Washington Post details Gonzales's 'decade of dishonesty'
Attorney General helped cover up Bush drunken driving conviction
Alberto Gonzales's difficult relationship with the truth has led to calls for a special prosecutor to investigate claims that the attorney general perjured himself during Senate testimony. But as the Washington Post points out Monday, Gonzales and honesty have had a shaky relationship stretching back more than a decade.
"Whether Gonzales has deliberately told untruths or is merely hampered by his memory has been the subject of intense debate among members of Congress, legal scholars and others who have watched him over the years," report the Post's Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein. "Some regard his verbal difficulties as a strategic ploy on behalf of a president to whom he owes his career; others see a public official overwhelmed by the magnitude of his responsibilities."
Gonzales's apparent willingness to dissemble in order to protect himself or President Bush stretches back to at least 1996, when he intervened to prevent then-Gov. Bush from serving jury duty in Texas, the Post notes. Not until its second-to-last paragraph, however, does the Post article remind readers that by not serving jury duty in the drunken driving case Bush was able to keep his own drunken driving conviction a secret for several more years.
"He's a slippery fellow, and I think so intentionally," University of Texas public affairs professor Richard L. Schott told the Post. "He's trying to keep the president's secrets and to be a team player, even if it means prevaricating or forgetting convenient things."
Questions about Gonzales willingness to protect Bush in relation to the drunken driving case were first raised last year by Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. If Bush had served on the jury he would have had to reveal his own past conviction, but Gonzales convinced the defense attorney to ask that Bush be kept from the jury on the grounds that he may be called on to pardon the defendant.
The Post outlines Gonzales's recently disputed testimony regarding the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program, which has led four senators to request a special prosecutor's investigation, and his involvement in last year's dismissal of nine US Attorneys.
Schott told the Post that Gonzales' "almost subconscious bond of loyalty" to Bush might be behind his dissembling.
"It's obvious that Gonzales owes Bush his career," Schott said. "Part of his behavior comes from this gratitude and extreme loyalty to Bush."
Testifying in April about the US Attorney firings, Gonzales said more than 60 times that he could not remember events or facts related to the dismissals, including a high-level meeting in his office when the firings were approved.
Gonzales has few friends left in the Capitol, on either side of the aisle. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Arlen Specter (PA) and Jeff Sessions (AL) all scolded Gonzales when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
"The grilling he's enduring right now is beyond anything he had ever experienced in his life. He was ill prepared for it," Bill Minutaglio, who has written biographies of Gonzales and Bush, told the Post. Minutaglio notes that Gonzales kept a low profile when he worked for Bush in Texas.
The attorney general is facing accusations of perjury over his testimony regarding the National Security Agencies wiretap program, referred to by administration officials as the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
Gonzales testified that there was no "serious disagreement" about the program, and he claimed that his bizarre late-night visit to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital bed focused on "other intelligence activities."
Both claims were undercut last week when FBI Director Robert S. Mueller testified that the NSA program was subject to fierce debate and was discussed at Ashcroft's bedside.
The New York Times on Sunday reported that Gonzales was referring to data-mining, not wiretapping, aspects of the program in his testimony. The "narrowly crafted" and "legalistic" answers Gonzales gave in congressional testimony were technically correct, his defenders argue, and may save him from prosecution.
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