It is with mixed feelings that we say Adios to Alberto Gonzales as he leaves his post as Attorney General of the United States.
For the Hispanic community there was a sense of pride that a Hispanic, a son of a migrant worker, had achieved a position of authority and respect never before achieved. This indeed, was a pinnacle for the community and something that we could look to with pride and as yet, another sign of the Hispanics achieving equality in an unequal world.
But that sense of pride was tempered by the fact that Gonzales’ career prior to becoming Attorney General was one that was filled with questionable legal conclusions that eroded civil and constitutional rights. Gonzales wrote a memo saying that anti-torture laws and the Geneva Convention could be waived for some prisoners. He approved or oversaw the drafting of rules for military tribunals that limited the rights of detainees, and he pushed for expanded government power to engage in domestic spying. Then there was that visit of the bedside, at night, of then Attorney General John D. Ashcroft as he lay ill in an intensive-care unit when White House Counsel Gonzales tried to persuade Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush’s domestic surveillance program. The Justice Department would later determine that this surveillance program was illegal.
As Attorney General, Gonzales was unable to differentiate his role as President Bush’s legal advisor, supporter, and close personal friend and the Constitutional responsibility and primary role of the being the Nation’s chief prosecutor of the United States, approving and supporting broad Presidential powers in name of the war on terrorism.
Then there was the final straw when he fired nine U.S. Attorneys for political reasons and his, at times comically, responses before the Senate Judiciary Committee Congressional hearings where it appeared that Gonzales did not have a clue as to what was going on. In one hearing he said “I don’t recall” 74 times.
Alberto Gonzales was a good foot soldier for the President. Who knows, if the Iraq war had gone well and there was a concise victory. If there was clear victory on the war on terror and America was safer today than 5 years ago, perhaps we would be looking at Alberto Gonzales in a different light, with the glow of mission accomplished as part of a team that truly saved us. But none of this occurred and Gonzales instead leaves under a cloud of shame.