The revelation that Alberto Gonzales made false statements to Congress regarding the firing of 8 U.S. attorneys, among other things, provides further evidence of our theory that he is an enemy of democracy and the Constitution.
Of course, it’s not exactly FYR’s mission to condemn public officials, particularly when doing so necessitates opining on matters of bitter partisan debate. Still, these events are part of a pattern of deception on the part of the Attorney General, who, only two months ago, attempted to redefine Habeas Corpus before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I believe the significance of the Attorney General’s conduct cannot be overstated, and I eagerly join the chorus of concerned citizens who wish to see him removed from office and hopefully held to answer for his clearly manipulative and potentially felonious actions.
While there remains a debate regarding the propriety of the firings themselves, the fact is that Gonzales deliberately misled Congress about why the firings took place (unless we believe that he didn’t know, which is preposterous). Lying to the democratically elected representatives of the people is a felony, and the Attorney General is the last person who should ever be allowed to commit felonies. Rather, the Attorney General exists to prevent public officials from doing the exact things Alberto Gonzales has been doing.
Of course, it’s also troubling to consider the opportunity costs that occur when activities such as manipulating the Congress and weakening civil liberties are prioritized at DOJ. On July 30, 2001, President Bush addressed the National Organization of Black Law-Enforcement Executives, promising that his Department of Justice would work to end racial profiling. Yet in 2005, under Alberto Gonzales’ leadership, the DOJ buried a disturbing report on racial profiling and demoted the director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics for his efforts to publicize the data. This is but one example of how far removed from its traditional functions DOJ has become.
Thus, the attorney general sends a message to law-enforcement agencies nationwide that DOJ is more concerned about politics and secrecy than about protecting American citizens from civil rights abuses in their own communities. When he lies to Congress, he sends a message that those who enforce the law are not bound by it. Gonzales now embodies the dangerous belief that the Constitution is an obstacle rather than an asset to the preservation of our democratic society, and he’s achieved remarkable success at increasing government power by removing laws rather than enforcing them.
I joined the FYR staff as an idealistic college graduate believing, as I still do, that the Constitution holds great promise as a weapon against tyranny. The mission as I understood it was to combat ignorance with information. Thus I’ve been surprised to discover that while ignorance still remains our primary enemy, we’re frequently forced to confront the widespread belief that Constitutional rights have been all but repealed. “Haven’t you heard? The Constitution is dead,” the story goes, thus the optimism about the rule of law that is central to our work is unfounded in the eyes of these defeated patriots.
This week’s news and, really, the whole ongoing saga of Constitutional violations at DOJ, reminds me to be patient with those who’ve lost faith in their freedom. You folks are right about one thing: there are people at the highest levels of the U.S. government who would as soon repeal the entire Bill of Rights tomorrow.
Rumors of Gonzales’ imminent demise give us hope that there remains a line, however distant, beyond which even the most reckless and treacherous of tyrants may not cross.