In All the President's Men (one of TheWife's favorite films -- it got us through these last six years), there's a scene where Ben Bradlee is fed up with the fact that sources will not go on the record about the goings on in the Nixon White House. He angrily says,
Goddammit, when is somebody going to go on the record in this story? You guys are about to write a story that says the former Attorney General, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook! Just be sure you're right.Those were tough days, back when you had to investigate to determine whether the Attorney General was a criminal.
These days, he'll look you in the eye and perjure himself...repeatedly, if you ask him nicely...or not so nicely..in fact, it seems like he'll do it you ask him just about anything.
So, this is a guy who took an agency, the Department of Justice, that is supposed to be non-partisan in order to ensure that the law is enforced fairly, to make sure that the nation has confidence that prosecution is based on evidence and not politics and fired en masse eight U.S. Attorneys -- one of whom was to be replaced by Karl Rove's assistant.
When asked about it under oath, he lied about it saying that the firings were for job effectiveness, not politics.
Then it came out that the fired prosecutors had stellar records, but were not in the words of one of his assistants in a memo "loyal Bushies," where loyalty meant pursuing false charges of voter fraud in minority heavy districts or vigorously bringing trumped up charges against Democratic candidates in closely contested districts.
So he argued that the firings were in fact for job effectiveness because they serve at the pleasure of the President and not doing what the President wants -- even if he wants it for political reasons -- is to be ineffective. So it wasn't political, it was just political. I mean if it was problematically political, then there would be fingerprints from the political part o the White House and he testified under oath that there were no such traces.
When his assistant Monica Goodling was called to testify in front of Congress about the matter, Gonzales had a meeting with her. Can you say witness tampering?
He testified under oath that the White House's political arm had no role in the firings. But now, Josh Bolton and Harriet Meiers -- muscles in the White House's political arm -- have been called to testify, but have been ordered not to by the President in violation of Congressional subpoenas.
This is a guy who when legal council for the President went to the Department of Justice to seek an ok for warrantless wiretapping. Under oath, he said there was no serious disagreement about its Constitutional legality within the administration.
But then the acting Attorney General, James Comey, said, huh? I absolutely said no frickin' way. In other words, Gonzales lied under oath about it.
But it gets weirder. Comey was acting Attorney General because the real Attorney General John Ashcroft was undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder because he clearly had an overabundance of gall. When Comey refused to sign off, Gonzales paid a midnight visit to John Ashcroft in the hospital in order to get him to rubber stamp it while Ashcroft was under sedation.
When confronted about this, he tried to justify it. Sure, the Attorney General had transferred his powers while in a drug induced haze, Gonzales agreed, but he could just take them back whenever he wanted...even if really stoned. There are no rules against it, he argued. And besides, that wasn't what I went there to talk about. Or, so he says now.
But, of course, that was a lie...under oath and when caught in this one, he tried another lie. Trying to maintain that there was no dissent about the warrantless eavesdropping, he denied that he briefed Congressional leaders on the complete disapproval of the acting Attorney General. Then the briefed Congressional leaders called him a liar...as did the pesky notes of the meeting.
He testified in front of Congress that the USAPATRIOT Act had never given rise to any abuses of civil rights, all the time knowing it was false. When the report he had been given outlining such an abuse was made public, Gonzales was caught in yet another lie.
I guess the Bush administration finally learned the real lesson of Watergate, "it's not the crime, it's the cover up that'll get you in the end." So, they simply don't cover it up, committing crimes right out there in the open, clearly, blatantly, for all to see. No cover up. No digging. There's no glory for young investigative reporters if all they do is point out the obvious. It's not news if everyone knows it.
The Attorney General, the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the country, is a crook, we're sure we're right, and he's more than happy to go on the record in this story. This ain't Watergate, it's a whole lot weirder.