The Attorney General of the United States testified to the United States Senate yesterday. That sounds pretty official and kind of pompous, but that's what was going on. I'm a small town lawyer, so I follow this stuff. Also, it's important.
So, some thoughts.
First of all, Alberto Gonzalez is the Attorney General of the United States. He works for us, the American people. His loyalty and is duty are to the United States, not to the President, not to the Administration, not to George W. Bush, and not to the Republican Party. I am starting to feel like a fool for believing this.
But I have hope. Arlen Specter, the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania. Boy, he ripped Al a new one, as we used to say in my Navy days. And a well deserved one at that. How did this knucklehead get to be the Attorney General of the United States? Senator Specter, hats off to you.
Specifically Sen. Specter was grilling Al on his attempt to tap dance around lying about how he fired (or compelled to resign) the 8 United States Attorneys (the Big Al 8.) Big Al claimed that he testified accurately before Congress, but "misspoke" at news conferences. In answer to the Senator, Al said that yes he did make sure he was prepared before appearing before Congress, but tried not to answer when pressed about whether he prepared before appearing at a news conference. In what sounded to my ear like a child whining , Al said, "I already said I misspoke."
If you're still reading, you may be thinking, "So what? What's the big deal?"
The big deal is this. Al lied directly to the American people. Directly. That's who he is talking to when he speaks at a news conference. Our Attorney General is speaking directly to us. And he lied.
But he's not under oath at a news conference. So it's not perjury, so it's not illegal. That makes it no big deal. See? He just "misspoke."
That's not how I see it. And that's not how Arlen Specter sees it.
By the way, Al has now apologized to the 8 fired U.S. Attorneys for falsely stating that their firings were for performance related issues. Huh.
The Attorney General is our lawyer. Lawyers have duties to their clients. Lawyers have ethical rules that they must follow. Legal ethics are not some pie in the sky, doing what you think is the right thing sort of conscience guidance. Legal ethics are written rules. And they are based on the concept of each individual lawyer having an independent duty to follow them. "I was just following orders" won't excuse unethical behavior by a lawyer.
Or at least it shouldn't.
United States Attorneys operate somewhat like independent prosecutors in their jurisdictions. They are very important positions. Al's defense to this whole scandal is that he didn't participate in the decision to fire them and didn't really know how they were selected or why they were fired. Yet he was the one who fired them.
So his defense is that he was not doing his job illegally because he was not doing his job at all.
The President supports him.
So what has this to do with the I-Man? When the I-Man "misspoke" he was fired. Twice. As far as I know the President did not offer any support.
But when the U.S. Attorney General "misspoke," also slandering people who didn't deserve it, he holds on. With Presidential support.
Is Alberto Gonzalez being held to a lower standard of professional behavior than Don Imus?
I'm glad we have people like Arlen Specter in our government. Somebody has to take reponsibility for rooting out corruption. Too bad our Attorney General isn't doing it.