Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

FINGERS IN THE COOKIE JAR....Dahlia Lithwick reports on yesterday's Alberto Gonzales show:

One of the finest moments comes when Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., busts out a big, big chart. Which happens after almost everyone has gone home. The chart compares the Clinton protocol for appropriate contacts between the White House and the DoJ on pending criminal cases with the Bush protocol. According to Whitehouse, the Clinton protocol authorized just four folks at the White House to chat with three folks at Justice. The chart had four boxes talking to three boxes.

Out comes the Bush protocol, and now 417 different people at the White House have contacts about pending criminal cases with 30-some people at Justice. You can just see zillions of small boxes nattering back and forth. It seems that just about everyone in the White House, including the guys in the mailroom, had a vote on ongoing criminal matters.

Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., calls this "the most astounding thing" he's seen in 32 years.

Gee, I wonder why the Bush White House feels the need to exercise such tight control over the Justice Department's handling of criminal cases? Hmmm. Any ideas?

Kevin Drum 12:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Comments

The Mandarin thinks Bush's strong vote of confidence yesterday was Alberto's "Eagleton Moment."

http://themandarin.blogspot.com

Posted by: The Mandarin on April 20, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

I saw that chart and can't believe that Karl would give up so much authority to 416 other people.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 20, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I think it is nice that Barney has such a close relationship to that one Deputy AG, who appears to be a real pit bull in going after Democratic Pary voter fraud.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Well, when you and your team are a bunch of criminals destroying 700 years of legal tradition, all the more reason to further violate the law by destroying and otherwise trying to obscure millions of e-mails and other evidence documenting your treasonous reign.

Posted by: Trypticon on April 20, 2007 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Could Gonzalez be considered an affirmative action hire?

Posted by: David Triche on April 20, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

A distinction is in order: opening up the range of allowable contacts does not make for tighter control; it makes for confusion and chaos.

Not to say that chaos does not in some ways complement tighter controls. Rove and Bush's whole M.O. is to become more squid-like: stronger tentacles, and bigger clouds of ink.

Posted by: lampwick on April 20, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Is the full chart available online as a PDF or something? I doubt a screen capture from the video would be very legible.

Posted by: ArkPanda on April 20, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I have often thought Cheney was Bush's Martin Bormann but last night I realized Cheney is Brezhnev and Bush is Kosygin. Who will be our Gorbachev?

Posted by: Brojo on April 20, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

They have learnt their lessons in Kremlinology very well. There is going to be no Gorbachev or even Krushchev.

Posted by: gregor on April 20, 2007 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

i don't know, will have to wait to see what al thinks.

al are you hiding?

Posted by: mestizo on April 20, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't encourage him.

Posted by: dontencouragehim on April 20, 2007 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with mestizo. I never form an opinion about anything until I have Al's take on the issue.

Posted by: spyder on April 20, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Since the mods have been cracking down on fake Als, I haven't seen an Al. I'm beginning to worry that he never actually existed.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's pointless to think these people are part of any conversation we could have as a society.

There is nothing we can talk about with them.

The only impediment to impeachment is that a two-thirds majority is required for conviction. We can't get a two-thirds majority in the Senate because the Senate is restricted to two people per state.

It's this even more than the Electoral College that makes the Federal government unresponsive.

Posted by: cld on April 20, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder why the Bush White House feels the need to exercise such tight control over the Justice Department's handling of criminal cases? Hmmm. Any ideas?

It's probably so everyone can plan their vacations around their indictments.

Posted by: tomeck on April 20, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

I now believe that Gonzales will resign, very soon. And that's what the WH has been planning all along. That's why they wanted his testimony to take place sooner. That's why they allowed the negative reactions of "senior White House officials" to leak to the press. His job was to say nothing new in his testimony. He succeeded. His job was to attract the attention, and then resign. He will do that.

Right now, they are acting like he won't resign, so that we will feel a sense of relief when he does resign. That sense of relief will be aided by some other distraction, which is intended to bury the story. Perhaps Bush will step up the quarreling over troop withdrawal.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on April 20, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

David Triche: Could Gonzalez be considered an affirmative action hire?

He was hired in Texas after Bush told Rove to go find him "a tame Mexican" so there would be a brown person standing near him at photo ops.

Posted by: anandine on April 20, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Look! A pony!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on April 20, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

According to Whitehouse, the Clinton protocol authorized just four folks at the White House to chat with three folks at Justice.

And nobody at CIA was permitted to talk with anybody at FBI.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on April 20, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Look! A pony!

Depends on whether the threat assessment is coming from German or 'merikan sources. It does appear that terrorists have turned an eye toward Germany as of late. I did find it puzzling when those two Germans were captured in Iraq in order to force German troops out of Afganistan. You'd think of all the Europeans in Iraq that Germans would be safe.

But why not?... they've hit everyone else in the EU.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

haha. back to html refresher school for me

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

And nobody at CIA was permitted to talk with anybody at FBI.

Except for the liaison officers who's specific duty that was.

Posted by: cld on April 20, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Only 4 people! This just shows how little Clinton cared about justice.

Posted by: Al on April 20, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

And nobody at CIA was permitted to talk with anybody at FBI.

Hon many things are wrong with this statement? Let's see:

1) It evades the question through misdirection by asserting, in essence, "x did something similar."

2) The assertion is flatly false on its face, as there was communication between those agencies.

3) To the extent that those two agencies had restrictions on sharing information, it was the product of years of legal and procedural decisions that began somewhere in the 1980's and were kept in place by the current maladministration.

Next.

Posted by: trex on April 20, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

And nobody at CIA was permitted to talk with anybody at FBI.

How many things are wrong with this statement?

I know! I know! Pick me! Here goes:

Posted by: MatthewRMarler

Posted by: Gregory on April 20, 2007 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The only impediment to impeachment is that a two-thirds majority is required for conviction. We can't get a two-thirds majority in the Senate because the Senate is restricted to two people per state.

It's this even more than the Electoral College that makes the Federal government unresponsive.

I'm not sure we want to throw presidential impeachment into a "tyranny of the majority" setup. Or would you prefer if Clinton had been removed from office?

Posted by: ArkPanda on April 20, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

So much for the idea that, although incompetent, Bush would serenly preside over the smooth functioning of longstanding government bureaus. It's plain to see from this chart that micromanagement by microminds is the order of the day at the White House now.

Anyone who has ever decided to pacify the kids on a long car trip by letting them choose the restaurant for dinner can imagine the results.

Posted by: serial catowner on April 20, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

The votes in favor of convicting Clinton weren't even close to two-thirds. 45 on one count, 50 on another, which, I think, was split exactly along party lines.

With more Senators the character of the institution would be more fluid and adaptable and the character of the parties likewise.

When the rule of two Senators per state was created they simply had so much less to do.

Posted by: cld on April 20, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hey you guys, don't count Al out. He took another nickel from the American Enterprise Institute and scored another round of meth, and spews out a bit more bunk, for our amusement.

Yep, Clinton's respect for the executive tradition of not politicizing the Department of Justice is seen through the meth fog as him not caring about justice, while the loon circus cavorting with DOJ from the whitehouse these days is spun from their attempt to turn DOJ into Republicant storm troopers into caring about justice.

Just say no Al. It just stirs up your repressed homosexual urges and makes you all conflicted and fussy in the afternoons.

Posted by: Trypticon on April 20, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Hmmm. Any ideas?"

Because they care, and that's why they cry.

Posted by: Ranger Jay on April 20, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

al: Only 4 people! This just shows how little Clinton cared about justice.


try this...

compare clinton and bush with dead americans from terror...

g.w. has thousands more...

and its still climbing...

Posted by: mr. irony on April 20, 2007 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Or would you prefer if Clinton had been removed from office?

The Republicans would have never removed Clinton. They wanted to embarrass him into ineffectiveness, not give Gore a leg up on the next election.

Posted by: Disputo on April 20, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I've said this before, but it's amazing how completely amateurish this White House is when it comes to anything but handling the press and its political enemies.

And it's hilarious how the press corps thinks "punctual" is the same thing as "competent". Seriously, how many times did they compare Bush's on-time, up-early schedule to Clinton's half-an-hour-late, burning-the-midnight-oil approaches.

Grownups, my ass. They're a bunch of mayberry machiavellis in high-end suits. It's been a potemkin administration since the start.

Posted by: anonymous on April 20, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK
And it's hilarious how the press corps thinks "punctual" is the same thing as "competent". Seriously, how many times did they compare Bush's on-time, up-early schedule to Clinton's half-an-hour-late, burning-the-midnight-oil approaches.

"Punctual" means "makes life easy for the 'news' departments that are building packaged advertising products around political events."

The news media was simply serving its own interests.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 20, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

But, haven't the trains been running on time since Jan 20, 2001?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Whose fingers in the cookie jar? Guess who.

On the surface, yesterday's hearing and the galaxy of un-recollections offered by Gonzales may seem to have been a waste of time. In fact, this was a revelatory moment of grave import. Decisions to disrupt elections and voting rights, decisions to derail investigations into Republicans, are made for political reasons by political people. In this administration, the political people all work in the White House.

There can be little doubt, after yesterday, that Alberto Gonzales was elevated to his position by Bush to affect a political takeover of the Justice Department. The muscular legal arm of federal power became just another tool to establish Karl Rove's dream of a permanent Republican majority in government by disrupting the vote and by obscuring GOP corruption. Thus, it doesn't matter if the attorney general is a pudding, because there were other chefs in the kitchen at Justice.

It can be easily argued that Gonzales couldn't answer simple questions, not because he is especially dumb, but because he truly didn't know how. He wasn't there to run the place, but to open doors for, and get out of the way of, Bush's political hatchetmen. Any appointees who weren't going along with the program, including those fired US attorneys, were swept aside.

It can just as easily be argued that he was able to answer those questions, but avoided doing so for tactical reasons. The New York Times's editorial on Friday raised this line of thinking by stating: "At the end of the day, we were left wondering why the nation's chief law-enforcement officer would paint himself as a bumbling fool. Perhaps it's because the alternative is that he is not telling the truth. There is strong evidence that this purge was directed from the White House, and that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, were deeply involved."

Either way, subpoenas need to be delivered to the hatchetman-in-chief, Karl Rove, as well as to members of his crew, to gather their sworn public testimony on the matter. It was made clear Thursday that Gonzales wasn't in charge at Justice, and Rove appears likely to have been the man who stood in his stead. Why? That's why we ask questions.

For the record, decisions to disrupt elections and voting rights, and decisions to derail investigations into Republicans, are flatly illegal. The first is fraud, the second is obstruction of justice, and both are felony crimes. The exposure of Gonzales on Thursday represents a long step towards pinning legal accountability to the door of a certain Pennsylvania Avenue house, and to the lapels of those persons within who are, at last, running out of excuses.

-- William Rivers Pitt, "What Gonzales Really Told Us", 20 April 2007

Posted by: Laff It Up on April 20, 2007 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know about the political implications of the protocols illustrated by the chart, but one thing the chart made very clear to anyone who has worked for a corporation: The folks in the Bush Administration do not know how to manage. The sheer incompetence of conservative politicians seems to have no limit. I find this highly ironic, considering that the Bush Administration is the CEO Administration.

Posted by: JefferyK on April 20, 2007 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Consumate Egregious Oafs? or was that Offal?

Posted by: thethirdPaul on April 20, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

JeffryK hits it - remember all that praise for the first MBA president? Well, here you've got the results. Just think of what his fellow degree holders collectively have done to the jobs of millions of Americans. Phew!

Posted by: Friend of Labor on April 20, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Or would you prefer if Clinton had been removed from office?

I was going to observe that it would have given Gore a leg up in the next election, and we might not be in the mess we're in now if we'd had sane and/or moral people running the country when 9/11 happened. But Disputo went and ruined my point by probably being right.

Posted by: thersites on April 20, 2007 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

This goes to show how Bush really really really really really really cares about justice. He had more than 100 times the oversight that the hapless Clinton administration had. His standards for justice were so high that above average attorneys weren't good enough for his Justice Department, so he fired them -- all Bush USAs must be above average. Kind of a "No US Attorney left behind" policy. His enduring legacy will be that he was president during the most just justice department in history.

Posted by: Martin Gale on April 20, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

From the chart, we can also see how linux is safer than Windows.

Posted by: absent observer on April 20, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Al Gonzales is an affirmative action hire just like Michael Brown and Monica Goodling were affirmative action hires.

Posted by: Rosali on April 20, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

So why hasn't Gonzales been fired? I don't know for sure, but here is a guess. If he is gone then someone is going to replace him, and given the current climate it couldn't be a Bush-loyalist Gonzalez clone. It would have to be someone with integrity that the Democratic-controlled congress would approve.

Once that person gets into office, he or she is going to push a lot of corruption investigations into the Republicans and the White House, including what happened to all those missing e-mails. Also the new AG is going to stop stone-walling and hand over all the documents concerning why the US Attorney firings happened. All that is going to put the White House in big, big trouble. So Bush is just hanging on to Gonzales as long as possible.

Posted by: bobo the chimp on April 20, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

"with 30-some people at Justice"

So whilst investigating the eight that were fired for political reasons, how about investigating the rest who got to stay for political reasons.

Does The Chart drop any name to name connetions?

Posted by: Zit on April 20, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a GIF of the two org charts.
Bush-Gonzales (417 x 30) and Clinton-Reno (4 x 3).
http://img.slate.com/media/1/123125/123087/2156534/2163600/wh_charts.gif
The two orgs charts are from the U.S. Senate, not copyrighted by Slate-dot-Com, so feel free to copy this GIF file.

The figure of 30 "connected" people at USDOJ is a gross understatement. The true number of political commissars and apparatchiks at USDOJ is far higher. Politicization of Justice to this extent is unprecedented and radical.
It's happening in other parts of the civil service, too, but most dismally at USDOJ. This is the kind of thing that "goo-goos" (those annoying "good government" advocates) have been complaining about since -- forever. This is bad government. This is not just worse than Watergate but immensely worse than Watergate.

Even John Dean found this much politicization of Justice to be "a jaw-dropper".
See http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20070420.html

Posted by: Goober on April 20, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

In his testimony yesterday, Alberto Gonzales came off as an obsequious lapdog with marginal intelligence and a brain like a sieve. Can a man running an organization with 110,000 employees possibly be that stupid? I think not.

His testimony simply made no sense. He claims to not remember much of anything about why he dismissed these eight US attorneys, but is sure he did it for all the right reasons.

What is even more remarkable is that he was prepping for this performance for a month. What was he doing--practicing saying "Senator, I don't recall," over and over?

Gonzales' testimony is like a Gordian knot that refuses to untie. Blissfully unperturbed by the contradictions in his testimony, Gonzales soldiers on, with a "that's my story and I'm sticking to it," fortitude.

Only one thing can explain this: the list was compiled by the White House, possibly by Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. Rove gave the list to Gonzales (or Sampson) told them to fire these attorneys, and they did, no questions asked. So of course Gonzales doesn't know why they were axed--the decision was made elsewhere. But "of course" the axings were done for all the right reasons, for they were decreed by the Great and Powerful Rove.

Like the loyal Bushie he is, Gonzales will protect his only patron, Bush, till the end. So he twists himself into a Gordian knot attempting to justify the unjustifiable.

The Senate Judiciary Committee must push forward with subpeonas for sworn, public testimony under oath from Rove and Miers. If they're going to lie, let them do it under oath, for all the world to see.

Posted by: Sheila Casey on April 20, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.sheilacasey.com

Posted by: Sheila Casey on April 20, 2007 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

Al is Kevin. Everybody knows that.

Posted by: The Lucky Sea Men on April 20, 2007 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

Now THAT's a chart. Edmund Tufte would be proud. Talk about the visual display of information!

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 20, 2007 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Could Gonzalez be considered an affirmative action hire?"

God, I hate to admit it, but you might have something there. Graduated from Harvard, so you'd normally think he has some brains. But aside from his first Texas law firm job, he has been given every promotion by the Little Idiot. Who likes his "story." Well, his story has been that of a remora on the body of the shark that is GWB.

Ick.

Posted by: Gal Gal on April 21, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

That might be a remora on the body of the lobotomized shark that is GWB.

Posted by: notthere on April 21, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

"an Affirmative Action hire"

Think it started before that - Think Affirmative Action pass through in college.

Have always supported Affirmative Action programs, but, there appears to be some validity as to the dumbing down that some recipients have brought to the program.

Alberto did not "suddenly" become dumb. But, perhaps it was that "cute" lisp of his which brought him higher status. Shrub's boy toy lawyer.

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