Friday, March 16, 2007

Empire's umpire should retire

London's Financial Times is no commie, socialist, left leaning lover of liberalism. But, being British, it does know a thing or two about Empire. So when it calls Bush's administration "the imperial presidency", you know things are moving far beyond the norm of the traditional American form of government.

Apologist for the imperial presidency
Alberto Gonzales, US attorney-general, has always served one client: President George W. Bush. Such ­devotion was admirable, so long as Mr Bush was governor of Texas and Mr Gonzales was his in-house lawyer. But as ­attorney-general, he is meant to be the people’s lawyer – not the president’s.

The revelations of the past few days and weeks about the sackings of US prosecutors and violations of US civil liberties by the Federal Bureau of Investigation have amply demonstrated Mr Gonzales’ disdain for the people, the Congress and the justice system that underpins US democracy.

None of this is really surprising: since he became attorney-general in 2005, Mr Gonzales has repeatedly shown a worrisome willingness to do the president’s bidding. He has ­provided spurious legal justifications for government torture, detentions and surveillance policies, parts of which have been found to violate US and international law and the US ­constitution.

That is not the way America’s chief legal officer is meant to behave: the attorney-general is no mere political lackey of the White House; his job differs markedly from that of any common-or-garden cabinet officer. Attorneys-general, however close to the president, are supposed to put the cause of justice before the narrow political interests of the man that appointed them.

He has amply proved that he will never be anything other than Mr Bush’s lawyer – a mere apologist for the imperial presidency. The affair has already claimed one top scalp at the justice department. It is high time Mr Gonzales stepped down too.

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