Alberto Gonzales’s Last Stand

I would like to think that testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee is the last appearance of Alberto Gonzales on the public scene. The bumbling idiot on the witness stand portrayed by the New York Times editorial here, who did not know people, or dates, or times, or actions, surely is not long for the political world.

Is this the same Alberto Gonzales who has been the godfather of the new presidential right to torture? The same Alberto Gonzales who has been one of the crafters of the “imperial presidency?”

There are a couple of possibilities: that this is a man who relies heavily on the ideas and work of his staff. It is his staff that has made him look menacingly intelligent, in the case of the torture/imperial presidency material, and it is his staff that has made him look like a bumbling idiot on the witness stand.

<>I did watch some of his testimony, getting the ‘Anita Hill’ treatment from Senator Arlen Specter (R Sen. Pennsylvania). As a result, I concur with the NYTimes’s assessment.

<>Alberto Gonzales seems to have thoroughly outlived his value and usefulness to the Georgy W. Bush presidency. I think he has been kept on as a screen for Karl Rove. That is, to paraphrase the NYTimes, the larger effort is to work through the information that none of the senior administrators in the Justice Department knew from where the list of federal prosecutors to be fired came.

<>Until or unless there is a way to question Karl Rove, and obtain email records of his dealings, it is deviously important to keep Alberto Gonzales in office. Although, from his testimony, Gonzales is not responsible for the firings, his Office, the Office of the Attorney General, is responsible for the unjust action in the Department of Justice.

The Imperial Presidency

The role of President of the United States is the ultimate in the fantasy of political power.  Legislators who are frustrated and disgusted by the process of producing laws, and further frustrated by an Imperial Executive who disdains to carry out the laws and directives of the legislative branch, look at the unrestrained power of the Chief Executive and wish to gain it for themselves.  Of course, they will do different things with the power.

Others, the Arlen Specters and Ted Kennedys and Russ Feingolds and, dare I say it, Orrin Hatches, in the Senate have settled down to do what is within the power of the Senate to do. I hesitate to name members of the House of Representatives, other than Nancy Pelosi, because the frequency of scandal discourages me from endorsing particular members, lest they later be tainted by some misdeed or other.  Nominations will be taken from the floor, on this.
<>The power of the Presidency is a different thing, somewhat unwritten, somewhat written, and perhaps unwriteable. In particular, since we (probably) will not use the power to impeach,  this power can be self-defined. Because of the ambiguity in the role definition, which leads Presidents to define and redefine the Presidency, we are potentially and actually in the uncomfortable position of being citizens of a country governed by a Presidential fantasy.

<>For a further discussion of the definition of the Presidency, please see this article by Garrett Epps, in Salon.

The Clash

I wrote the following two days ago; since then I have seen two articles which use the word “clash” to describe current political events. One of them, using “clash” repeatedly, is this article from Salon by Garrett Epps. My remarks below turn the word clash into an hypostasis, a living symbolic word for the present and coming period, The Clash.

<> We are less than two years from the installation of a new President, not George Bush. In looking at the varied events of the past two weeks, which include a number of announcements of presidential campaigns, and Bush’s State of the Union Address, I foresee a period of Clash. This next period of Clash may well undermine the presidency of whomever follows George W. Bush.A mobilized Peace Movement will clash with the efforts of those who have national office, not only in the Executive Branch, but in the Legislative Branch as well.

Efforts of centrists in the Democratic party will clash with the partially out-of-power progressives, to the point that they do not talk or work out a joint agenda. Instead, they will probably pull in opposite directions.

The troop surge and its purpose of securing Baghdad and then Al Anbar province will become a Platonic ideal. What is actually not too bad an idea of exerting our responsibilities for a usable solution to the chaos WE have brought to Iraq will fail in its execution. The reason it will fail is not that it is a bad idea, but that it has been proposed by a President who no longer has the political power he may have had at one time. There is nothing he can do to bring people together behind this idea.

The political attacks on the President will clash with the laudable aim of securing Baghdad so that people can live ordinary lives in the city, obtaining food and water and electricity and fuel and educations and jobs.

The next president will inherit the results: Bush will not have let go of Iraq, the securing of Baghdad will not have been accomplished, Global Warming will not have been slowed and stopped, New Orleans will not have been rebuilt, our national debt will be out of sight, and yet there will be still greater need for spending on intelligent programs

The need to make debate points will clash with the need to govern. I don’t follow Nancy Pelosi’s day-to-day activities; I observe, on limited information, that she provides a political outburst about once every three weeks. The rest of the time she is paying attention to how to carry out the responsibility of the House of Representatives to legislate responsibly.

<>I would add that the Constitutional imperative to impeach, to remove a dangerous and lawless president, will clash with our recent experience of stalled governing during the effort to impeach Bill Clinton.

<>The effect of the Clash Period will be the expectation that a new President will lead us in a Restoration. Unless such a restoration is truly an expression of national will, beyond political posturing, the next President will go down in flames attempting to resolve the problems s/he inherited from The Clash.

Victory Is Not a/the Goal

<>I have mentioned before that my name means “victory.” I have also put “victory” in quotes, when referring to the use of the word by President George W. Bush.Am I being sarcastic? Not exactly. What I want to express by putting “victory” in quotes is something different. The President’s use of the word is to say that somehow “victory” is our goal in Iraq. I want to correct him, schoolmarm-like, that victory is not a goal, victory is the state of achieving a specific goal.

Amazing! Bush Literary Likenesses

Definitely political, and definitely amazing.

There is a string of literary allusions that have been submitted by people who read Nicholas D. Kristof’s column in the New York Times about historical and literary descriptions that fit the administration of George W. Bush. At least that’s what I think the column was about. The outpouring of additional suggestions is wonderful to behold. It is hearwarming to know that so many literate people have been pricked in their well-educated consciences by George W. Bush. There are so many posts that one could make a book of days – one submitted literary or historical post per day for (so far) as many days as stretch from now until the first primaries next year. Please read as many as time allows at this link. It is a TimesSelect link; if you do not already belong to Times Select, you can join for a free 100 items per year.

Press Freedom

In lieu of a year-end review, I want to call attention to two articles. The first is in Slate, not quite midyear, early May of 2006. The author, Jack Shafer, reviews the press-suppression tools used by the presidency of George W. Bush. He encourages reporters and editors to continue to seek out information from leakers inside and outside the administration.

Read Shafer’s article.

At a similar time, the Columbia Journalism Review published an examination of the military’s clash between the need to create disinformation, and the need to communicate a clear understanding of events on the ground. In both cases the press becomes an instrument.

Read Schulman’s CJR article, “Mind Games.”

This sentence in the CJR article tells me a lot about how to read the press on Iraq and Afghanistan:

Information warriors often formulate what they call “truth-based” messages — information that is often vague and one-dimensional, sometimes misleading, and frequently includes statements that are subtly derogatory.

So as soon as I notice that vague feeling that comes when reading a piece that is short on details, I should stop, and go find the details.

The relevant Year-End Review

My hat-tip goes to Dahlia Lithwick’s opinion piece, “The Bill of Wrongs,” for calling attention to Jack Shafer’s Slate article, which sent me on to the CJR article, and some musing about what is happening in the war.

Dealing with Managed Information

1. Too vague to verify.

2. Too specifically favorable to a country, an individual, an organization, to be credible.

3. Attempt to understand the sourcing.

4. Develop a sense of regional and global background, beyond Borat . . . Kazakhstan.