gonzalesbush1.jpgJust shoot me. Twice.

As part of its extensive, multi-story coverage of the Alberto Gonzales resignation, the New York Times devotes two of its three front page articles to essentially excusing Gonzales’ abysmal tenure as Attorney General or claiming that his departure now absolves the White House of wrong doing. And in the process, the Times editors send the subtle message that it’s okay to sanction felonies and war crimes if it is done to promote war or protect the President.

The longest article, an otherwise decent analysis by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, dutifully catalogues Gonzales’ role in sanctioning legal opinions that likely came from others, such as the Vice President’s counsel David Addington or the VP’s mole in the Justice Department, John Yoo. But you’ll have to search hard for the argument that it was the job of the White House Counsel and Attorney General to reject unsound and unethical legal theories, even if they were preferred by the President and Vice President of the United States. The Times editors tell us that Alberto Gonzales acquiesced in opinions that “expanded the powers of the executive branch,” or “held firm on the President’s war policies.” What a swell patriot.

Excuse me, but it is an attorney’s job to tell his/her client when they’re crossing the line and to stop. And that’s really important when your client is the President of the United States, because when the President crosses the line into illegality, he can get the country into serious trouble and cause lots of damage.

When Alberto Gonzales said “the President has the inherent authority under the Constitution as commander in chief to engage in [warrantless spying on Americans]” he failed to do his job. He was not supporting “the President’s war policies.” He was sanctioning the commission of felonies. And he continues to this day to sanction the commission of felonies and to participate in a cover up preventing lawful investigations by Congress and his own DoJ of the scope of those felonies and how they came to be committed. When Gonzales said it was okay to kidnap people, render them to other countries to be interrogated, to use “aggressive interrogation techniques,” hold people indefinitely without charges, deny detainees rights guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions, let alone those guaranteed by our Constitution, statutes and treaties, he was not “holding firm on the President’s war policies.” He was sanctioning war crimes.

The editors of the New York Times have much to atone for, via articles by Judith Miller and the still ensconced Michael Gordon, in recklessly helping this regime mislead the country into an aggressive war — itself a war crime. The least the Times could do is stop making the argument that when an Administration commits felonies and war crimes, the attorney who told them it was okay was just being loyal in supporting the war and his President.

The second story, by stenographer Sheryl Gay Stolberg, is as silly and ignorant as the first article is legally and ethically abhorrent. Stolberg tells us that now that Rove and Gonzales are gone, the Bush/Cheney regime can make a fresh start, since the two main targets of most of the Congressional investigations are now leaving the White House.

And who are Ms. Stolberg’s sources for this wisdom? White House Counsel Dan Bartlett, followed by Ari Fleischer. Someone get Ms. Stolberg a pair of work gloves, because I wouldn’t want her to get blisters while carrying all the White House whitewash water for the cynical Mssrs. Bartlett and Fleischer.

Earth to New York Times news editors: If you’re too lazy to read emptywheel and Greenwald, or Hardin-Smith or Josh and C&L, et al, try reading your own editorial page. You might even venture to read this important series from your rival, and ask yourself, why would the Washington Post’s Andrew Cohen entitle his excellent summary, Good riddance?

While Gonzales and Rove were themselves perpetrators of many of the illegal and unethical misdeeds of this Administration, they were also responsible for covering up the misdeeds of their principals and colleagues. The coverups that Gonzales and Rove are still engaged in are designed to prevent Congress and what’s left of the honorable US Attorneys in the Justice Department from discovering crimes likely committed in the White House. The evidence may well prove that these crimes were committed not merely for the benefit of the President and/or Vice President by overzealous supporters but on behalf of, and possibly with direct knowledge by, the President and Vice President of the United States.

Getting rid of Rove and Gonzales does not give this White House a “fresh start,” Sheryl. It physically removes from the White House two of the firewalls protecting the Administration, while not ending their cover up. And it gets two of the main accomplices out the door just ahead of Congressional subpoenas and possible contempt citations.



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley