Sunday :: Apr 15, 2007

Abu Gonzales Facing Rough Session

by Mary

You know Abu is in big trouble when all the news before his upcoming session is bad. First of all, today's news from the Albuquerque Tribune that Gonzales refused to fire Iglesias until Bush ordered him to do that puts Gonzales in a very hard spot. This article reinforces the message that came from the former DOJ Attorney, Daniel Metcalfe, until January the director of the Office of Information and Privacy, that with the arrival of Abu Gonzales, the attitude at the DOJ changed so that no one was willing to be accountable.

But the process of agency functioning, however, became dramatically different almost immediately after Gonzales arrived. No longer was emphasis placed on accomplishing something with the highest-quality product in a timely fashion; rather, it became a matter of making sure that a "consensus" was achieved, regardless of how long that might take and with little or no concern that quality would suffer in such a "lowest common denominator" environment. And heaven help anyone, career or noncareer employee, if that "consensus" did not include whatever someone in the White House might think about something, be it large, small or medium-sized.

In short, the culture markedly shifted to one in which avoiding any possibility of disagreement anywhere was the overriding concern, as if "consensus" were an end unto itself. Undergirding this, what's more, was the sad fact that so many political appointees in 2005 and 2006 were so obviously thinking not much further than their next (i.e., higher-level) position, in some place where they could "max out" by the end of Bush's second term.


Q: Are there any possible benefits to this "decision-making by consensus" approach?

A: Yes, but they accrue only to the participants in the process. Indeed, by operating in this way, they manage to avoid any singular responsibility for the result, or any part of it, which is another way of saying that they see themselves as running no risk of blame if anyone beyond the group has any problem with what they've done at any point.

After all, it was "the group" that did it (whatever that might be), and they achieved presumptively benign "consensus" (at all costs) before moving forward. You can imagine how important this is to someone whose primary interest in most any government action is to make sure that it doesn't somehow get in the way of securing that next (but not necessarily last) position before the end of a presidential administration. And remember that there's little downside to operating in this way if your basic view of government (in line with your inexperience) holds little respect for it in the first place. In other words, if it doesn't really matter so much to you how well or efficiently a government activity is handled, just so long as it eventually is handled, then the thinking is: Why not handle it in the way that most effectively minimizes personal risk? What this breeds, of course, is an utter lack of individual responsibility -- the very antithesis of good government.

The Albuquerque paper also puts to rest a lie that the decision that Iglesias was fired for non-political reasons and it puts President Bush clearly in the firing line for lying himself. Abu was supposed to handle this stuff himself, except maybe not. After all, Bush prides himself on being the decision-maker so no wonder Abu can't make a decision without Bush's okay.

CNN reports that Senator Arlen Specter is preparing to have some serious questions for Abu when he comes to the hill.

Gonzales is scheduled to tell the committee that he has nothing to hide and that he "never sought to mislead or deceive the Congress or the American people about my role in this matter."

Asked if he accepted Gonzales' assertions, Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, told ABC's "This Week," "I do not. Those statements are very conclusory. When he has a full column of The Washington Post, I think he would have been better advised if he would have dealt with some facts."

Specter further said during the ABC interview that Gonzales has a "steep hill to climb" and will face "serious questions" about his role in the firings.

"I think the attorney general is going to have to explain how he said he was not involved in discussions when the e-mails [released by the Justice Department] show that he was at the meeting when all of these matters were discussed," Specter said. "And he's going to have to show that there were reasons for what was said."

And if Arlen Specter doesn't ask the tough ones, we can be assured that Senator Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Senators are going to be ready to hunt bear. Abu is probably shaking in his boots. I wonder what Karl is advising him today.

Mary :: 5:02 PM :: Comments (10) :: Digg It!