Gonzales at witness table Preparing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Gonzales is a goner

Bush and Alberto are the only ones who don't recognize it

Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday should have erased any lingering doubts about the validity of the Peter Principle1. Simply put, people in organizations rise to the level of their incompetence. Bush administration — Q.E.D.

When the committee broke for lunch, I turned off the TV. Frankly, it was just too painful to watch.

What Gonzales' testimony boils down to is this: I didn't know much at the time; I don't recall much of anything, certainly not details; I had to check 'the documentation' in preparation for the hearing to see why I fired those eight US attorneys; I don't really know how or why some of them got on the list; but I'm sure it was the right decision, and I deserve to remain as Attorney General because the department has 'done some great things'.

protester protester

Throngs of protestors lined the back of the hearing room and had to be admonished several times by committee chair Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) to suppress their reactions.

Gonzales painted such a vivid picture of bungling incompetence and complete memory loss that even Orrin Hatch (R-UT) couldn't summon up a defense stronger than saying the affair was "poorly handled." Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) concluded, "You ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered, and I believe that the best way to put this behind us is your resignation." Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) called his performance "really deplorable."

Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate, brilliantly mocked Gonzales' lessons learned:

He testifies that if he had to rethink "the process": 1) Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty would have been more involved; 2) he would have told Kyle Sampson with whom to consult and which factors to use to evaluate the prosecutors; and 3) the entire project would have taken no more than six months to a year. But even though, by implication, Sampson had no clear marching orders and no oversight, no guidance about what factors to weigh, and no deadline, somehow the results of this "process" were 100 percent correct, and Gonzales stands behind them. To review: The process was a total, ad-hoc wreck. The decisions were rock solid.
— Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 19-Apr-07

The strongest defense of Gonzales came from Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, who later claimed that Bush "was pleased with the attorney general's testimony" and that Gonzales "has the full confidence of the president."

But wait! Nobody gets to be Attorney General who is that incompetent and has a memory that bad. Gonzales is nothing if not a "loyal Bushie," and his performance makes me think that he made a decision that it was better to look like a loyal, if bumbling, ass than to reveal the truth about this whole sorry mess, whatever it is. This administration always tells us it has nothing to hide, but it takes extraordinary steps to shroud everything in secrecy. Some day the true story about this whole sordid administration will be told and it won't have a happy ending.

1The Peter Principle: Why things always go wrong, by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull (William Morrow & Co., 1969). [up]