Our No. 1 Crime Fighter: Alberto Gonzales, and What Government Is For

There’s a piece by Tony Mauro over on Law.com: an interview with Daniel Metcalfe, a former senior attorney at the Department of Justice who retired in January, about Alberto Gonzales’s term of office as Attorney General. And it absolutely gives me the chills. (Found it via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

The gist of it: The Justice Department under Gonzales hasn’t just been among the most corrupt and politicized in American history. It’s also been one of the most incompetent.

The quote that jumped out at me: “Most significantly for present purposes, there was an almost immediate influx of young political aides beginning in the first half of 2005 (e.g., counsels to the AG, associate deputy attorneys general, deputy associate attorneys general, and deputy assistant attorneys general) whose inexperience in the processes of government was surpassed only by their evident disdain for it.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is exactly what I was talking about in Hurricane Katrina, and What Government Is For. When government is run — and staffed — by people who think government is a bad idea and hold it in contempt, then that government fails in even its most basic, obvious obligations.

I mean — the Attorney General’s office. The Department of Justice. That’s the central agency for enforcement of federal laws. That’s the people whose job it is to prosecute people who violate federal crime, from fraud to terrorism to, you know, things like kidnapping and murder. That’s the law and order stuff that conservatives are supposed to be all excited about.

And the man in charge of it, the man who staffed it with people whose “inexperience in the processes of government was surpassed only by their evident disdain for it”… this is the man George Bush calls “our No. 1 crime fighter”.

I think I’m going to be sick.

Oh, the other quote that jumped out at me: “I used to think that they (John Mitchell and Ed Meese) had politicized the department more than anyone could or should. But nothing compares to the past two years under Alberto Gonzales.”

Worse than John Mitchell and Ed Meese. That’s actually an amazing accomplishment.

Time to be sick again. How long is it until November 2008?

Our No. 1 Crime Fighter: Alberto Gonzales, and What Government Is For

3 thoughts on “Our No. 1 Crime Fighter: Alberto Gonzales, and What Government Is For

  1. 1

    Well, looking on the bright side, the Justice Department are also the folks responsible for going after hippie stoners like Angel Raich.* So maybe there’s a silver lining to the incompetence cloud. As a lawyer who does primarily criminal defense, I can’t say I’m going to cry in my beer a whole lot when I see an organization of prosecutors shooting itself in the foot. It’s happening up here in Sonoma County too, to the DA’s office, and most defense attorneys are just sitting around giggling as the experienced prosecutors quit en masse and are replaced by kids right out of law school.
    You’re right, conservatives used to be all in favor of law and order: lock ’em all up and throw away the key, build more jails, longer sentences, no parole, three strikes, take away judges’ sentencing discretion, death penalty for everyone, punish punish punish. Mollycoddling criminals used to be the province of us bleeding-heart libs. And you’re right, that’s all changing now. So many things are. Conservatives used to be about limited government, too; the idea of the federal government interfering in a purely state matter like medical marijuana is probably making Barry Goldwater turn over in his grave. It’s very easy to poke fun at the neocons for not being real conservatives, because God knows they aren’t. But the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, and just because the neocons are against it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m for it. And of all the reasons to hate Gonzales (of which there are a multitude), the fact that he may be making Justice a little less effective at putting people like Angel Raich in federal prisons is not all that close to the top of my personal list.
    Don’t get me wrong: murder and rape and domestic violence and so forth are bad, no doubt about it, and people who commit them should be punished. But that’s not mostly what Justice does. Some, I suppose. If you get caught committing murder at Fort Mason or inside the Federal Building or in downtown D.C., you’ll probably be prosecuted in federal court by an Assistant U.S. Attorney. But the vast majority of crimes like that are under state jurisdiction and are prosecuted by county DA’s in state courts, which Gonzales and his gang have nothing to do with. However, if you email someone a naughty picture of yourself and the FBI finds out about it and doesn’t approve, the guys who will be prosecuting you will work for Gonzales. If you’re a California doctor writing marijuana prescriptions that are perfectly valid under California law, the guys who will be trying to pull your permit to prescribe other federally regulated drugs will work for Gonzales. And so forth. So if they’re a little more incompetent than they used to be, well, I’m not going to say it’s altogether a bad thing.
    *Sorry, I tried to put in a link, but this thing apparently isn’t big on HTML in the text. If you don’t know who the heck Angel Raich is, go here:

  2. 2

    I think that’s a very good point, Jon. But now I’m wondering. It seems to me (and do correct me if I’m wrong, you obviously know a lot more about this than I do) that the “inexperience in and disdain for government” thing isn’t just responsible for the day-to-day incompetence of the DOJ (for which, as you point out, we can in fact be thankful). It seems that it’s also at least partly responsible for their fucked-up priorities in the first place.
    I guess I see good decision-making about what crimes are important as part of the whole “competence and giving a shit” package. And the prioritizing of drugs and porn over all other crimes… to me, that’s a sure sign of political hackery, of a person/ people who see government work as nothing more than a way to get some face time in the media and cravenly advance their own careers.
    What are your thoughts? Do the priorities themselves of the DOJ change from AG to AG, and from administration to administration? Or are they pretty much now the same as they ever were?

  3. 3

    Don’t you think that George Bush and Laura looked a little too comfortable with Queen Elizabeth? When I think of the Bushes as monarchs and not as democratically elected leaders things make a whole lot more sense in terms of “what they hell could they be thinking”. I saw those pictures on yahoo photos and it just clicked in my head, “got it, message received. In that case, Gonzales, just one of the King’s advisors. It makes it a lot easier to try and figure why they do what they do, other than just incomptence, evil etc…Given that Bush belongs to some messianic church that assumes everyone else, even other christians are going to burn in hell while he is lifted to heaven leaving his clothes behind (I heard this from a friend, but it sounded about right to me) he clearly is in line with divine right.

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