Hand Gonzales, Wolfowitz Pink Slips

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The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Hand Gonzales, Wolfowitz Pink Slips

by
Margaret Carlson

In the real world, it takes about a week for someone who has disgraced himself like radio talk-show host Don Imus to lose his job. In Washington, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hang on to their jobs for what seems like forever.Wolfowitz was caught dissembling about how his girlfriend, World Bank employee Shaha Riza, got a raise that was double the size allowed and a guarantee of glowing reviews when she moved from the bank to the State Department to avoid cronyism charges. His legal team was unwilling to bend the rules, so he took it upon himself to dictate the terms.

Petty corruption is never good but is particularly bad for Wolfowitz, who has made ending corruption in foreign countries his signature mission.

Of course, nailing Wolfowitz for that is a little like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. Yet it's better than letting the architect of the war in Iraq and peddler of all its false pretenses get off scot-free and with a plum job to boot. After all, the Medal of Freedom was awarded to others incriminated in the Iraq debacle.

The World Bank post comes with a good salary, even higher prestige, sway over finance ministers and the opportunity to do good if you do the job well. It's not a place to park a former Pentagon official whose cockeyed zeal to reshape the Middle East will have Americans dying in Iraq for years to come.

Wolfowitz, already unpopular among many of the bank's 13,000 employees for his high-handed manner and hiring of unqualified cronies, was booed last week as he tried to address the staff. With the bank's normally reticent oversight committee, which includes finance ministers, expressing "great concern" about him, it's unlikely Wolfowitz will be able to raise the billions needed to replenish the lending fund anytime soon.

Yet if Gonzales can persist, why not Wolfowitz? In its own way, Gonzales's tenure at the Justice Department is as damaging to the country domestically as Wolfowitz's time at the Pentagon was internationally.

Gonzales went along with whatever President Bush wanted.

He reviewed the so-called torture memo that became Bush administration policy and rubber-stamped Bush's effort to bypass the Geneva Conventions and expand warrantless wiretaps.

He has issued so many contradictory statements about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys that it's hard to see how he ever reconciles them, even with a dozen attorneys on the government payroll tied up coaching him.

Gonzales has denied the firings were political. Yet testimony by his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, as well as e-mails show they were. U.S. attorneys were being discussed in terms of whether they were "loyal Bushies." Political adviser Karl Rove was personally involved.

Congress discovered there were more e-mails confirming politics was involved in a parallel universe of communications on a Republican National Committee server. Some of the messages, which were said to have vanished, have been recovered. Rather than hand them to Congress, the RNC sent them to the White House, the better to try a preposterous plea of executive privilege to withhold them.

Gonzales' defense that everybody does it isn't flying even among Republicans. It's true that at the outset Bush did what previous presidents had done: replace his predecessor's U.S. attorneys with picks of his own. With the cooperation of Gonzales, Bush went much further in his second term. He purged those Republicans he appointed who proved not loyal enough to bring voter fraud and other cases the administration wanted.

Justice must be blind because federal attorneys wield massive power with an alphabet of law enforcement agencies to help them. Some Bushies who wouldn't traffic in misusing that power are out of their jobs. At least one Bushie who kept his job didn't mind abusing it at all.

The facts and common sense are all it takes to see that both Wolfowitz and Gonzales should resign. Instead, they have barricaded themselves in their offices, with the president's approval, impervious to shame or calls from their own party for them to go. It's enough to give due process a bad name.

Margaret Carlson.

© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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