Gonzales Post Mortem

It was a terrible and wonderful day yesterday. For reasons beyond the scope of this post I was able to listen to the full day grilling of a man with the name of Alberto Gonzales who mysteriously is called the Attorney General of the United States of America. As one commentator said, next to the Secretary of Defense the Attorney General holds the most important Cabinet post in any administration. And yet, there sat a man holding a job that is so far over his head he was walking on the bottom, drowning, hearing nothing, saying little and understanding nothing — of his job, most of all.

As I commented yesterday, “Gonzales recalls so little it seems to me he has a mental condition serious enough that he should be relieved of his duties in order to enter long term therapy.”

It’s hard to describe the sensation of listening to hour after hour of questions being given non-responses hour after hour. And yet Gonzales does not come across as malevolent, or agressive in a Rumsfeldian way, though at times he protested what had been said about or imputed to him. He just seemed far away, unaware. I don’t think English has a word for what one feels witnessing this; it’s like empathetic appalled pity with a thick icing of fear. This guy has incredible power over us!

Not only didn’t he recall, he just didn’t seem to know. The Judiciary Committee came ready to pound him and wound up pitying him. It was worse to watch than the recent American Idol shows with Sanjaya’s malperformances. Schumer and Feinstein were out-eyerolling Simon Cowell. But this was not just a silly show.

Alberto Gonzales is still Attorney General. He is still running a department with oversight of 103,000 (p. 32) people! For all the “mistakes” he admitted to he still thinks the firings were correctly done,and that those retained apparently meet his criteria — which at no point could he articulate. Actually to say he “fired” them himself is to stretch the definition of the word. He actually simply went along with the recommendations of his barely 30 year old Chief of Staff, Kyle D. Sampson, though that was not even clearly stated. He was asked repeatedly: Who made the decisions? Based on What? He couldn’t answer.

Gonzales’ boss, the ex Major League Baseball Owner, George W Bush, called his employee’s performance “fanatastic.”

The New York Times print edition on Friday properly headlined the appalling news. The San Francisco Chronicle turned over their top of the fold to the sports page with news about the local professional basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, which made the playoffs after 12 years. Gonzales was relegated to the bottom left corner of the front page. If the placement were out of embarrassment we could understand it, but the danger revealed by his testimony really ought to be more important than the trickiness of Warrior’s coach Don Nelson. [Neither on-line site offers print edition layouts so you’ll have to take my word for it, or check the discards at the coffee shop….]

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