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Rotten Justice


Most readers of /The Washington Post/ probably missed it. But probably not Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Fifty-six of his law school classmates (Harvard Law School, class of 1982) bought space for an open letter in mid-May that excoriated his “cavalier handling of our freedoms time and again.”

It read like an indictment, to wit:

“Witness your White House memos sweeping aside the Geneva Conventions to justify torture, endangering our own servicemen and women;

“Witness your advice to the President effectively reading Habeas Corpus out of our constitutional protections;

“Witness your support of presidential statements claiming inherent power to wiretap American citizens without warrants (and the Administration’s stepped-up wiretapping campaign, taking advantage of those statements, which continues on your watch to this day); and

“Witness your dismissive explanation of the troubling firings of numerous U.S. Attorneys, and their replacement with other more ‘loyal’ to the President’s politics, as merely ‘an overblown personal matter.’

“In these and other actions, we see a pattern. As a recent editorial put it, your approach has come to symbolize ‘disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law.’”

By now you’re expecting something like a conclusion by his classmates, such as a demand for resignation or a call for Gonzales’ impeachment. No such logic.

Instead, these intrepid classmates punted, urging Gonzales and President Bush “to relent from this reckless path, and begin to restore respect for the rule of law we all learned to love many years ago.”

Just this week, four Democratic Senators called for a special prosecutor to investigate their belief that Gonzales gave false testimony about the regime’s warrantless domestic surveillance program. They criticized the Attorney General for possessing an instinct “to dissemble and to deceive.”

Four of Gonzales’ top aides have already resigned. The head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, just testified before Congress and contradicted Gonzales’ statements which were made under oath.

It is not often that an Attorney General of the United States is treated with bi-partisan inferences of perjury before a major Senate Committee (the Senate Judiciary Committee). Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the soft-spoken Chairman, said to him: “I just don’t trust you.”

His counterpart, Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the ranking minority member of the Committee, extended his fellow Senator’s remark, adding, “Your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable.”

Why don’t these and other Democratic and Republican Senators say plainly what they say privately day after day: that they believe that the Attorney General has lied under oath, and not just once.

Again, they avoid the logical conclusion.

But then the Democrats have been doing this dance of evasion with George W. Bush on a far larger scale for four years. After all, Gonzales’ impeachable offenses are his superiors’. Gonzales took the orders; Bush-Cheney gave the orders. The litany of Bush-Cheney impeachable abuses extends far beyond those associated with Gonzales, foremost among them of course Bush plunging the nation into a bloody, costly war-quagmire on a platform of fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups again and again, year after year. And Gonzales took the orders; Bush-Cheney gave the orders—a more serious basis for a Congressional demand for their resignation or the commencing of impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

Compare the many impeachable offenses of Bush-Cheney with the certain impeachment of President Richard K. Nixon that was rendered moot by his resignation in 1974.

Compare the actual impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 1998 for lying under oath about sex.
Granted, Nixon became ensnared in the criminal laws and Clinton was caught in the tort laws. But Bush-Cheney’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” tower in scope and diversity over those earlier Presidents.

Instead of a burglary and coverup, as with Nixon, it was the horrific ongoing war (longer than either the Civil War and World War II) with hundreds of thousands of lost lives and many more injuries and sicknesses.

Instead of a sex scandal, as with Clinton, there is a serial constitutional scandal oozing ongoing repeated constitutional crimes. For which alas, there is only one constitutional remedy arranged by the framers — impeachment.

And that remedy the Democrats took “off the table” after they won the Congress last November and before they even took office. Just what the White House recidivists needed to know to keep at it. What a lesson for future generations.

Most Americans do not want their members of Congress to practice rushing to judgment. Nor do they want their members to rush away from judgment. The Democrats, with very few exceptions, are very good at escaping from their constitutional responsibilities.

It is time to hold the Bush-Cheney-Administration responsible for their indefensible acts.


Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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