THE BLOG
07/27/2010 05:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Was Alberto Gonzales Vindicated or Did Our Democracy Dodge a Bullet?

It is difficult to imagine a greater danger to our democracy than the party in power using law enforcement to prosecute its enemies and protect its friends for partisan political purposes. In response to the report of the Justice Department regarding the firing of nine attorneys general by the Bush administration, a Wall Street Journal editorial claimed Alberto Gonzales was exonerated and wondered what all the fuss was about, and a New York Times article reported that Alberto Gonzales claimed vindication and demanded an apology. (NYT 7/22/10). They must have been reading an edited version of the report by Andrew Breibart (of Acorn and Sherrod fame) to have come to such a bizarre conclusion.

The report did conclude that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Gonzales with a crime, but then went on to condemn and criticize his conduct and performance as Attorney General in scathing terms. Let me count the ways: The Dannehy report calls the removal process "fundamentally flawed"; "unsystematic and arbitrary"; statements made to Congress "inconsistent, misleading and inaccurate in many respects"; and finally "The Department's removal of the U.S. Attorneys and the controversy it created severely damaged the credibility of the Department and raised doubts about the integrity of Department prosecutive decisions." If that is praise and vindication, I would hate to see what severe condemnation looks like!

Although the report finds no basis for criminal charges, it suggests that absent the refusal of Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, Monica Goodling, Sen. Domenici and others to cooperate and be interviewed, the result might have been otherwise. The Dannehy report ends with a recommendation that a further investigation be conducted to determine whether or not a criminal offense had been committed. (Dannehy report p. 358) In his report to the Judiciary Committee, the current Attorney General adopted the recommendation against prosecution, but reiterated that Ms. Dannehy's charge was "only to assess the possible criminality of the actions described in the OIG/OPR report" (previous reports of wrongdoing by the Office of Professional Responsibility), and "to determine whether anyone made prosecutable false statement to Congress or OIG/OPR."

No one can read the history of these events without concluding that these prosecutors were removed for political reasons. Yes, I know, U.S. attorneys are political appointees and they can be hired and fired at will, but once they are appointed they cannot and should not be removed for failure to carry out partisan politics goals. Integrity is what is needed in our top law enforcement officials, and that is what was so lacking in Mr. Gonzales. Vindication -- I think not.

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