It's almost never discussed, but friendship can be one of the most corrupting influences in politics, and in life in general. For example, relatively few people would accept a bribe to hire my nephew. But most people would at least consider hiring the nephew of their best friend, if asked.
Most of the coverage of the right's opposition to Gonzales has centered on abortion and Gonzales' allegedly pro-choice views. That's obviously part of it. But that's merely one tree in a forest. The more comprehensive problem with Gonzales is that he's a beneficiary of what we could call the Friends and Hispanics network. This isn't to say that he's not bright and capable. But he owes the bulk of his public career to two things: George W. Bush and his impressive personal story as a child of poor Mexican immigrants. There's nothing terrible about either of those things, but there's every reason to believe that Gonzales has internalized the logic of affirmative action. As White House counsel, it's been widely reported, he was one of the chief voices arguing for a softer approach to affirmative action.
Gonzales was perfectly qualified for the AG job, but that didn't stop the White House from offering him up in the spirit of identity politics. The media gladly took the bait. George Stephanopoulos suggested that the mere fact Gonzales was a Hispanic would constitute a "change in tone" from Ashcroft. It's amazing what that Latin blood can do, it seems.
Shortly after he was confirmed, he told the Houston Chronicle that his family history would inform how he handles immigration issues. Imagine, if John Ashcroft had said his family history - his father and grandfather were Baptist ministers - was going to influence his policies.
Since he's been attorney general, Gonzales seems almost as interested in speaking to Hispanic groups as he is in speaking to law-enforcement organizations. And here I thought this kind of identity-politics outreach was the reason we had a HUD secretary. Worse, it seems Gonzales buys into this way of thinking. That's tolerable for an AG, it's inexcusable in a Supreme Court justice. And not just because of what it says about Gonzales' views on race - it also suggests he's simpatico with the liberal worldview.
If Bush wants to appoint a Hispanic, there are some out there (Judge Emilio Garza, for one) who have all the necessary qualifications, save one: He's not buddies with president.