 2007 at 5:16 am #

    I’m not worried about being drafted by Jim. My birthday and lottery numbers are pretty high (a little Vietnam reference for you).

    Jim, Josh Marshall was on this thing ages ages ago. In fact, his posts were almost in the same few hours as the last couple of firings just as they were going down.

  20. Jim March 22, 2007 at 7:55 am #

    Steve – your Selective Service number may have been high.

    But your FBI number might be pretty low, considering some of the places you post.

    Luckily, you don’t need to worry about the FBI intentionally tapping your phone or trampling your rights. It will always be an accident – or at least it will not be a criminal offense.