Another Perspective On Gonzo

4 comments April 21st, 2007at 08:54pm Posted by Eli

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate suggests another way of looking at Abu Gonzales’ seemingly disastrous Senate testimony:

Assuming the president watched so much as 10 minutes of his attorney general being poleaxed by even rudimentary questions from the Senate judiciary committee, it strains credulity to believe that Gonzales still has Bush’s “full confidence.”

Until you stop to consider that the president wasn’t watching the same movie as the rest of us and that Gonzales wasn’t reading from the same script. Perhaps what we witnessed yesterday was in fact a tour de force, a home run for the president’s overarching theory of the unitary executive.


One of the key issues in the early battles over unitary executive theory was the president’s firing power. In its first incarnations, the notion of a unitary executive shored up the president’s claim that he was entitled to fire executive officials – including the independent counsel and agency heads – as the mood took him.

If you watch the Gonzales hearing through this prism (and in this White House, even the bathroom windows look out through that prism), they were a triumph. For six impressive hours, the attorney general embodied the core principles that he is not beholden to Congress, that the Senate has no authority over him, and that he was only there as a favor to them in their funny little fact-finding mission.

Consider how Gonzales rebuffed Republican Sen. John Cornyn when he suggested a future Senate hearing about the convictions of two Texas border patrol officers. (That’s executive branch business, son.) Consider the attorney general’s inability to explain why Kyle Sampson pushed ahead with a plan to do away with Senate confirmation for U.S. attorneys, if as he claimed, Gonzales didn’t approve it. (That’s between me and the president and Kyle Sampson, son.) Consider Gonzales’ skirmish with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer over who bore the burden of proof at the hearings. (How can there be a burden of proof when you have no authority to sit in judgment over me, son?) And listen to him tell Republican Sen. Charles Grassley: “I’m here to provide what I know, what I recall as to the truth in order to help the Congress help to complete the record.”


This man was doing the Senate a favor by showing up at all. Turning over documents? He deserves a medal!

This record reflects either a Harvard-trained lawyer – and former state Supreme Court judge – with absolutely no command of the facts or the law, or it reveals a proponent of the unitary executive theory with absolutely nothing to prove. Gonzales’ failure to even mount a defense; his posture of barely tolerating congressional inquiries; his refusal to concede that he owed the Senate any explanation or any evidence; his refusal to even accept that he bore some burden of proof – all of it tots up to a masterful display of the perfect contempt felt by the Bush executive branch for this Congress and its pretensions of oversight. In the plainest sense, Gonzales elevated the Bush legal doctrine of “Because I said so” into a public spectacle.

Viewed in that light, Gonzales did exactly what he needed to do yesterday. He took a high, inside pitch to the head for the team (nobody wants to look like a dolt on national television) but hit a massive home run for the notion that at the end of the day, congressional oversight over the executive branch is little more than empty theatre.

Lithwick may be onto something, but I still think that Gonzo’s primary, A-Number-One objective was to serve as a heatshield, sacrificing himself and his (*snort*) good name to keep the investigation away from Dubya and Karl, and he was entirely successful in that mission.

(h/t Jenny from the Blog)

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Politics,Republicans


  • 1. Interrobang  |  April 21st, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    This record reflects either a Harvard-trained lawyer—and former state Supreme Court judge—with absolutely no command of the facts or the law, or it reveals a proponent of the unitary executive theory with absolutely nothing to prove.

    I call false dichotomy and suggest that the correct answer is “Yes.”

  • 2. Eli  |  April 21st, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Perhaps it is lack of command due to utter and complete indifference.

    Like certain others in undeserved positions of power that they are staggeringly unqualified for.

  • 3. Glenn  |  April 22nd, 2007 at 5:44 am

    I read this yesterday and couldn’t keep from smiling. Lithwick is probably on to something. You cannot think in realistic, rational terms when considering the actions of this administration.

  • 4. Guano Island  |  April 23rd, 2007 at 12:20 am

    “heatshield” – i like that

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