Friday, April 20, 2007

What were the results of yesterday's Senate Hearings with Gonzales?

According to TPM Muckraker the Department of Justice took the less from the Hearing to be "Hey! Only one Senator called for Gonzales' resignation!"

This, of course, ignores the fact that the Senate cannot, by itself, remove the Attorney General. Even his impeachment must occur in the House, and only after that would the Senate have any power to remove Gonzales.

What I learned is that Alberto Gonzales has several problems. The first is that he has no idea how to manage an organization. He does not know how to inform his subordinates what he wants to have happen, as his repeated statements that he thought that the U.S. attorneys "knew" what the Department of Justice considered to be significant about their performance, but was totally unable to explain how they should know that. Combined with his inability to set goals for his subordinates was his repeated description of what he was told by Kyle Sampson. Alberto "presumed" that what he was told by Mr. Sampson was "the consensus of the Department of Justice Staff," he is admitting that he is unable to tell who he has made responsible for any given task. Gonzales is looking for consensus on those decisions, and so he has abandoned all ability to hold any individual who works for him responsible for a task, a decision, or the implementation of a decision. This is also displayed by his lack of understanding that there should have been some process for evaluating US attorneys if he was going to take personnel actions. Sen. Lindsey Graham nailed this one. Any decisions to fire someone were made by miscellaneous staffers who felt that the person to be fired had somehow "crossed" him or her, and that led to that US attorney's name being added to the list which Kyle Sampson was "aggregating."

Lawyers have a reputation for being poor managers. Alberto Gonzales should have his picture placed along side any such descriptions. Nothing in Gonzales' career suggests that he has any experience or training in management technique. His testimony yesterday demonstrates quite clearly that he has no clue how to manage anything.

A related problem is that even as an attorney he has no experience in criminal law. Even his time as a Supreme Court Justice in Texas was entirely focused on non-criminal Law. The Texas Judicial system has a separate top court for appeals of criminal cases, called the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Since he apparently surrounded himself with young ideologically -motivated "true-believers" he had no expertise to support him when his experience did not guide him in proper decisions and decision-procedures as he attempted to lead the Department of Justice.

In short, Alberto has neither the management nor the leadership skills required to lead the U.S. Department of Justice. His only qualification for the job was his close association with George W. Bush. That simply wasn't enough, and the strong questioning he got yesterday displayed his total unfitness for the job he is currently filling.

His second problem is that the Bush administration is totally politically-oriented, and he has adapted well to that environment. Given his lack of leadership skills, management skills and experience in criminal law, if he had surrounded himself with experts in those areas and then added his political intuitions he might have had a chance. Unfortunately for him (and for America) his choice about his immediate staff has been disastrously bad. Kyle Sampson (as his Chief of Staff) has demonstrated no strong management skills himself. Monica Goodling is quite young, and is a strong Christian Conservative. She appears to have served as a political-correctness Commissar for Alberton, ensuring that personnel who were brought into the DoJ were sufficiently Fundamentalist Christian and Conservative to be hired. As a graduate of Pat Robertson's fourth tier law school and being very young she had no real experience in criminal law. She is a symptom of the problems Alberto Gonzales has brought to the Department of Justice. It will be very interesting to see what the response is to her testimony before the Senate or House after she is give immunity for her testimony.

So overall I consider Gonzales' testimony yesterday to have been a disaster for him and for Bush. It really clarified how badly the DoJ has been politicized. If Gonzales does not resign (and I seem to recall reading that his wife opposes his resignation) then I don't think Bush will ask for his resignation. In that case, the DoJ is going to become effectively non-functional until the end of the Bush term.

I would not want to be a Republican running for election or reelection in 2008.

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