Alberto Gonzales Plays the Victim. Again.
For generations of political junkies yet unborn, Alberto Gonzales will be forever remembered as the man who declared "I do not recall" 55 times during a single day of Congressional testimony. But to his legacy of blessing detainee torture, authorizing the illegal domestic surveillance of Americans, presiding over a political purge of U.S. prosecutors, making a bedside visit to strong-arm his gravely ill predecessor and repeatedly lying to Congress, the former Bush Attorney General had added a new title: victim.
Gonzales' latest playing of the victim card came in the wake of the news that Bush holdover prosecutor Nora Dannehy would not bring charges in the U.S. attorneys scandal. After the release this week of the six-page letter Harper's Scott Horton deemed, "another audacious whitewash at DOJ," Gonzales' lawyer George Terwilliger said his critics "owe him an apology."
On Friday, Alberto Gonzales like James Brown, announced, "I feel good." But as he also told John King of CNN, that's not the only emotion he felt at not having to following in Scooter Libby's footsteps:
"I feel angry that I had to go through this; that my family had to suffer through this and what for? It was for nothing. I'm glad the investigation is over, and I'm glad the American people were reassured that nothing wrong happened during my tenure as the attorney general in connection with the removals of these U.S. attorneys."
When King noted that "the inspector general found you gave inaccurate and misleading statements but they said there was insufficient evidence there was any criminal activity," Gonzales brushed off the imbroglio as a "personnel decision" while countering:
"What is really important that you cited to in the letter is that there is no evidence that the removal of Iglesias or the removal of the other U.S. attorneys that any case was improperly influenced."
Not enough evidence, that is, to put the man George W. Bush called "Fredo" in prison.
Nevertheless, from almost the moment he left office, Alberto Gonzales has cried that he - and not the fired prosecutors, the detainees tortured under his watch or American citizens he enabled to be illegally - is the real victim.
Last December, the former Bush White House counsel and AG portrayed himself an Esquire interview as an innocent bystander caught in the political crossfire:
"I think 90 percent of what happened to me is politics, pure and simple. It's tough to knock out a president. But if you can get someone who is viewed as close to the president, then that may be a good thing."
As it turns out, that Gonzales declaration of victimization pales in comparison to his self-described martyrdom the year before. In December 2008, the former AG complained to the Wall Street Journal that the scorn and derision heaped upon him was undeserved:
"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?"
"For some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."
For most people, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a national embarrassment, a pimple on the ass of American history. But to hear him tell it, Fredo is a victim of partisan warfare. And the lesson he apparently learned in Washington is not that he politicized the Bush Justice Department, but that he didn't politicize it enough.
As he acknowledged to Esquire, Gonzales' real lament about the U.S. attorneys firings is that the Bush White House wasn't political enough. After the Republican losses in the 2006 midterm elections, Gonzales suggested, the Bush administration's error was that it simply couldn't get away it:
"We should have abandoned the idea of removing the U. S. attorneys once the Democrats took the Senate. Because at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations. We didn't see that at the Department of Justice. Nor did the White House see that. Karl didn't see it. If we could do something over again, that would be it."
Now ensconced in the law school at Texas Tech, Alberto Gonzales claims "I'm proud of that record," while sighing that "I don't believe my life's work should be solely defined by four years in the White House and two years as attorney general." But in all likelihood, the poster child for Bush administration incompetence and corruption will be recalled for statements like this:
"Senator, that I don't recall remembering."
Back in 2007, the American Bar Association stripped Alberto Gonzales of his title, "ABA Lawyer of the Year." But there's one title he still proudly claims.