Let’s focus on a real issue: Alberto Gonzales

040709gonzalessm.jpgOne would think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would have already thrown in the towel. His two top staff members have resigned and Congress is demanding more documents from him, and his anticipated testimony before a Senate hearing is expected to produce fireworks.

So, what makes him tick? What’s back there?

He is under pressure to quit after eight U.S. attorneys were fired allegedly for political reasons. However, the deeper issue is whether Congress was lied to about the reasons. The stuffing hit the fan when Monica Goodling, counsel to the attorney general, said through her attorney she would take the Fifth if asked to testify before Congress.

Pronouncements like that lead to Constitutional dramas. Congress has the unimpeachable right to look over the shoulder of presidential administrations in how they conduct the people’s business. Staffers just cannot tell Congress to stuff it. It’s especially true if a cover-up is suspected to protect White House involvement.

Gooding subsequently resigned.

That comes after the AG’s chief-of-staff Kyle Sampson, after resigning, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I don’t think the attorney general’s statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate.”

Whoops. That’s big. And this is when the public should become less giddy about individual partisanship and think nation.

But leave it to the buffoons to muck it up and divert attention where it is needed.

Don Imus in one recent broadcast had his microphone oaf doing an impersonation of Gonzales with a Cuban accent. The attorney general speaks with an easily recognizable East Texas inflection.

Again, this is a matter of nationhood. It is not about predisposing the public, as Keith Olbermann did on MSNBC. No real expert on that program stopped James Moore, author of “Bush’s Brain,” when he tried to misdirect the audience by characterizing Gonzales as a non-entity before meeting Bush.

Wrong again. The Harvard law grad became a senior partner with Vincent and Elkins, a prestigious firm. And, yes with Bush, he became Secretary of State of Texas and was elected to statewide office after his appointment to the state supreme court.

The fastest way to end the looming confrontation between the executive and legislative branches is for Gonzales to resign. But I hope he doesn’t, at least not until Congress drills down to find out this administration’s MO.

There is a suggestion that the firings have a strange similarity to how the torture protocols and domestic spying policies came about. Gonzales was involved in orchestrating both. But staffers’ fingerprints, not his, are all over the written record, and not his.

Biographer Bill Minutaglio said in his book “The President’s Counselor” of Gonzales, “It’s not that he was a silent assassin; he was more of a facilitator and a calm presence.”

That’s his shtick, his MO, and even his defense at the moment.

While advised to spend his time in Washington on Capitol Hill looking for political friends, Gonzales went instead to Houston to get close to family and his old buds. He appeared as an unannounced guest at a friendly Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce luncheon March 28.

Among the one thousand who attended was businesswoman Dalia Moreno Groh. “You could hear the ahhhs” in the room, she said, especially after Gonzales acknowledged “traveling another bumpy road.”

This audience knows there are contradictions. One of them is how he has been characterized as a person. The other is the administration’s resistance to more open disclosure and public accountability.

Uncharacteristically open, Gonzales told the audience that as a Cub Scout, one assignment he had was to build a boat. He decided to hollow one out from a tree trunk. Of course it was a formidable task for a small boy. As he worked and worked at it, his father encouraged him.

“It has to work,” he remembers being told.

As the president’s lawyer and the people’s attorney, Gonzales has contradictory interests to serve. How he tipped the balance of justice and making a full disclosure are the issue. That, too, just has to work.

–JOSE DE LA ISLA


(Josi de la Isla, author of “The Rise of Hispanic Political Power,”writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail joseisla3(at)yahoo.com.)