For Want Of A Mission

Posted: Aug 28, 2007 12:01 AM
For Want Of A Mission

Umm-hmm. Yep. The Alberto Gonzales thing never was primarily about Alberto. Witness some of the edifying commentary that accompanies our first Hispanic attorney general on his way back to Texas.

"This resignation is not the end of the story. Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and follow the facts where they lead, into the White House." -- Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

"I hope the Attorney General's decision will be a step toward getting to the truth about the level of political influence this White House wields over the Department of Justice." -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy.

"LOTS of impeachin' to do. But now we can focus on Cheney." -- An entry on the Daily Kos blog.

No, you see, the bad things we've all read recently about an attorney general of no great distinction -- how he "politicized" the firing of those Justice Department prosecutors and mucked up the official defense of the deed -- bore little relationship to Gonzales' intellectual powers or the deed itself.

The Democrats, the "progressives," have a talent for turning to account whatever can be made to look like a blemish on the administration's face, whether it's "wiretapping," "Gitmo," "Rove" or "Cheney." In the great scheme of things, it may not be much of a talent, but you almost come to admire the spontaneous zeal with which these folk pursue it.

The Democrats', the "progressives'," big idea isn't unrivaled prosperity for America or the eclipse of foreign threats to American freedom. Certainly the big idea isn't successful prosecution of the war in Iraq. The idea is the dismantling of all obstructions to Democratic victory in 2008.

Here is where Al Gonzales comes in. As Attorneys General go, Gonzales, you would think, has at least the moxie of Janet Reno. Nor have his putative sins the nature of real sin. He participated, marginally, in the ouster of some (presumably) unsatisfactory prosecutors? What of it? Political figures, such as Sens. Reid and Leahy, devote long hours to goring their political opponents. Sometimes -- witness Gonzales' resignation -- they succeed.

So Gonzales parsed his account of the firings to duck the harder questions his foes wanted to answer -- i.e., what did he know, and when did he know it? If memory serves, a recent president parsed twice as diligently: "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is." None of what Gonzales' foes rip him for is naughty by national political standards. I've an idea nevertheless of where he truly sloughed off.

Gonzales was supposed to have been a safe choice for the job, both "Hispanic" and "nice." Too nice entirely, I'd say; too eager to look polite and cooperative in the face of impolite, uncooperative adversaries. When people come after you, fangs bared -- people like Harry (Fang) Reid -- you don't smile for the TV cameras. You brace for a karate chop.

Gonzales was no black-belt fighter. He wasn't even a fighter -- a possible consequence of the philosophical void that seems to lie at his center. Kindness, generosity -- of such non-Washingtonian traits we may rightly arraign the former attorney general. That's not what they care about in the Washington zoo, where the inhabitants gobble up the idealistic. Unless the idealistic are wedded to a philosophy bigger and stronger than they themselves.

"Conservative" kind of describes the Bush people. Kind of. The sense of attachment to a comprehensive mission -- alas -- was never this administration's distinguishing characteristic. Take it from Harry Reid: The Democrats have a distinguishing characteristic, one that many might describe as blood lust. They want to win. Period.

On just one point the Reid-ites are off base. They think they can take Dick Cheney? I wouldn't count on it. Cheney -- there's one administration figure who knows what he's for, knows why, and, further, knows what to do about it. If only, all along, he'd had more company!