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March 11, 2007

The Practical Argument Against Giving Alberto Gonzales the Boot

Senator Chuck Schumer said today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez should get the boot; so did the New York Times. In most circumstances I would agree; it's not making an argument that Gonzales is a competent attorney general that's hard, it's making the argument without giggling that's the problem.

However, the fly in the Gonzalez resignation ointment is that the guy who appointed Gonzalez would be in charge of appointing his successor, and if six years has taught us anything about Dubya, it's that "appointing competent people" is only slightly above "speaking both grammatically and extemporaneously" on his "Things I'm Really Good At" list. Moreover, if the recent attorney firings scandal tells us anything, it is that when it comes to the Department of Justice, Bush appointments trend toward devolution; hell, that's even evident at the top, since Gonzalez is an even worse Attorney General than John Ashcroft was, and when you consider that what Ashcroft really needed was a two by four with the United States Constitution laser-etched onto its surface liberally applied to his skull at least twenty hours a day, that's no mean feat.

So, the question becomes: If Alberto Gonzales resigns or is fired, given Bush's previous track record at Justice, who is the logical person that Bush will nominate as Attorney General? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear:


Yes, it will be Snidely Whiplash. True, he's Canadian, which normally might be problematic for this position. However, here it works to his advantage, as this likely snippet from his Senate Confirmation hearing shows:

SENATOR SCHUMER: Mr. Whiplash, tell me, what are we to make of your predilection for malfeasance, specifically your numerous attempts to tie Nell Fenwick to train tracks?

SNIDELY WHIPLASH: Senator, I admit I have had my share of youthful indiscretions; who among us has not? But those indiscretions are decades in the past, and at no time have I ever broken the laws of these great United States.

SCHUMER: Are you trying to suggest that forcibly kidnapping a woman, assaulting her by tying her up with rope, and then attempting to murder her by placing her in the path of a train is not against the law?

WHIPLASH: What I can say is that I have not broken the laws of this country, senator.

SCHUMER: Would you agree that kidnapping, assault and attempted murder are crimes in this country, Mr. Whiplash?

WHIPLASH: Naturally, senator, I would need to consult with staff to explore the relevant statutes.

SENATOR BROWNBACK: Mr. Whiplash, about these youthful indiscretions of yours: Are you prepared to swear in front of this committee that you will not attempt the kidnapping, assault and murder of Nell Fenwick when you are Attorney General?

WHIPLASH: You have my word, senator. (Twirls mustache)

Snidely Whiplash, your next Attorney General. You heard it here first.

So remember: if you're agitating for Gonzalez's removal, you can't say you weren't warned.

Posted by john at March 11, 2007 06:50 PM

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Steve Buchheit | March 11, 2007 05:59 PM


And the winner is, John Scalzi for best use of cartoon character in political satire.

And the problem with S. Whiplash as Attorney General is that Dudley Dooright, being Canuck, would be out of his jurisdiction to try and save us.

Adam Ziegler | March 11, 2007 06:26 PM

Fair enough prediction, and funny, too.

But Gonzalez should not be allowed to stay at his post, even if the result of booting him is W again demonstrating that he can't tell the difference between finding someone for civil service and finding someone for the Russian mafia.

The Onion should do a spoof on Chertoff if he ever does something competent: "I'd always assumed he was a Russian mob boss," said one administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Given the president's track record, we were all shocked to discover that Mr. Chertoff was actually qualified for his appointment."

Of course, the joke doesn't work because Chertoff, like so many other Bush appointees, is outrageously inept, unless one mistakes obsequious toadying, prevarication, and dogmatism for competence, which Bush apparently does, over and over again.


Jim Winter | March 11, 2007 06:28 PM

My, how liberal.

(Hey! You're right, John! Speaking in knee-jerk political terms does sound lame and boring, and I only did it once. Say something nice about a Republican so I can see if it sounds just as bad from the left. I'll bet it does.)

John Scalzi | March 11, 2007 06:35 PM

Jim Winter:

"Say something nice about a Republican so I can see if it sounds just as bad from the left."

The irony here is that there are lots of delightfully competent people who happen to be Republican; it's just that the chances of any of them being appointed by this particular administration is low.

David Reagan | March 11, 2007 06:37 PM

It's funny because it's true!

And sad, for the same reasons.

Jim Winter | March 11, 2007 06:38 PM

And while I'm still thinking about it, I predict Bush will try to nominate Denny Crain to replace Gonzalez. And then someone, probably Rove or Laura, will have to sit W down and explain to him that Denny Crain is not only a fictional character, but he's played by a Canadian.

"No, he's not. He's from Iowa. He said so in that movie with the whales."

"Mr. President, he was playing Captain Kirk back then. Didn't you notice the guy with the pointed ears? Or that other guy from McMillan & Wife sporting a lumpy forehead?"

"You mean the other Priceline.com guy and the Klingon?"


"Well, they're aliens."

"They're actors, Mr. President. We've had this discussion before. And before you start, President Reagan was NOT an actor when he lived here, and had not been... Well, actually, I'm not sure when he ever actually acted."

"Mr. Spock is not real? There are no Klingons?"

*Sigh* (Out comes satellite phone) "Yeah, General Paice, it's Karl again. Have Air Force One fueled up and ready to go. We just had the STAR TREK talk again, and now I have to take Numb Nuts back out to Area 51 to show him what real aliens look like... Cheney? Just stick him in the back of the war room with a game of Risk. Makes him feel like he's still important. Oh, and keep the firearms away from him... Thanks, b'bye."

Nathan | March 11, 2007 07:07 PM

As a side note:

If, for some reason, Chuck Schumer wasn't available to go on camera, do you think they'd just cancel Sunday morning?

Bob Hussey | March 11, 2007 07:36 PM

You raise a good point, John, about his replacement. Too often the 'crowd' calls for someone's head without thinking of the reprecussions.

In this case, I don't think we need to worry. Don Rumsfeld would make an outstanding Attorney General.

Jim Winter | March 11, 2007 07:37 PM

"In this case, I don't think we need to worry. Don Rumsfeld would make an outstanding Attorney General."

He'd do a heckuva job.

Adam Rakunas | March 11, 2007 07:51 PM

If Snidely becomes AG, does that mean the guys from Wacky Races will be in charge of the Department of Transportation?

Steve Buchheit | March 11, 2007 08:17 PM

Adam, no, I think that job has been promised to the Banana Splits.

Adam Rakunas | March 11, 2007 08:27 PM

Really, Steve? They seem like USDA material to me.

Ron Hogan | March 11, 2007 08:55 PM

Considering that DC's "Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil" currently has Dr. Sivana running Homeland Security, this all seems quite reasonable.

John H | March 11, 2007 09:19 PM

All kidding aside, Abu Gonzales has got to go. I would hope, with the Senate now in the hands of the Democrats, that his replacement would not just be rubber-stamped...

Wally Conger | March 11, 2007 09:40 PM

The irony here is that Schumer, during the Senate hearings on the ATF/FBI conduct at Waco a decade ago, was such a strident apologist for just the kind of fascist tactics he now protests. See the documentary Rules of Engagement. Schumer's performance is truly frightening.

And I'm NOT an apologist for Gonzalez or Bush, either. The former SHOULD be fired, and the latter impeached. Quickly.

"Charles Dodgson" | March 11, 2007 09:49 PM

To get serious for a minute here, I think John's forgetting one key difference between the Ashcroft and Gonzales appointments, and the next guy --- Snidely Whiplash will have to get through a confirmation hearing run by Democrats.

Nathan | March 11, 2007 10:20 PM

And now that I think of it, Snidely Whiplash almost certainly wouldn't object to a few bare breasts in the DOJ building.

Yay, Snidely!

Jim Wright | March 11, 2007 10:22 PM

Hey, I'm all for Snidely Whiplash for AG. Snidely's a cartoon character, that means he's drawn from ink - and that means his ass can be erased at any time. That's got to be an improvement over the current situation. Maybe we should look at replacing other members of our government with cartoon characters - screw impeachment, hand me the whiteout...

Jim Winter | March 11, 2007 10:27 PM

At the Scooby Doo confirmation hearing for FBI Director...

SENATOR KERRY: Mr. Doo, I want to cover some of your paat indiscretions for a moment. Would you care to comment for this committee on your well-documented addiction to Scooby Snacks?

MR. DOO: Zoiks!

SENATOR KERRY: Also, would you care to explain this photograph of you in a van called... The Mystery Machine?... with two girls allegedly named Daphne and Velma?

John Scalzi | March 11, 2007 10:30 PM

Shaggy is the one who says "Zoiks!" Mr. Doo would be more likely to say "Ruh-roh."

Oh, God. Kill me now.

Jeff Hentosz | March 11, 2007 10:32 PM

I imagine Shaggy sitting at the table whispering counsel into Scooby's ear.

Jim: Good point, but ... erased!? Didn't you see Roger Rabbit? It'd be acrid, bubbly Dip for these guys. Heh, heh.

Oh, and Polly Purebred for Press Secretary, while we're at it. Mr. Peabody for Sec'y of Education? Cripes, the possibilities.

mythago | March 11, 2007 10:48 PM

The irony here is that there are lots of delightfully competent people who happen to be Republican

Hey, the Department of Justice just happened to free up a bunch of U.S. attorneys who are both Republican and competent. Perhaps one of them would be willing to take the top job.

Gump | March 11, 2007 11:27 PM

I dunno, both of the guys he appointed to the Supreme Court seem pretty competant. Of course, his first try for Chief was a total loser.

Jesse Crawford | March 11, 2007 11:33 PM

Did anyone catch the blatant (and 30-second-long) Scalzi reference on Family Guy tonight ??

Minivet | March 12, 2007 01:15 AM

The irony here is that there are lots of delightfully competent people who happen to be Republican; it's just that the chances of any of them being appointed by this particular administration is low.

A few months ago I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly; but look at Robert Gates. He's not "turning things around" or anything, but he just fired the head of Walter Reed, and then he fired the Army Secretary for replacing him with someone clearly worse. If Bush put in Gates, he can put in someone better than Gonzalez -- especially considering Gonzalez is much more the crony-type than Rumsfeld or Ashcroft ever were.

Heck, just the very act of firing can help by making the next person more careful about what he does.

Buck | March 12, 2007 08:05 AM

I just have to chime in that many of my Republican friends from law school think Gonzalez is as damaging to the office as do Democrats.

The guy embodies the worst stereotype of the lawyer as mouthpiece. Bush says, "I know that what I want to do contravenes American law and centuries of Western legal practice, but I want it." Then Alberto "Wormtongue" start trying to build a legal house of cards to justify the transgressionl

Future historians are going to look at his tenure as either the legal cornerstone of fascist America or the glancing blow that the republic managed to survive.

Barry | March 12, 2007 08:17 AM

If the starting posiition of good people is that we can do nothing about Bush, then Bush is in a stronger position. In addition, it's important to witness to truth - Gonzales is corrupt and a criminal. If people speak truth, others may reassess, and turn off Faux News.

Also, if there's one lesson to be drawn from the Nixon and Reagan administrations, it's the **We'll see these guys again**. Trash their reputations now, while their crimes are current, and we might keep a few of these guys from coming back.

John Scalzi | March 12, 2007 08:23 AM


"Future historians are going to look at his tenure as either the legal cornerstone of fascist America or the glancing blow that the republic managed to survive."

I suspect the latter. If nothing else, we've been "fortunate" that this administration has been so incompetent that they've given authoritarianism a bad name.

John H | March 12, 2007 08:57 AM

John: If nothing else, we've been "fortunate" that this administration has been so incompetent that they've given authoritarianism a bad name.

True. They give oligarchy and plutocracy bad names as well...

Jeremiah | March 12, 2007 10:02 AM

Speedy Gonzales can be the Sec of Transportation. har har.

Anne | March 12, 2007 10:18 AM

But Snidely Whiplash is Canadian, isn't he?

PoliticalCritic | March 12, 2007 11:29 AM

Good point. Bush will probably nominate someone even more despicable than Torture Boy himself.

michael | March 12, 2007 11:29 AM

Is Snidely Canadian? Well, we know that Nell, her father Inspector Fenwick, and Dudley were all Canadians; but wasn't Snidely an American criminal that went to find his fortune, and satisfy his perverse desires, in the Klondike during the gold rush?


John Scalzi | March 12, 2007 11:31 AM

Possibly, Michael. But remember: He has never broken the laws of this country.

Jon Marcus | March 12, 2007 12:46 PM

Mr. Magoo for DoJ Inspector General?

Kurt | March 12, 2007 05:30 PM

Oh yes, Democrats' last AD was so law abiding. Janet Reno using tanks and APC's against women and children - our own citzens for goodness sakes! (Yeah their fathers were murders but we don't usually kill relatives for crimes of their parents!) Remember the poor kid from Cuba? Reno sure seemed to have a blind spot for the crimes of the Clinton administration.

Plus, Sandy Berger stealing documents from the national archives, the last minute pardons...

The only thing more slimy than Republicans are Democrats - just wait for a year - the Democrats are going to go off the deep end.

John Scalzi | March 12, 2007 05:39 PM


"Democrats' last AD was so law abiding."

Who gives a crap? That person isn't the AG now.

Roger | March 12, 2007 08:27 PM

I remember Ashcroft. I thought Bush couldn't do much worse than appointing someone who lost an election to a dead guy. I was wrong. I agree there is a point where I don't want to know how much worse can Bush do.

Josh Jasper | March 13, 2007 07:16 AM

I agree there is a point where I don't want to know how much worse can Bush do.

It's enough to know that, inevitably, he will do worse. He's as reliable as rain in that respect.

This is because we have a white house that's run by someone who treats the Presidency like a continuation of college fraternity life, to the point of giving high ranking life-on-the-line jobs to his friend's college drinking buddies, without regard for qualification.

The only way Whiplash would get the job would be if he and Dubbyah used to do lines of coke back in Skull and Bones.

Jonathan Mallard | March 20, 2007 04:31 PM

I find Mr. Whiplash's not breaking the laws of the United States by performing all his misdeeds in Canada reminiscent of the 42nd president's claim to not breaking U.S. law because he smoked his marijuana while he was in Europe.

So I guess this spoof was an equal opportunity political putdown.

Ray | March 20, 2007 04:47 PM

You can be honest here. People here are caring and understanding. Now. Are you not Dick Cheney posing under the name of Kurt?
We await your reply :).

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